Tag Archives: faith

Roller Coaster or Merry-Go-Round?

28 Aug

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Today marks 7 years and 3 months of sobriety.  2648 days. 378 weeks.  What is significant about 2648 days?  Nothing.  And everything.  It represents 2648 “one-day-at a-times”.  Countless victories over temptation and cravings and thoughts of giving in. Thousands of hours of work.  Working through the ups of the “pink cloud” of sobriety, the downs of facing life on life’s terms, and everything in between.  Facing my darkest demons head-on and surviving the battles.  Learning and understanding the true meaning of humility. Training myself to let go of things that are out of my control and turn them over to my Higher Power.  Sometimes I take a moment to pat myself on the back. But I will face day 2648 today as I do every other.  Just for today, I will not pick up a drink.  One day at a time.

I often hate dealing with life on life’s terms.  I still foolishly think I can do life on my terms.  Never really works out, but yet I still try.  I can honestly say that life is a zillion times better in sobriety than it was when I was drinking.  But shit happens in life, whether you are stone-cold sober or numbing it out and fooling yourself into thinking you’ve found some sort of Nirvana-like alternate reality.  Life is hard. But life is beautiful.  In these past 7 years and 3 months, I have ridden the emotional roller coaster time and time again.  Sobriety allows you to feel ineffable joy at times.  It also gives you the presence to fully experience pain, hurt, sorrow and grief — feelings that I often tried to avoid and numb by quickly reaching for the bottle.  I can honestly say that I’d rather fully feelthe joy and the sorrow than feel nothing.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin in which Grandma tells a story about riding on the roller coaster when she was younger.   She said “you know, it’s just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited and so thrilled all together.  Some didn’t like it.  They went on the merry-go-round.  That just goes around.  Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”   Steve Martin rolls his eyes thinking Grandma is just rambling.  His wife, Mary Steenburgen, clearly understands the wisdom that she is sharing with them.  Life is much more like a roller coaster than a merry go-round.  Stay real.

Recently, my roller coaster ride included taking my oldest child to college.  I see so many posts on social media about friends dropping their kids off at school.  The excitement, the fear, and the sadness of them flying the coop, all captured in the pictures and posts.  Many of these kids I’ve known since they were babies.  How did this happen?  It honestly feels like just yesterday that I was taking my daughter to the playground to play with them.  But time flies, kids grow, and they move on.  I didn’t cry.  I was so thrilled that she seemed happy, grounded and ready to go.  I realized that’s the best I could ask for as a parent.  To prepare them to move on and be strong on their own, teach them to make smart decisions, and always listen to and trust their gut.  When I drank, I couldn’t trust my gut.  I couldn’t feel my gut.  And I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that being present now and available for my kids is a true gift of sobriety.  Whether I am at the top of the roller coaster, about to experience that thrill of the drop, or at the bottom working slowly on the climb up, I am here for them. Fully present.  Fully feeling.

The heat of the summer is coming to an end. The leaves will start falling and another season will arrive. Mother Nature’s roller coaster.  We will put the bathing suits, swim goggles and pool bags away and get out our new gear, sport our kids’ school colors and cheer at their football and lacrosse games. We will share in their triumphs and disappointments. We won’t make them stay on the merry-go-round.  We will let them ride the roller coaster.  But we will buckle them in and let them know they are loved.  And tell them to enjoy the ride.

“Raising children who are hopeful and who have the courage to be vulnerable means stepping back and letting them experience disappointment, deal with conflict, learn how to assert themselves, and have the opportunity to fail. If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the ability to dare greatly on their own.” – Brene Brown, “Daring Greatly”

 

 

 

Present Emotions Included

28 Jan

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Most of the books piled up on the side of my bed fall under the category of Self-Help books.  There are so many amazing ones out there.  I could fill an entire book just sharing what I learned from some of them.  I’ve referred to the idea I call “recycling the light” in previous blogs that I have written.  I try to pass along things that I’ve read, heard or learned that might help others. I almost always include an inspirational quote with my pieces, because there are millions of wise people who have said things so much more eloquently than I ever possibly could.  A great deal of what I read focuses on being present, staying positive and living your life as your authentic self.  Wonderful concepts in theory, but often much easier said than done.

Books like The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, Change Your Thoughts,Change Your Life and The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer, and The Law of Attraction and Ask and It Is Given by Jerry and Esther Hicks helped me understand that we can change our lives for the better by simply focusing on the positive and raising our vibrational level to attract what we desire.  The Secret by Rhonda Byrne took the world by storm a decade ago with the concept that by simply envisioning and believing that we will receive what we want will result in it ultimately manifesting itself.  I could go on….but like I said, great in theory but difficult to always stick to.  How do you stay positive and believe when life gets really tough?  Should I just sing that song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin and pretend all is well?

A woman whom I greatly admire and am honored to call a friend, Maimah Karmo, recently said “More so than my successes, it was the times of struggle that showed me what I was made of.” I had the pleasure of participating in Maimah’s “I Manifest Online Soul Summit” and doing a podcast with her called “How to Overcome Hurt by Being Present in Your Life”.  As an alcoholic, I was anything but “present” for so much of my life.  I used alcohol to escape reality or numb feelings I didn’t want to feel.  So “overcoming hurt by being present”?  Yes.  Facing your demons head-on. Using your tools to resist the urge to escape, numb or run away from reality.  Staying in the moment instead of beating yourself up and dwelling on the past or constantly investing in the wreckage of the future.

But back to Maimah’s quote. It’s easier to stay positive and be present when things are going well and we can celebrate our successes. Times of struggle show us what we are truly made of.  It’s when the shit hits the fan that we are really tested.  When faced with difficult challenges, Bobby McFerrin’s isn’t the first song that pops into the song chart in my head.    Maybe a little something heavier, like Depeche Mode’s “Blasphemous Rumors” perhaps.  Oh, no wait –The Smiths.  Morrissey is always great for wallowing in self-pity.  I digress.  My point is this:  bad things will happen in life, whether you are sober or not.  It’s how you deal with them and how you move on that shows what you are made of.

Not only are there zillions of Self-Help books out there, there is an entire movement happening that is bringing people to meditation, living in the present moment, and understanding our universal connectedness.  Some of the most popular downloaded apps these days are for mindfulness and meditation. There are countless workshops, retreats, seminars, webinars, conferences, etc. that focus on spirituality, emotional and physical health, and overall mind-body wellness.  I had the pleasure of attending an event last week at a local concert hall which has attracted some of the biggest names in the music business over the years.  But instead of music, the featured act was a man named Kyle Cease—a former stand-up comedian now a transformational speaker who incorporates his humor and personal evolution for an incredibly entertaining and inspirational evening.  Kyle emphasizes that “when you embrace your pain, fear, and vulnerability instead of pushing it away, you will discover an authentic creativity and power that is truly unstoppable.”

Embracing your feeling when you are being present is not easy, especially when that feeling is fear or pain.  But if we can somehow train ourselves to sit with being uncomfortable, embrace it and then LET IT GO, we can move on.  Life will have ups and downs.  As hard as the downs can be, I truly believe that it is better to be present for them rather than numb or escape them.  Experiencing the downs, although incredibly difficult at times, allows us to not only truly appreciate and treasure the ups, but hopefully learn something and take away a lesson that will help us in the future and ultimately make us stronger. I’m always grateful to my dear friend who teaches me to find the silver lining in all situations. Things could always be better, but they can always be worse too.  All we truly have is the present.  Don’t get caught up in the past or waste time worrying about the future, which is never guaranteed.  Breathe. Smile. And live.

“It’s not ‘When something happens, I’ll be happy.’  It’s ‘When I’m happy, things will happen.’” -Kyle Cease–Evolving Out Loud

 

 

 

 

#wegetup

19 Nov

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The motto on the back of this year’s survivor t-shirts at the Walk to Bust Cancer a few weeks ago was “#wegetup”.  It’s the motto of a dear friend of mine, who inspires me and so many others with her unfaltering determination and positive attitude throughout her ongoing battle.  When she found out that her breast cancer had metastasized to her brain, she signed off on all her texts, emails and posts with #wegetup.  A reminder to herself and others that we will all get knocked down in life, but we have to get back up.  Many times, that is a very tall order.

#wegetup is the motto of the U.S. Figure Skating Association. When the campaign was launched in 2016, U.S. Figure Skating Association chief marketing officer, Ramsey Baker, said “We all fall, it’s how we get up that matters.”  My brave friend Mary reached out to the USFSA and explained why the motto was so important to her and received permission for us to use it for our local breast cancer walk. It was pretty amazing to look out at the crowd and see so many bright pink shirts proudly worn by survivors, those who had been knocked down but got up to fight, walk, support, and encourage others to do the same.

Throughout my journey of sobriety, I’ve known many people who have fallen/slipped/relapsed or “gone out to do more research”, as we like to say in recovery.  Unfortunately, some of them never made it back in.  But so many pull themselves back up, brush themselves off, throw away the bottles or pour the rest down the sink, and start at day one again.  At step one. Sometimes several times.  Progress not perfection.

I remember asking a close friend early in my sobriety what she would do if I drank again.  She said it would depend on if and how I get back up. I’ve made it almost 6 ½ years now, but that doesn’t mean for one second that I am out of the woods.  I never will be.  I can never take my sobriety for granted, get cocky or complacent, or think that somehow, I have this cunning, baffling and powerful disease beat.  When I hear of people who have been sober for decades slipping, it reinforces my vigilance.

I used to figure skate as a child.  That ice is cold when you fall.  And it’s hard and it hurts.  The longer you stay down, the colder you get and the more it hurts.  Same with drinking.  Add darker to that mix.  A darker, colder, harder, and deadlier spiral down.  There’s nothing wrong with asking for a hand to pull you back up.  #wegetup — but we don’t have to do it alone.

We all get knocked down at some point.  By something or someone.  Everyone has their struggles.  If you are lucky enough to have had a hand reach down and pull you back up, be grateful. If you pulled yourself up by your own bootstraps, be proud.  If you were down for longer than you had hoped, be gentle on yourself.  If you’re still down, ask for help.  Remember the brave warriors who have gone before you who told themselves that #wegetup… and did.

“Sometimes you have to get knocked down lower than you have ever been, to stand up taller than you ever were.”  — Anonymous

 

A Faded Sparkle

7 Jun

 

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1-800-273-8255  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

 This morning when I picked up my eyeglasses, I paused for a moment when I saw the Kate Spade name on the frame.  The news of her suicide was shocking.  A tragic death, leaving behind her husband and 13-year-old daughter.  She was a seemingly vibrant, incredibly successful woman in the public eye who clearly suffered privately, battling depression and anxiety.  One of the news reports I saw said that she “self-medicated with alcohol.”  A statement released later by her husband said there was no alcohol or substance abuse.  I don’t know whether alcohol was one of her demons or not, but it is clear that she had some very powerful ones.  I do know that addiction and depression, anxiety and mental illness often go hand-in-hand.

We hear news reports, see posts on social media and read articles about this fashion icon. But the sad fact is that Kate Spade is now another one of the nearly 45,000 people who die by suicide each year in the United States.  Far too many people deal every day with the devastating loss of a loved one to suicide.  Spade’s death is a harsh reminder that suicide does not discriminate against age, race, sex or socio-economic status.

Luckily, there has been an increased focus on suicide prevention in recent days.  The novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, released in 2007, was made into a television series in 2017, bringing to light the issue of teen suicide.  Just last month, 20 local skateboarders (The DC Wheels) skated 45 miles in pouring rain to fundraise for suicide awareness.  And, I’m incredibly proud of my dear childhood friend, Beth Levison, who devoted countless hours over the span of the past several years to produce the award-winning HBO film “32 Pills:  My Sister’s Suicide”.  The movie is about the suicide of a woman named Ruth Litoff and the struggles of her sister, Hope, as she tries to put together the pieces of her sister’s demise from mental illness.  During the process, Hope succumbs to the devastation and loss, and to her own addiction, and picks up again after 16 years of sobriety.  Check it out on Instagram and Facebook at  @32pillsmovie or click here.

I am also grateful to have an amazing friend who survived a horrific suicide attempt.  It was a long road to recovery, and she still works hard every day to battle her mental illness, but she is not just surviving, she is thriving.  She just reached 5 years of sobriety, is an extremely talented artist sharing her creative gifts with the world, and just got engaged and has found happiness and love.  A true beacon of hope for those who have reached the point of utter desperation to see that things can, in fact, get better.  Life is precious and it can be beautiful.

Many people are posting the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on their social media pages (1-800-273-8255).  Share the number.  There is help available.  You don’t have to suffer alone. Reach out to someone who is hurting.  You never know what is going on in someone else’s world. The woman you labeled a bitch this morning at Starbucks may be fighting a battle you cannot imagine.  Be kind to one another.  The 32 Pillsmovie website has an amazing page of information and resources (32 Pills Movie Resources).   Feel free to share other helpful sites in the comments here or on your own pages.  It’s a really tough subject but there is help and hope.   Help someone get their sparkle back.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”– Buddha

 

 

 

Because I Came Into These Rooms

28 May

 

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Because I came into these rooms

-I found people who understand me and my disease
-I found a place where I am not judged, but rather loved unconditionally
-I met an amazing sponsor and friend who is always there for me, and who reminds me that it’s okay to give yourself an ‘atta girl once in a while and recognize and be proud of how far I’ve come
-I met a kind man who takes the time to write a nice comment on almost every piece I write and encourages me to continue to share my story
Because I came into these rooms…
-I made friends who care enough about me to bring a meeting to my house when I am too sick to get to one myself
-I learned how amazing a sober life can be
-I benefitted from the wisdom of those who have been in these rooms before me
-I shared my struggles and got help… from the great guy who listened to my disappointment about not being able to get my book published and connected me with his sister who ended up publishing it (!)  and from gentleman who heard my frustration at all the things that needed to be fixed at my house and showed up at my door to fix them.  He shared something quite simple but very true:  “We’re friends.  That’s what friends do.  They help each other.”
-I learned about being kind to myself and making myself comfortable and bringing what I need to have with me during the times in my life when I’m waiting in the hallway
Because I came into these rooms…
-I learned about turning things over to my Higher Power and that it’s not about being strong enough, but about admitting that I’m weak and I’m human.  I can’t. He can. Let Him.
-I made so many friends who care, who notice if I haven’t been here in a while and reach out.  And who gave me back the gift of laughter, sometimes making me laugh until I cry
-I get donuts.  And pastries.  And hugs.  And, of course, coffee
-I get the support of a group who makes me share when they can tell I’m hurting
-I am strengthened by the people who went out and bravely came back in to these rooms and shared their renewed experience, strength and hope with me
-I am humbled by the newcomers who struggle to say their name and add the word “alcoholic” to it, who still tremble from withdrawal and who, I pray, find the solace and comfort that I found in these rooms as well
-I have the honor to sit beside people who made it through huge personal losses and stayed sober, thanks to the support they got from people in these rooms
Because I came into these rooms…
-I am making  my way through the steps and working the program which has helped save my life
-I learned how to help another alcoholic and sponsor other women, who inspire me to be the best I can be
-I learned the simple sayings that help keep me sober every day:
-one day at a time
-keep it simple
-keep coming back
-do the next right thing
-think it all the way through
-I learned that I can say the serenity prayer over, and over, and over again whenever I need to
-I learned that I can start my day over at any point
-I learned how to speak my truth, and speak it with grace
-I discovered the power of gratitude
-I learned that my sobriety is a gift and that it is a daily reprieve, contingent upon the maintenance of my spiritual condition
-I learned that I can write.  And that sharing my experience, strength and hope can, and does, help others
Because I came into these rooms…
-my life is a thousand times better than it was during the dark days when I was in the throes of my addiction
-I will not pick up a drink today
And because I got all that when I came into these rooms, 2190 days ago, I will keep coming back.
Thanks for all the support and love over these past 6 years.  One day at a time…

Wings Optional

27 Apr

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I’m a hugger. I like to give and get hugs from people. I understand that some people have personal space issues, but if you’re a hugger too, bring it on. I’m also a waver. I grew up in a pretty small town in Western Massachusetts and we waved to each other—as we drove by in cars, rode on our bikes, went for walks, etc. It’s such a small, trivial thing but it makes a difference. People talk about random acts of kindness. We don’t have to make grand gestures – start with waving at your neighbor. I drive around, or go on my morning walks, and I wave at neighbors and people who pass by. Quite often, they look at me like I have two heads, squint and try to figure out who I am, and if they don’t know they keep on going.   Do they really think I’m some sort of friendly, waving serial killer? Is it that hard to put your hand up, make a gentle wrist motion and acknowledge someone? Thank you to everyone who waves back!! And just let me know if you want a hug…

You may have seen the video featuring US Navy Admiral William McRaven who says “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sK3wJAxGfs.   Take a minute to watch it—it’s so worth it. After you make your bed, I add to that wave to your neighbor. I’m not even pushing the hug thing. Admiral McRaven talks about the power of hope. He also says in the speech, “if you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart not by the size of their flippers.” I haven’t been able to measure the size of the hearts of some of the people in my life these days because they are simply too big. These are the people who go way beyond waving and hugging. They give me hope. These are the people who I look at and expect to see wings. They are my angels. I hope that they know who they are. Here are just a few angels I’m sending waves and hugs out to today:

To the woman who summoned up the courage to talk to me through her tears yesterday when I was having coffee and she overheard us talking about the foundation I run that helps women with breast cancer. You’re in my prayers.

To the foundation patients I work with who take the time out of their own battles and struggles to send me a note of thanks and tell me that I made a difference in their life. You inspire me.

To the people who reach out with a text or call just to say hi and check on me. And, of course, to the one person who hasn’t missed a single day in 2160 days of sending me my morning ray of sunshine. I’m beyond grateful to you for your unwavering, unconditional love and friendship.

To the man who came up to me at a meeting last week and told me that he read my book… and that it saved his life. Stay strong my friend.

To the reader in FL who sent me a tweet to tell me that he was going to be celebrating his first St. Patrick’s Day sober and as the designated driver thanks in part to me sharing my journey. Keep going, one day at a time.

To the sweet man in recovery with me who showed up at my door with two guys to fix my broken front door because he knew it was bugging me.   He simply said “I’m your friend. Friends help each other.” Yes they do.

To my brave friend “U.P.” who fights a brave fight every day and amazes me with her determination and fortitude. #wegetup

To my friends who donated, shared, re-tweeted, “liked,” re-posted, showed up, and helped me surpass our fundraising goal the other night for the foundation. Thank you each and every one of you. Together we can do great things.

To my dear sponsor who supports my every endeavor and is always there for me. Thank you SS.

I can’t possibly list them all…and I hope those of you I didn’t mention know how much I appreciate you too. Wave to your neighbor and smile at a stranger. You have no idea what is going on in their world. Measure a person by the size of their heart. Little things make a big difference. As Admiral McRaven says, “if you can’t do the little things great, you’ll never be able to do the big things great.”

“You’ll meet more angels on a winding path than on a straight one.” –Terri Guillemets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith Springs Eternal

24 Mar

jan_17-002661Well, Spring whirled in with a big snowstorm here in Northern Virginia. Kind of sums up how things have been going for me lately. Haven’t had much time to write. For those of you wondering, it’s been 2125 days and I’m still sober. Not something I take for granted and I am thankful for it every single day. There have been days lately in the chaos that surrounds me when the thought of picking up a drink has crossed my mind. But that’s as far as it went. It crossed my mind and then kept on going. But for some, that thought can linger and lead to the actual action of picking up a drink. How do you keep the snowstorm from getting out of control and leading you to pick up that first drink?

Getting sober and staying sober is so often simplified into a few very clear, easy steps: Go to meetings. Don’t pick up a drink. Do the next right thing. Help another alcoholic. Then why is it so hard?   Alcoholism is described as being cunning, baffling and powerful. All of those are apt descriptions.   Cunning is defined as “sly, scheming, deceitful, guileful, and foxy.” Even “Machiavellian” comes up as a synonym, but that’s for another blog piece. The disease is all of those things. It is always lurking, always ready to pounce when your defenses are down. For the newcomer, those defenses may not yet have been developed. But I have heard countless stories of people, sober for years, who let their defenses down and stopped going to meetings, stopped working their recovery program, and ended up picking up a drink again. Then it’s off to the races. Because for alcoholics, it’s never picking up “a” drink.

Baffling is also a perfect description for the disease because it is so confusing, perplexing, mysterious. It is an obsession of the mind and a physical allergy, malady or compulsion. There is no magic cure or pill to treat the disease. Alcoholics come in all different shapes and sizes. Alcoholism does not discriminate against age, race, sex, socio-economic background, religion, etc. An alcoholic can go years without a drink and then pick up and be right where he or she left off instantly. Baffling.

And powerful. Well, that is an understatement. When I look at the number of people who relapse and struggle with this disease, I cannot help but appreciate the formidable power of the sickness. It’s not until we actually admit that we are powerLESS over the disease and surrender that we can start a path of recovery. Futhermore, we are not strong enough to battle this powerful disease on our own. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: We are the only ones who can do it, but we do not have to do it alone. This is where your HP comes in, or Higher Power. It is said in recovery that “probably no human power could have relieved us of our alcoholism.” I know this may be a very controversial statement for many but I firmly believe that no one can keep you sober—not your sponsor, not your doctor, not your priest, not your spouse, not your best friend. Not even you. It is bigger than you.

A Higher Power is a very personal and individual concept. For some it is God or Spirit. For others, Allah. Some find their Higher Power in nature. Some find it in recovery rooms. One of the things recovery has taught me is to be more open and respectful of the beliefs of others. I believe that willingness, faith and the ability to turn things over to a power greater than ourselves is essential in recovery. With these things, it is possible to not only keep the cunning, baffling and powerful foe at bay, but to thrive in a sober, stronger, and better way of life.

I’ve learned more in the nearly 6 years I’ve fought for my sobriety than I have during the rest of my entire life. Some of the most important things being the ones I just mentioned—a willingness to be open, honest and work my recovery program.   Faith in my Higher Power. And, thanks to my old friend the Serenity Prayer, the ability to differentiate the things that are in and out of my control and knowing when and how to turn things over. For those of you who have seen the cover of my book, Sobrietease, you know that the tagline underneath says “Turn It Over”. There is an upside down martini glass, which is, of course, turned over. But the main meaning is turning over the disease to my Higher Power. Surrendering. Asking for help. Putting my ego in the back seat instead of letting it try to run the show.

These things are helpful whether you are in recovery or not. We can all benefit from a willingness to be open and honest. Vulnerability has some extraordinary perks. The Serenity Prayer helps us to keep things in perspective in our daily lives—acceptance of what we cannot change, courage to change what we can, and wisdom to know the difference. And for the things we come to understand we cannot change or are greater than we are, knowing how and when to turn them over to our HP.   I’ve also learned that everyone has their battles and crosses to bear. No matter what that is for you, you are never alone when you rely on your HP.

With those tools, the “simple” steps suggested for getting and staying sober will work and that thought of a drink won’t turn into action. Go to meetings. Don’t pick up a drink. Do the next right thing. Help another alcoholic. Yes, alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. But people battle it and win every single day. It can be done. One day at a time. The thought of a drink may come into your mind. Let it keep on going. Whatever you are going through, many things in life will test your willingness and faith. The tests will make you stronger. Doubt will come into your mind often. Let it keep on going. Snowstorms will come… but the snow will melt.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. – Aristotle
 

 

 

Love, Freedom and Sisterhood

27 Jan

Last night, I had the great pleasure of going to see Glennon Doyle with my mom in Naples, Florida at an event called “Love, Freedom and Sisterhood.” I’ve written before about “God winks” and this was a pretty big one. I made plans to take my boys to Florida to see my parents and found out afterwards that Glennon and her new wife, Abby Wambach, would be holding an event only about eight miles from my parents’ house while we would be visiting.

For those of you who don’t know who Glennon Doyle is, check her out here: Glennon Doyle. In a nutshell, she is a woman for whom I have a great deal of admiration for several reasons: she speaks her truth, she has learned to find the silver linings in life, and she inspires others to be the best, most honest version of themselves they can be.

After getting sober and writing the blog Momastery and the book Love Warrior, Glennon focused on philanthropy and activism and started a non-profit called Together Rising. The website says “At Together Rising, we believe that the surest way to lift a family or community is to lift a woman — that when a woman rises, she raises her people up with her.  Our mission is our name — To Get Her Rising — and we exist to heal the world, one ‘Her’ at a time.”

I wish everyone could have heard her message last night. There were cameras there filming, so maybe at some point you will be able to see it, but I can at least share some highlights with you:

Become the ones we are waiting for. Through Together Rising, Glennon Doyle has brought immediate help to families that would have otherwise been waiting for long periods of time for aid and assistance. Sometimes, we need to be the first responders. I see this firsthand in both my job with the National Breast Center Foundation and as someone in recovery who tries to help and guide others struggling with alcohol or addiction.

The number of women in my own community who don’t get the medical treatment they need for breast cancer is staggering. I am blessed to work for an amazing physician who saw this need and started a foundation to address it. Women don’t have weeks or months to wait when they are scared, overwhelmed and lacking insurance or financial resources to get the help and treatment they need.  The foundation helps women who need it now.

I also have the privilege of working with many people who turn to me for help with their battle against substance abuse. They may have waited years for help, not knowing where to turn or being too scared to ask. While there are those who disagree with my being so open about my recovery, I think it’s fair to say that if I wasn’t “out there” with it, I wouldn’t have become one of the ones that many are waiting for.

-Don’t abandon yourself to please the tribe. This was the story of my life until I got sober, worked on my character defects and stopped being a people-pleaser who was afraid to rock the boat.   I spent my life trying to make everyone else happy and worrying about what everyone else thought. I lost myself.   I thought for a while that I could find myself in the bottle. Not so much. It only made it worse.   Five years and eight months sober (2070 days but who’s counting), I have only recently started to find out who I really am and speak my truth. Sometimes it’s hard as hell, but it’s much better than living my life completely numb and abandoning myself to please the tribe.

Get to your own voice of wisdom. Glennon talked about how she often turned to friends for advice and help with major decisions in her life. But she learned that everyone’s opinion depends on where they themselves are coming from—their tribe. No one else knows.   Only you know. You need to listen to that voice inside of you. Some call it intuition. Some call it wisdom. Glennon described it as “feeling warm”. When something doesn’t quite feel right, she said she doesn’t “feel warm” inside. I think you know what she means. I do. I am blessed to have a few people I trust and confide in and often run things by to make sure I’m on the right track. But ultimately, I have to listen to my gut. As Glennon said last night, “your life has never been tried before. Every woman is a pioneer.” We will make mistakes in the choices we make in life but that’s okay. The important thing is to learn and grow from them. My mistakes and bad choices made me who I am today. Glennon talked about having our own built-in GPS. It’s okay to make a wrong turn and get that voice that says “redirect”.

-Be still. “Shut out every single voice in your life.”   We often find our brains on overload with a zillion voices shouting at us, people clamoring for our attention, overwhelmed with life’s daily demands. We need to take the time to just be still and tune everything else out. A good friend of mine reminds me often to simply breathe. I’ve learned in recovery the importance of prayer and meditation, which comes only with being still. Being still allows me to connect to my HP (Higher Power) and refocus. Being still allows me to get to my own voice of wisdom. Being still is also something that is not always easy, especially for someone who is used to going a million miles a minute. But it is essential for us to find our true selves.

-Allow nothing but love onto your island. We have the ability to surround ourselves with what we choose. We don’t have to allow other people’s fear, anger, prejudices or judgments into our space. Enough said.

-Be desperate to tell the truth. When asked about when she started writing her blog, Glennon said that she found it to be something just for her. That she “wrote her heart out.” She said that her writing was “raw and real and true, like someone who actually believes she is forgiven.” I feel exactly the same way about my writing. There is something amazing about getting it all out and seeing the words on the page. And there is something even more amazing if those words on the page help someone else.

There was so, so much more but that gives you a good idea. I learned a great deal last night from a fellow recovery warrior, including even a little about carpentry. As Glennon explained, “sistering” means strengthening weak joists with additional material. Adding a board on each side can help a weak one stand stronger. Sometimes we could all use a little sistering. I’ve been blessed to have strong women and men stand up beside me to hold me up when I needed it. I hope that I can be a strong board for others when they need it as well.

“If there’s a silver lining to the emptiness, here it is: the unfillable is what brings people together. I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness and my emptiness.” 
― Glennon Doyle MeltonCarry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

Martha Carucci is a blogger/author from Alexandria, VA.  Her book Sobrietease is a humorous yet heartfelt account of her journey through recovery and sobriety into a  better life.  Follow Martha’s blog at www.sobrietease.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Little Candle

20 Dec

I spent all last week in the hospital. I was admitted Sunday after a trip to the emergency room. Long story, and I’ll spare you the nasty details, but I had a bad bacterial infection called c diff.   It basically tore up my stomach. I wasn’t released until Saturday evening. Still on a strong antibiotic, quite weak and nursing my stomach, but very, very happy to be home.

No, it’s not an ideal time to be down and out with the holidays here. But it’s never really a good time to be sick. It is what it is. Christmas is going to have to be low key this year. People will just have to understand. More importantly, I will have to understand. Which is hard. I’m used to going full speed and I just can’t do that right now.

One of the most important things I’ve learned in my recovery is gratitude. I’ve written about it many times. One of my dearest friends always reminds me to find the silver lining in everything. I have miraculously been able to look at this whole situation and find the good. My family really rallied. The kids and my husband got the Christmas tree up and decorated, kept the house running, and lifted my spirits. My amazing sponsor spent almost every day with me in the hospital and showered me with TLC. Friends have been beyond generous with prayers, kind words and dinners for my family.

My son’s fifth grade religious education class that I teach made get well cards for me. I was blessed with an amazing assistant catechist whom I didn’t know until this year but has been an absolute angel. Just another example of how HP puts people in your life for a reason. She thoughtfully had the kids make cards for me and checks in often as well.   We also got a new student in our class just two weeks ago. A sweet girl who brought me a little candle for Christmas with a nice card. That simple gesture meant more than she or her family can know. I had that candle next to my bed in the hospital and it kept the room smelling like a Christmas tree. All the nurses and doctors who came in commented on it. It brought me a little Christmas cheer in an otherwise scary time.

The candle smells amazing. But it is also a symbol. A symbol of light. A symbol of hope. There’s a song called “One Little Candle” which a couple of artists (Perry Como and Chicago) have covered. I think I sang it in chorus when I was in sixth grade. I found the lyrics:

It is better to light just one little candle,
Than to stumble in the dark!
Better far that you light just one little candle,
All you need’s a tiny spark!

If we’d all say a prayer that the world would be free,
What a wonderful dawn of a new day we’ll see!
And, if everyone lit just one little candle,
What a bright world this would be!

 This world could use a little spark and brightness right now. I know I could. Imagine if everyone did light one little candle and saw that candle as light and hope too. Some friends lit Hanukkah candles on their menorahs. Many will go to churches on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and light a candle in memory of a loved one. I will light my little candle and remind myself to find the silver linings and my gratitude.

I’m grateful that the last thing I have wanted through all this is a drink. My sobriety is truly a gift. I know this is a hard time of year for so many people who struggle with alcoholism, addiction, depression, and more. To them I say this: have faith. Stay strong. No matter how bad things get, find something for which you are grateful. It may be as simple as a warm place to hang your hat. Trust me. It works.   Just as a single little candle goes a long way, so does gratitude.

Best wishes to you all for a happy, healthy holiday season. Thanks for the continued support.

“Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” – Buddha

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Easter Miracles

27 Mar

On this particular Easter Sunday, I  focused more than ever on the miracle that Easter represents. The miracle of Christ rising from the dead. Not just rising from the dead, but ascending after a horrific and brutal yet incredibly symbolic crucifixion. As it says in the bible, “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” He bore our sins, our diseases, our sicknesses and our pain for us so that we may live free forever.

On this particular Easter Sunday, I remember that verse as I pray for a sweet little boy who was in a terrible car accident a few days ago. His mother, who is strong in her faith, reminded her friends that life can change in an instant. But as she sits in the ICU with her son, her faith grows even stronger. It is understandable that someone would look at this situation and ask why? Why, if Jesus bore our pain and grief, would this happen to an innocent child? I ask the same question why about another dear friend’s daughter who has a tumor on her spine that she battles with chemotherapy and possibly surgery. Why would a just God allow this to happen?

On this particular Easter Sunday, I have many more questions than I do answers. But yet I find my faith growing stronger as well, inspired by my friends who handle these situations with the utmost grace and faith. I don’t know that I would be able to handle such difficult, trying times as well as they do. I pray that I won’t have to. And I feel helpless, sitting on the sidelines, unable to do anything for them. But I can do something. Something important. I can pray. I can pray to the God who sacrificed his only Son for us, the Son who bore all our sickness and grief on the cross, for hope, health and healing. And I can believe, as I do with all my heart, in the power of prayer.

On this particular Easter Sunday, as I went to church with my family, I gave thanks for all that we have, especially our health. And I prayed. I prayed for my friends and for their children. I prayed for my friend whose partner is suffering from the grave repercussions of her alcoholism. I sang and remembered why we celebrate Easter. I rejoiced in the miracle that Easter represents. That Christ has risen from the dead. That miracles do happen. I turned to my faith more than ever. And I have the utmost faith that God will take care of all His children.
“The true miracle is not walking on water or walking in air, but simply walking on this earth.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

When the Pastor Needs the Prayer or the Doctor Needs the Care

13 Feb

There’s a guy who is often seen running around here, bandana on his head, beard keeping his face warm and boyish countenance looking a little older, and short shorts showing off his runner’s legs. If you didn’t know who he was, you might be a little surprised to learn that he is a pastor. Not just a pastor, but a darn good one. And he’s not even my pastor, but I’m honored to call him a friend. He’s also one of the smartest people you will ever meet. And one of the most humble. He’s a father, a husband, a leader of mission trips to other parts of the world and an incredible writer/blogger. He’s a source of comfort to so many in our community and even around the world. And now, he has cancer. While I usually don’t consider myself at a loss for words, all that comes to mind now is that it sucks. Plain and simple. It. Sucks.

I wrote a guest blog piece for him a while back called “Consider It Pure Joy” about the Book of James. I quoted the opening lines of that book of the Bible: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” My lay translation of that was this: Be glad that you are going through living hell right now because it will make you stronger. At the time, I was linking this passage in James with my alcoholism. Somehow I don’t think this young pastor or his family are considering any of this joy or feel the slightest bit of gladness right now.

So what happens when the one who gives the prayers needs the prayers? I have no doubt that he will have many many prayers heading his way. They have already started rolling in (or up). I am reminded of a similar situation when it was the doctor who needed the care. My father, who helped so many people over the span of decades as an excellent urologist and skilled surgeon, suffered a stroke himself just six months after he retired. A man who never smoked, hardly drank at all, was meticulous about what he ate and exercised regularly. I guess in many cases, if it’s in your genes, well, you’re screwed. A little like alcoholism. But my friend’s cancer? Don’t think so. He is another guy who takes excellent care of his body and mind.

My father learned what it was like to be the one lying in the bed being cared for and waiting anxiously for the doctor’s updates instead of being the one giving them. He was quoted in an article that was written about him called “When the Doctor Becomes the Patient” as saying that he thought every physician should spend some time on the other side (or in the bed) to gain an appreciation for what the patient goes through and experiences. He gained a new appreciation for the nurses, staff and physical therapists who helped him back on his feet, literally, as he was paralyzed on his right side by the stroke.

But what about the pastor? Is this the other side for him? Being the one needing to receive the prayers and blessings instead of being the one to administer them? He just wrote a blog piece himself that said “not only is my faith is expected to be a resource for me while cancer tries to kill me, it’s expected my faith vs. the cancer will be a resource to others too.” Yes, high expectations when you are public with your struggle. But you can see his thoughts are already turned to others in this tough time.

I wrote another piece recently called “Why Ask Why?” In this situation? Who the hell knows why. It doesn’t make any sense. But we are supposed to believe that there is a reason and that God has this all in his plans. We may not understand the plans and certainly don’t have to like them. But somehow we have to keep the faith. Don’t ask me why. I would ask Him.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
― Corrie ten Boom

If We Don’t……Then Who Will?

3 Dec

For nearly 40 years, I have watched the same holiday special on television—A Charlie Brown Christmas. As a child, I would rush to take my bath or shower and get into my pajamas so I could wrap myself in a blanket on the couch and watch it. As a teenager, I watched it with the small kids I babysat while their parents were out at holiday parties. And now, as a parent, I watch it with my own children, cuddled up with me in my bed in their pajamas.

My son kept saying that he didn’t like the show because everyone was always mean to Charlie Brown. Why is everyone so mean to Charlie Brown? Good question. (I love how sensitive he is). I told him he needed to watch it through to the end. I still well-up with tears when all the kids belt out (with their mouths open wider than soccer balls) “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to Charlie Brown and wish him a Merry Christmas at the end after they fix up his sad little tree.

What struck me this year was the speech Linus gives on the stage explaining the true meaning of Christmas:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

I hate to say it, but I fear that it is only a matter of time before this show is pulled from network television because of this monologue and its mention of Christ the Lord and God. I know, the horror. That a children’s show, crammed in between commercials brainwashing them with all kinds of toys they should add to their Christmas lists, would dare incorporate a Christian message. It saddens me to say that I have become so disheartened by the “political correctness” of today’s society, that I now actually expect someone, or some group, to petition to ban such programs from broadcast television. A show that has been televised for every year since it was created in 1965 by a brilliant man named Charles Schulz.

Interestingly enough, it turns out that network executives were, in fact, reluctant to include the scene of Linus explaining the story of the birth of Christ. Apparently Charles Schulz was adamant that the scene remain, and said “if we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?” Clearly he won out. The scene stayed.

These days, we worry so much about offending someone that we often compromise our beliefs and values. We are so hung up on being politically correct, we tend to even shy away from talking about, writing about, or creating anything that might be then slightest bit controversial.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a child was sent home (or expelled) from school if he or she showed up with a t-shirt featuring Linus and his Christmas monologue. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Hell no. Not acceptable. Too controversial. God. Peace. Good will. Men. I’m not sure we are still allowed to talk about these things today.

I have always loved Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. I have always had great admiration for Charles Schultz and his creative genius, as well as his humility. He had no qualms about explaining that Charlie Brown’s character was very much like himself—shy and awkward. But learning that he was adamant about keeping this scene in the Christmas special made me even more of a fan. I have a good friend who often says “if not me, then who….” for difficult situations that arise which most people wouldn’t want to deal with. Think, just for a second, about how often that saying taken to heart would be helpful. If I don’t volunteer to help, then who will? If I don’t talk to my kids about bullying, drugs, drinking, etc., then who will? If I don’t stand up for my convictions, then who will? And, in my case, if I don’t tell my story about how I deal with my alcoholism and try to help others, then who will? Would it be easier to keep it quiet and deal with it privately? Yes. Would it have been easier for Schulz to cave to the television executives and remove the scene? Yes.

Charles Schulz would have been 92 last week. When you get lost in the frenzy of the holidays, take a minute and look up the scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas and listen to Linus. It will help you remember what Christmas is really all about. And, I gotta say, watching the kids dance while Schroeder plays the piano, is pretty hilarious.
I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.—Lucy Van Pelt

Consider It Pure Joy

22 Jul

I had never even opened a bible. Perhaps I looked at one or two sitting in nightstand drawers at hotel rooms. That’s about it. I participated in my first bible study at the same time I started my battle against alcoholism, a little over two years ago. A friend asked me to join her, thinking it would be a good idea to get me to turn my attention to activities that didn’t involve drinking. While I didn’t know too much about bible studies, I was pretty sure they didn’t involve sitting around doing tequila shots every time someone said the word “Jesus”. It was amazing how much the two things were compatible and reinforced each other. In my twelve-step program I was learning about the need to turn to faith in order to achieve and maintain sobriety. The bible study taught me the need to turn to faith in order to achieve and maintain sanity and grace.

The study focused on the book of James, which has been described by Bible Hub as “a book about practical Christian living that reflects a genuine faith that transforms lives”. A good place for a bible newbie to start, and an excellent place for someone seeking transformative faith to start. I’ll never forget one of the first lines of the book of James: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance”. My personal translation was this: “Be glad that you are going through living hell because it will make you stronger.” In other words, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and there is a reason for it. Whatever your struggle, there is a reason behind it and somehow, someway, even though we may have a hard time seeing it or understanding it, God has a plan and will produce some good from it.

With the bible study homework, I did a fair amount of soul-searching. This is going to be great, I thought. I can’t wait to figure out just how the hell my decades of alcoholic drinking, blackouts, falling down stairs, etc., would bring about something good. So far, all I could figure out was that it got me to open a bible and to meet some very interesting women. Not to mention the fact that I went to an activity from which I emerged as sober as I was when I arrived.

But I noticed that while I started to read “the word”, worked on turning my will and my life over to God (Step Three), and simply became more present in my life by being sober, I began seeing “God-winks” all around me. Squire Rushnell has an excellent book called “When God Winks at You”, all about certain “chance” circumstances that can only be explained by divine intervention (God-winks). I started writing a blog about my journey through recovery. The more I wrote, the more cathartic it was, and the more it helped in my soul-searching and self-awareness. People started to comment about my blog, pull me aside and tell me that they shared it with their friend/mother/father/cousin/uncle/aunt/brother/sister/butcher….anyone they knew struggling with addiction. The more I heard, the more I realized how much addiction touches almost everyone in some form or shape, and the more I wanted to help.

There were several other God-winks, but one of the biggest came on a Sunday morning when I grabbed my coffee and turned on the television. I flipped it to the well-known evangelist, Joel Osteen, at the exact time he was saying these words: “God can take your mess and turn it into your message. God knows how to use what you’ve been through. He doesn’t waste any experiences. He can use what you’ve been through to help others in that situation. Nothing is wasted—the good, the bad, the painful.” It was as though he was speaking directly to me. It strongly reaffirmed my feeling that I am supposed to take my mess, my bad, my pain and not waste it, but rather use it to help others in a similar situation. That situation doesn’t have to be alcoholism. It can be whatever trial or tribulation you suffer in your life. It reinforced the fact that it’s never too late to change something bad into something good. To consider it pure joy.

Another major God-wink came in the form of an opportunity a few weeks ago to speak to women in a local jail. It was a small group of women in what they called the “Sober Living Unit”, who had committed to try to live a clean and sober life when they left their incarceration. I had no idea what to expect, and even less of an idea what I was going to say. But somehow, the words just came. God gave me the guidance and the words I needed.

I began by telling my story, and then went on to share two pieces from my blog, which were very well-received. At the end, there was no awkward silence as I feared, but rather an extensive, interactive discussion. Each woman shared some of her story, but not all explained what they had done to land themselves in this dreadful place. Several were there for selling drugs. One woman drank so much that she passed out with her small child next to her, only to be awakened by a police officer and arrested for child abandonment/neglect. That prompted me to share the story of a friend of mine who had relapsed twice after brief periods of sobriety, each time with major repercussions. The first time, she picked up a drink simply because it was a nice, sunny, spring day. She finished a bottle of vodka and decided to drive to the ABC store to get more. She realized she was in no shape to be driving, pulled over and passed out in her car. She, too, was awakened by police officers, and lost her license for a year for driving under the influence. The second time, she drank so much after being upset by an argument that she again passed out. This time she woke up to find police and Child Protective Services at her door because someone had called saying that the children were alone with an incapacitated mother. Two relapses. Two major screw-ups. But her mess turned into my message. God didn’t waste it. Does she consider it pure joy? I doubt it. But perhaps just one of those women will remember it when they return to their normal lives and think twice about picking up a drink or selling drugs.

The entire time, I was well aware of how incredibly blessed, and lucky, I am. But for the grace of God, I could be in there with them myself. Have I driven when I shouldn’t have? Yes. Have I been incapacitated around my children? I’m so incredibly ashamed to admit yes. All the more reason why I feel strongly about my need to make what they call living amends. I have been given the chance to live my life in a much better and healthier way, so why wouldn’t I take that and use it in the best ways I can? I’m in no position to preach or give advice, but I told the women as I was leaving that it was not too late for them to change and turn their lives around. They have to start in there as we do out here, one day at a time.

The book of James also includes what I like to call the “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” message. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Sometimes it’s really hard to look in the mirror. Often we don’t like what we see. Look. Really look. Listen and act. Read and do. James also says “faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead….Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” I have faith that I can stay sober. But if that faith is not accompanied by action—by hard work, rewiring and praying—it is dead. For a relatively short bible book, James contains so many other powerful messages. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Quick to listen and slow to speak. Advice everyone could benefit from. And “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark”. There is so much good stuff in here. Why didn’t I pick up this book in the hotel rooms?

Finally, the last chapter of James leaves us with this: “….if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins”. I’m not sure I have the power to bring someone back from sin or wandering in the wrong direction. I have to start with myself. However, I have a friend, an older woman, who is a very nervous driver and gets completely frazzled when people behind her are driving too close. She called me over to her car in the parking lot one day after a meeting and said she wanted to show me something. There, taped on her steering wheel, was a piece of paper with a simple message and reminder to herself: “Consider it pure joy.”

The Power of Prayer (and a Pint of Ben and Jerry’s)

13 Feb

Several years ago, I was seated next to a woman at a birthday dinner for a friend. I knew her, but not well.  I had heard she was going through a rough separation with her husband but didn’t know the details.  She had three small children and when I had seen her occasionally around the neighborhood, she looked like she had been through the ringer.  During our conversation, she opened up and told me about her situation.  It was a terrible story which involved her husband having a drug addiction she was unaware of and spending most of their savings, getting deeper and deeper in debt to his habit.  As I listened in disbelief and sympathy, I asked her how in the world she got through it.  She told me that she didn’t get through it alone.  She said that she felt as though someone, or something, picked her up and helped her to be able to carry on with each day to do what she needed to for her children and herself.  She told me that she felt God’s presence and that she was convinced that it was He who provided her with the strength she needed at her worst hour.  Having had several cocktails already, I tried to keep myself from outwardly displaying through facial expressions or body language that I thought she was completely nuts.  Um, yeah, ok…some strange force picked you up and carried you through your day.   And I suppose there were little green men helping you push your shopping cart at the grocery store as well.

After that night, I think I only saw her one other time.  I heard that she and her husband reconciled, that he got help and was able to beat his addiction, and they managed to keep their family together.  They also spent a great deal of time focusing on their faith and good fortune, which they believed was brought to them by God.  I didn’t think about this woman for years, until recently.  And I can honestly say that now I get it.  I completely understand what she meant when she said that something much greater and more powerful than anything she had ever known lifted her up and carried her until she could stand again on her own two feet.

Growing up, the extent of my religious practices involved reluctantly going to church on major holidays, like Christmas and Easter, and trying to stay awake.  I knew nothing about the Bible, Christianity, or theology. More importantly, I knew nothing about spirituality, or the fact that spirituality and religion are two completely separate things.   After getting married in the Catholic church, and especially after our children were born, I started to attend church much more regularly.  But still, only when things got rough, or when dealing with the loss of a loved one, did I turn my glance upwards, mostly looking for answers.  Then there were the many times, usually while paying homage to the porcelain god after a night of mixing drinks, that I either asked God to help me stop feeling so sick or vowed to Him that I would never drink again.  That never lasted very long.

When I took my last drink almost 21 months ago, the realization that I could never, ever pick up a drink again was beyond overwhelming.  It seemed downright impossible.  Add to that the knowledge that no one could do this for me, or really do anything to help but be there to support me, and that’s more than rubbing salt in the wound.  There was no magic pill that a doctor could prescribe.  There was no therapist who could magically remove the compulsion to drink.  There was no trainer, life coach, personal assistant, clergy, shaman, or magic wand.  There was only me.  And, when I was ready to know, understand and trust it, my Higher Power (HP).

I often think that if I only knew when raising my first child what I now know while raising the third, my life would have been so much calmer.  But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.  While I was immersed in diapers, nursing, bottles, spit-up, and sleepless nights, I couldn’t see that if I only took a deep breath and calmed down, I could have enjoyed that precious time alone with a beautiful new life.  By the time I got to my third child, I wasn’t obsessed about sanitizing a pacifier after it fell to the ground, or as much of a sleep-nazi about nap time and schedules.   He got thrown into his carseat, whatever time of day, to shuttle the other two kids around to their activities.  He had to just go with the flow. In fact, I would often just put the baby down for a while in his little playpen and just let him be…without hovering over him to make sure he was still breathing every few minutes!

Similarly, if I had only known during those first few weeks or sobriety what I know now, it would not have been quite as torturous.  Don’t get me wrong, it still would have been pure hell, but the knowledge I have now certainly would have helped.  Admitting having a life that is unmanageable due to an addiction to alcohol is the first huge step.  Understanding that you cannot fully recover from that addiction without turning to, and relying on, your HP is the next crucial turn.  That’s the magic bullet.  The power of determination helps.  The power of friendship and support helps.  The power of inner strength helps.  But the power of prayer heals.

When I started to understand that if I was willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, the road to recovery would be much smoother.  There will still be many bumps and potholes, but that belief and willingness helps to pave a smoother path.  I used to sit in church and during the quiet prayer time after communion, I would hold my head in my hands and cry silently.  I was miserable.  And usually hungover as it was a Sunday morning.  I positioned myself physically as far away from anyone, including my family, as I possibly could, even in the same pew.  I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone.  I chose to sit and drown in my depression.  I asked God for help.  But it didn’t come.  On my terms anyway…

As I learned more and more during my recovery, and truly trusted in turning things over to my HP, I started to see the magic at work.  I noticed that somehow I would hear something from a friend (angel?) on a day when that was exactly what I needed to hear.  And I actually was listening for a change.  I realized that the people who surrounded me where there for a specific reason.  A kind word of support or pat on the back worked wonders for my will to fight on.  I saw that the fortuitous encounter with a well-respected pastor with whom I shared my story recently was probably no accident.

I have prayed for strength for my recovery and I am still sober, 626 days later.  I have prayed for support and understanding from family and friends and I have that.  I have prayed for healing and learning to forgive myself and I am on the right path.  I have prayed for guidance with some tough situations and have gotten it.  I have prayed for the ability to sit quietly and listen and I’m getting better at that. Sometimes I will need a kick in the head to remember to turn to prayer and my HP when things get really rough, but hopefully I will get that kick too from the people who care about me and whom God has put in my life to help me.  As for the pint of Ben and Jerry’s, that can help immensely as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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