Tag Archives: serenity prayer

Menace to Sobriety

20 Oct

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Menace to Sobriety

I just wrapped up a huge work event that has consumed my time over the last several months. Between that and coming off the heels of being very sick for over a year, I haven’t written much.  Feels good to start typing.

The work event was the Third Annual Walk to Bust Cancer, which benefits the National Breast Center Foundation, of which I am the Executive Director.  This year’s walk drew over 700 people and far surpassed our fundraising goal of $75,000.  I was incredibly blessed to work with an amazing team of volunteers on this event; most of them breast cancer survivors who just want to give back.   The walk is a giant undertaking, with an inordinate amount of logistics, man-hours, details and, yes, stress.

Being sick for over 14 months, without answers or a diagnosis, also created a great deal of stress. Endless trips to doctors, hospitals, specialists, labs, etc. with no concrete results.  Finally, two different doctors came to the same conclusion: fibromyalgia.  An answer, but one with a great deal of mystery and uncertainty surrounding it.  While much is still unknown about the disorder, and the extremely long amount of time it took to diagnosis it left me beyond frustrated, I am relieved and grateful that the medicine that they put me on to treat it is helping immensely. Interestingly enough, one of the worst things and triggers for fibromyalgia?  Stress.

We all have stress in our lives.  At some times, greater amounts than others.  And some people are better at dealing with stress than others.  There are those who go to yoga and meditate and are able to successfully keep their stress at bay.  Others who work out intensely and release endorphins to combat the pressure, anxiety and tension in their lives.   And many others still who pour that glass of wine or scotch or whatever to take the edge off.  I was one of those.  So what does one do to combat stress when he or she can no longer reach for the numbing effects of alcohol?

2336 days ago, when I accepted and admitted the fact that I was an alcoholic, I made a firm commitment to never reach for that glass of wine again.  Well, not “never”, just one day at a time.  But whether it was to celebrate something or to drown my sorrows, or yes, to battle whatever stress factors were attacking me at the time, I knew that booze could no longer be my go-to. Not unless I wanted to continue the downward spiral and destructive path that my disease had me on.

There will inevitably be periods of stress in our lives.  I mentioned some healthy ways to deal with them: yoga, exercise, meditation. But how do we remember to do those things when we are so stressed out? Or how to we make time for them when time constraints add to our stress in the first place??   It’s so clear to me now that I am sober how awful drinking was for trying to combat stress. While it provided a very temporary reprieve, when I threw caution to the wind and simply enjoyed the buzz, the resulting hangover and usual aftermath almost always somehow increased my stress level.

I often spent the morning trying to piece together what I had done the night before, sometimes having no recollection whatsoever. I missed appointments, commitments or meetings because I was too hungover to keep them.  I often had to lie, either to cover up idiotic, drunken decisions or behavior, or to try to hide how much I was suffering from the effects of my drinking. Many times, I would act extra chipper on those mornings when my head was pounding and I fought the feeling of having to throw up.  I didn’t want my husband, children or work colleagues to know how badly I was hurting. Does lying contribute to stress? I’ll let you answer that.

Fast forward to today. During the long period of feeling like absolute crap this past year, now explained by my fibromyalgia diagnosis, many people commented to me about how amazed they were that I managed to stay so positive and keep a smile on my face (definitely not always, but I tried).  I relished in the miracle that throughout all the anger, frustration, exhaustion, illness and disappointment, I had learned, and I knew, that a drink would not make it the least bit better.  In fact, I finally understood that it would have just the opposite effect.  Because it wouldn’t be just  “a” drink.  It would be many.  Once I open that can of worms, it would be all downhill from there.  All the hard work, out the window.

So I am slowly making my way back to yoga, which helped me immensely when I first got sober almost 6 ½ years ago.  I’m better at listening to my body and taking it easy when I have to.   I have also incorporated a daily meditation practice into my routine, which has made a huge difference in how I handle and manage stress. Frankly, a huge difference in how I handle life in general.  Very grateful to a dear friend who encouraged this and walks the walk beautifully.  I’m gradually getting back to the gym and trying to exercise.  All of which will be huge factors in combating my fibromyalgia.

But my one, consistent fall-back and most powerful weapon against stress is the Serenity Prayer. Is it something I can control or do something about?  If it isn’t, I remind myself to let it go.  To turn it over.  And it never hurts to have that simple, powerful reminder:  breathe.

“Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.” —Oprah Winfrey

 

 

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…

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
 

 

 

Welcome to Fantasy Island

12 Mar

 

Do you remember the television show “Fantasy Island?” A white-suit-clad Ricardo Montalban and his trusty sidekick,Tattoo, greeted a planeload of guests at the beginning of each episode. They came to the island to live out their fantasies. I was recently reminded of this show as someone pointed out to me that I may be trying to live in a fantasy world of my own these days.

Let’s face it. The real world is tough. Really tough. Who doesn’t want an escape occasionally? For me, the escape used to come from the bottle. So now that there’s no bottle, what is my escape? Those of us with addictive personalities usually find something to replace whatever it is that we are addicted to. Some people start smoking. Some become exercise fiends. Some turn to Ben and Jerry’s, candy and other sugary treats. Some find vices that are even worse.

But at the end of the day, the real world is still there. We may think the grass is greener somewhere else or in a different situation. But when we are sober and present in our lives, we are able to use the tools we have to make the best of the reality. I’d rather feel the ups and downs than be completely numb.

Drinking was like a mini-vacation to fantasy island. It was an escape from reality but it often ended in a nightmare. Blackouts, massive hangovers, throwing up, bad decisions, etc. Whether we wanted to or not, somehow we were always on the return plane. We woke up. We got over our hangovers with either just time or with the hair of the dog. The real world was always still there when we came back.

One thing that helps me deal with the real world now is the serenity prayer, which I try to remember to use often. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The fact is, in the real world, the majority of things we think we have control over are things we cannot change. Just pause to think about that when you are in a troubling situation. If it isn’t something you can control, turn it over. Let it go. Leave it to your higher power to handle.

For the things we can change, sometimes we do indeed need the courage to take the necessary steps to do so. Change can be very difficult, especially for those who take comfort in the status quo. Taking bold steps to make necessary changes is hard. Being sober is a huge change. It takes strength and courage to put the bottle down and figure out a new way to escape reality when need be. A healthy way. But for now, I’m signing off to have some Cherry Garcia. Stay strong.

“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” – Maya Angelou

 

 

 

 

Sobriety in Jeopardy

14 Mar

Sometimes sobriety sucks.

Please remember to respond in the form of a question.

Oh, ok. What is sometimes sobriety sucks?

I’ll take Everyday Battles for $400 please, Alex.

Answer: This term is used to describe 5pm on Friday.

Question: What is Suckfest?

You are correct.

Let’s take a moment to meet our players. Joe Q. is a seventh grade history teacher from Springfield, Illinois. He’s got an interesting story to tell us about his cats.

“Yes, thanks Alex. Well, one time, my cats, Sam and Mr. Mittens, were looking out the window and saw me coming home from work….”

That’s fascinating. On to our next contestant. Sarah W. Sarah, that’s an interesting shawl you’re wearing. Do you want to tell us about it? 

No.

Alrighty then. Our final contestant, Mike S., is celebrating 25 years of sobriety. Can you tell us your secret to staying sober Mike?

Well, Alex, I refrain from drinking.

Excellent advice Mike. Thanks for sharing.

Now back to the game. Mike, you control the board.

Actually Alex, I’m powerless over the board. I’m first-stepping the board.

What the hell does that mean Mike? 

It means that I am admitting I am powerless over the board and that my life has become unmanageable because of the board.

Mike, we’re talking about a game show here. You have control over what category you choose.

Do I really have control Alex? Or do I just have a daily reprieve? Can I actually change the board? Do I have the courage to change the board? Remember Alex: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Ok, Mike, well I have the wisdom to move on to Sarah. Sarah, please pick our next clue.

I’d like to buy a vowel.

Wrong gameshow, Sarah.

O sorry. I’ll take Codependency for $600 please Alex.

Ok, here’s our clue:
Pleasing others and giving up yourself

I think that the answer is what is a sign of codependency? Do you think so Alex, I mean, I think that’s what it is if that’s what you think it is. I’m not sure. But if you think I should guess that then I will. Do you want me to guess that Alex?

Correct. Pick again.

I’ll take Trite AA Slogans for $800 please.

Ok. And that’s a Daily Double. What would you like to do?

I’ll make it a true Daily Double Alex. I don’t know what that really means, as opposed to a false Daily Double, but I always wanted to say it.

Um, great Sarah. You’re betting everything you have then. Ok. Here’e the clue:
This common AA saying rhymes with “Run Way Bat a Dime”

What is First Thing’s First?

Um, No. Mike? Joe? …….. Do either of you want to take a guess?

What is Easy Does It?

Holy cow, what is wrong with you people??? A saying that rhymes with Run Way Bat a Dime? 
One Day At a Time??? Sound familiar??

Don’t judge, just love Alex.

Let’s go to a commercial break…..so I can have a freaking drink.

“Our life is a game, the rules of which are unknown to us.” — Kierkegaard

Sharing the Light

10 Jan

“And when you want to live, how do you start, where do you go, who do you need to know?” – The Smiths, The Boy with the Thorn in His Side.

As you may have noticed by now, I’m very fond of quotes. I usually include at least one with every blog piece. My philosophy is: why not share the brilliant words of others instead of struggling to find a way to say it (less eloquently) myself? I also like to call it “sharing the light”. Some of the best quotes and pearls of wisdom I hear are in meetings. And many of them are said by people who are quoting someone else, or sharing the light. Sometimes I hear the same platitude or trite saying again and again, but for some reason, one particular time, it finally gets through my thick skull. For alcoholics, there are many. But as you can see, they can apply to a myriad of situations, self-helpers and, especially, serenity seekers:

-one day at a time
-let go and let God
-change I must or die I will
-do the next right thing
-but for the grace of God
-the best is yet to come
-turn it over
-keep an attitude of gratitude
-get rid of the stinkin’ thinkin’

But the best by far is the Serenity Prayer. If we can just remember that, things would be much easier. For everyone. Not just alcoholics or addicts. Everyone. When times are tough and things aren’t going your way, simply remember this:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Really think about that. If we learn to accept the things we cannot change, we would take away a huge chunk of unnecessary worry and stress. Courage is something we could all use, especially courage to take control of situations where we have the ability to make things better. And wisdom, well that goes without saying. But wisdom to know the difference isn’t always easy to come by.

Working toward sobriety and a better life, and changing old destructive ways, IS something I have the ability to control. The disease of alcoholism I cannot change. It’s there. I didn’t ask for it but it’s there. And it’s there for good. I accept that. The courage to change how I deal with it and fight it is something I continue to pray for. The wisdom to know the difference comes from those who share the light with me, and of course, from my Higher Power (HP).

As for my Smiths quote above, “when you want to live, how do you start, where do you go, who do you need to know?”—-I loved the Smiths in high school and college. I still do. Many of Morrissey’s morbid and depressing lyrics (like “sweetness I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every tooth in your head” and “if a ten-ton truck, killed the both of us, to die by your side, well the pleasure, the privilege is mine”) used to blast from my car radio. They fit in perfectly with my teenage angst and misery of the time. But the quote above always gave me hope. I think it is honestly something that I asked myself deep down many times when I was struggling to crawl out of the terrible dark hole I was in. Now that I have the clarity of my sobriety, I can answer those questions. When you want to live, you start by simply making that choice. That you want to LIVE. In a twelve-step program, that’s always the first step. Where do you go and who do you need to know? Also simple. You need to know where to find those who share the light with you and those who care. You need to know and establish a strong connection to your HP. You need to remember the serenity prayer.

And, that some girls are bigger than others…… (Smiths).

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