Tuesday, July 10, 2018

When Recovery Takes a Vacation


Well, of course recovery never really takes a vacation but recovering people do.

Going to meetings while traveling is one of the smartest things we can do. It’s not just that we get to stay sober or abstinent longer and better, but vacations get better the longer we are in recovery.

One advantage of vacation recovery is that we learn to stress less about the “stuff” of travel. One of the best pieces of vacation advice I ever received from a sponsor is that “The trip begins when you are packing.” I used to be so miserable all through the process of getting to the place where I was going to be having my vacation that the car ride and the airport and the hotel check-in were miserable--for me and everyone around me. I wanted to get to the vacation place because I thought that that’s when my adventure would begin. But that’s not true. Listen to the stories people tell about their favorite trips…it always includes the taxi and the airport and the jitney and …

So, I began to shift my attitude to say to myself, “This too is part of the vacation adventure”, then it became true and I began to have more fun.  I was then able to look for the good in the delayed flight, and the funny staff, and the weird taxi driver and the odd meal.

But the other reason that vacations get better as your recovery gets longer is that those of us in 12 step programs have an amazing resource that other travelers don’t have: We have helpful contacts in every city and town in the world.

One of the best kept secrets is that people in twelve-step programs have instant travel assistance and access to great tourist advice any where we go.

Over the years I have been to meetings all over the United States and in France, Germany, Poland, Italy, England, The Czech Republic and Bermuda. I've gotten directions, restaurant advice, suggestions on local sites, invites to performances, guidance on public transportation, sometimes rides and always smiles, encouragement and patience with the language barrier.

There is something so fun and smart about asking a new twelve-step group for suggestions about where to eat, what to do, the best way to drive to the next city etc. I’ve been tipped off to bargain shopping, fabulous inexpensive restaurants, and the places to avoid. We don’t need a guidebook to tell us where the locals eat or shop—we have local “family” that we can ask. This is where AA and AAA meet up and it is such a bonus. 

One of the coolest things that happened to me recently was on a trip to Chicago. I love Chicago—art, music, beach, river, architecture, shopping and the food! 

On my recent trip I checked the Chicago AA directory before I left home and, because it’s a big city, I put in the address of my hotel and clicked the button that said “One-mile distance to meetings” hoping to be able to walk to a few.

To my surprise there were several choices less than a mile from my hotel, and crazy surprise—when I looked closer, the address of the meetings was the very same address as my hotel! Was it possible?

Turns out it was true. When I arrived, I asked the concierge about the location of meetings and he directed me to a beautiful conference room on the lower level of the hotel where there was a daily AA meeting. Go figure, and Go Gratitude!

It also gives you just a clue about how big our fellowship is, and just how acceptable and normal it is to ask about AA just as you might ask where the nearest sushi place or nail salon might be.

When you travel with recovery you learn that twelve-step principles prevail regardless of location, politics or language.

***
Read more about long-term recovery in "Out of the Woods" published by Central Recovery Press:

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Balancing Work and Play in Recovery


I have to give myself this little reminder every day, ”Don’t miss summer.” That’s written on a sticky note in my calendar and in my very own voice on the micro recorder I use in my
car to track my “to-do” list as I drive.

Yes, perhaps you can see that Work is way ahead of Play in my life. I have an abundance of lists, reminders, recorders. It’s all about productivity. 

I’m looking more closely at that drive this year. I’ve finally come to see what others have seen: I work hard, I do a lot, and yes, I get a lot done. I neither defend or apologize for this part of me. I recognize that my super work ethic is a gift of recovery—and a consequence of the time before recovery. I’ve been making up for lost time for a long time.

I don’t regret the past—exactly. But I do wish I’d started writing earlier, and sending work out sooner, and getting published ages ago. Working hard at my career in nonprofits, and at my writing career brings me so much joy. 

There is a little bit of grief in this too. Back in the days before recovery, I was buried in both substances and in fear, and I couldn’t focus or dare, and couldn’t find what I now know to be my dharma.

But even in my hard-working, ultra-productivity, there is this voice in my ear this year that says: “Don’t miss summer.” 
Winters are long in Upstate New York, and my long recovery is stable. I can trust a day off now and then, or a weekend away, and I can trust that stepping away from my desk doesn’t mean that my writing will go down a ten-year rabbit hole as it did once long ago.

So, one gift of recovery is meeting my hard-working self, and the second gift is meeting that parallel part of me that I think can still learn to relax and play. And I want to do both of those this very summer.

***
Read more on making a life in long-term recovery in "Out of the Woods--A Guide to Long-term Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Can We Talk About Alcoholism and Suicide?

Here's an important article from The Chicago Tribune inviting readers to at least be willing to open the conversation about alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide.

We are, and maybe rightfully so, careful in how we talk about people who have died. But celebrity also comes with responsibility. The public eye is in public. So, rather than whisper, some folks are talking about the role of alcohol in Anthony Bourdain's life and death.


Here's the article:http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-alcoholism-anthony-bourdain-drinking-suicide-0622-20180621-story.html

 I hope you will share it with others, and that you'll share your comments here too. We can't talk too much about addiction.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Vacation in Recovery-The Family Road Trip


Well, of course recovery never really goes on vacation but recovering people do. Going to meetings while traveling is one of the smartest things we can do. It’s not just that we stay sober or abstinent longer and better, but vacations get better the longer we are in recovery.

One advantage of vacation recovery is that we learn to stress less about the “stuff” of travel. One of the best pieces of vacation advice I ever received from a sponsor is that “The trip begins when you are packing.” I used to be so miserable all through the process of getting to the place where I was going to be vacationing that the car ride and the airport and the taxi rides were awful—for me and everyone around me. I wanted to get to the vacation place because I thought my adventure would begin then and there but that’s not true. Listen to the stories people tell about great trips…it includes the taxi and the airport and the jitney and …

But I just got some new inspiration for this year’s vacation from a brand-new book,

 “Don’t Make Me Pull Over! The Informal History of the Family Road Trip”

Richard Ratay has written the most fun and illuminating memoir/history book/trivia game/memory stimulator. 

Ratay tells the story of his family’s many vacation road trips –Wisconsin to Florida-- the days before cell phones, in car screens, and easy access to on-road dining. I’m guessing you will relate to his and his parent’s dilemmas of packing, driving, managing kids in the backseat—all before car seats, seatbelts and movies in the car.

If your summer travels take you on the road to family or friends—here’s your hostess gift. And this might even be—how old-fashioned—a book you read aloud in the car to each other. You’ll either laugh a lot or have to explain a lot to younger folks—or both.

But that is what we want when we vacation in recovery—some laughter, some adventure and some learning.

But be sure to include some twelve-step meetings in your travels—that too, is part of the adventure and the learning.

Over the years I have been to meetings all over the United States and in France, Germany, Poland, Italy, England, The Czech Republic and Bermuda. I've gotten directions, restaurant advice, suggestions on local sites, invites to performances, guidance on public transportation, sometimes rides and always smiles, encouragement and patience with the language barrier.

There is something so fun and smart about asking a new twelve-step group for suggestions about where to eat, what to do, the best way to drive to the next city etc. I’ve been tipped off to bargain shopping, fabulous inexpensive restaurants, great things to see, and the places to avoid. 

As we move “out of the woods” We don’t need a guidebook to tell us where the locals eat or shop—we have our local recovery “family” that we can ask. This is where AA and AAA meet up and it is such a bonus. We also learn that twelve-step principles always prevail regardless of age, location, politics or language.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

When You Want to Be Like Everybody


You know that thing that parents say when a kid
begs, "But everybody's doing it." And Mom or Dad say, "Well, if everybody jumped off the bridge, would you jump too?"

They were trying to be helpful and squash that
sense we had of wanting to fit in, and be like everybody else.

Well, that feeling doesn't go away just because we get older. And, if we are trying to do something new or risky, that wanting to be like  "everybody" can often haunt or hinder us.

Well, I found an adult way of helping myself through that sticky, insecure spot. I made myself an "Everybody Wall".

Since I struggled with believing in myself as a writer and artist and performer--I had to redefine who my "everybody" is.

When I would get stuck thinking that I was supposed to be different, or successful in some other way, I knew that I needed some peers. And in the beginning--and even now--I had to find those peers in people I loved but had not met. And that's who went on my "Everybody Wall."

I needed reminders that there were many women who heard that different drummer, or who were called to do less traditional work, or who turned out to be just fine even though they were not liked, or understood, or even truly known.

Here are my pals, my sacred sisterhood, my everybody:

Dorothy Day, Helen Gurley Brown, Pema Chodron, Wislawa Szymborska, May Sarton, Amelia Earhart, Erma Bombeck, Georgia O'Keefe  and Coco Chanel.

Who are your sisters--your sacred mentors--and your "everybody"?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

If There are Two Roads Diverged...


You know the famous Robert Frost poem about the two roads. Maybe you memorized it in Junior High, maybe you rolled your eyes every time it was misquoted.

So often that poem is taught or referenced as if Frost was trying to encourage the reader to take the alternative path in life, (quit your job, be an artist, move to Portland) even though he clearly says, “the passing there had worn them really about the same.”
Frost is saying that we have choices, and that we often worry over them, and that yes, we will wonder how it will all look to us later, and we’ll “look back with a sigh.”

It seems that, especially in recovery, we do have to make a lot of choices. Will we know which path to take? How, in our recovering lives do we discern—discernment meaning to choose between goods—the best path? How, as we come out of the woods of addiction, with choices so seemingly luxurious, will we know what to do? How do we make our choices? 

I like to remember this passage from Isaiah 30:21:
“And you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the path. Walk ye in it.”

We can indeed hear a voice. And that’s a good thing. But we also know that our Higher Power whispers and doesn’t scream.

That is why we have to get quiet at some point every day, or maybe several times a day. And that is why, especially when we have a decision to make, we need more time in quiet. That is why we need time alone, and time in nature. That is why we have to get very still: so we can hear that voice saying, “This is the path. Walk ye in it.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Treat Addiction Like Cancer by Laura Hilgers


I want  to share with you a great opinion piece from yesterday's New York Times. Laura Hilgers, makes the case that we should be treating addiction like other serious, chronic, possibly fatal illnesses.

Hilgers shares that she was a caregiver for one family member with cancer at the same time she was the caregiver for another loved one with addiction.


But that the way each serious illness is
treated, and the way each caregiver role is experienced, is very different.

Here's a fact that jumped out at me: "Addiction, like cancer, is a complex disease that requires a multi-pronged approach. It also affects 1.5 times as many people as those with all cancers combined..."

Sometimes those of us with long-term recovery forget that part of our work, and our path, is to live the gratitude for our own recovery by reaching out--and reaching back--to advocate for others who need or who are seeking recovery. We need to relate rather than compare. Alcohol, drugs, opioids--all of it is addiction, and we know about that. Which also means that we can be voices for education and advocacy.

Please read Hilgers op-ed. I've attached the link below. Please share this with folks you know--folks in recovery, in healthcare and your public servants.

Here's the link: https://nyti.ms/2GyF7Fr