Sunday, July 30, 2017

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 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. 

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Taking Recovery to Work--A Retreat for Women at The Wilson House

I'm getting ready for the November 2017 women's retreat at The Wilson House in Dorset, Vermont.
I hope you'll join me and a fabulous group of women who are serious--and seriously fun--about their recovery.

This year the retreat will be from Friday night November 10th through Noon on Sunday November 12th. The theme of the retreat is "Taking Recovery to Work" and that means we'll examine many manifestations of work: from being a "worker among workers," finding a sober career, discerning your calling, and to how to have a productive, healthy and happy retirement--and all while working the steps.

We say that "we practice recovery in all of our affairs" and that also means the parts of our life where we use our creativity and deepest selves. You may be starting a career, or discerning whether to make a change, or planning what your retirement will be like, or you may be years into retirement and you want to apply principles of recovery in a new way. How do you work your program and stay happy, joyous and free across all these stages of recovery?

This is your retreat, and you'll share it with women from across the united States who come to the birthplace of Bill Wilson for inspiration, new ideas and an invigorating investment in their recovery lives.

The retreat includes two workshop seminars each day, optional sessions on recovery yoga, writing, journaling and spiritual direction. We share meals each day--and we laugh a lot! And there is time to walk, nap, visit the nearby sites of AA history and make new friends as you rock and talk on the historic Wilson House porches.

The retreat fee is $125 per person--includes meals and all workshop supplies. Housing accommodations are separate.

To register: First, call The Wilson House to reserve your room--at the House
or nearby motels and inns. Then, email me to secure your retreat/workshop spot.

Each year, women come alone or with friends. It's a great time out for sponsor--sponsee time as well.

I look forward to seeing you November 10 to 12 at The Wilson House in East Dorset, Vermont.

Diane Cameron
DianeOCameron@gmail.com




Monday, June 26, 2017

Don't Miss Summer

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


Yes, perhaps you can see that Work is way ahead of Play in my life. 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 saw long ago: I work hard, I do a lot, and yes, I get a lot done. I neither defend or apologize for this part of me, but I also know it’s about recovery, and a little bit about making up for lost time and lost creativity.

I don’t regret the past—exactly. But I do wish I started writing earlier, sending work out sooner, and publishing a long time ago. Working hard at both my career in nonprofits, and at my career as a writer brings me so much joy.

There is a bit of grief in this too perhaps. In my addictions, I was buried in both substances and in fear, and I couldn’t focus, and couldn’t find what I now know to be, my dharma.

But even in this hard work, ultra-productivity, there is this voice in my ear this season 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 a weekend away, and I can trust that stepping away from my desk doesn’t mean going down a ten-year rabbit hole as it did once long ago. 

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

***
There is more on making a great life in long recovery in the book: "Out of the Woods--A Guide to Long-term Recovery" published by Central Recovery Press

Monday, June 12, 2017

Letting Go--Throw the Ball

Letting Go is a topic I can never hear about enough. I love it when it’s the topic at meetings, and I really love it when people talk about how they let go—what exactly they do that helps them. 

Letting go is probably the answer to 99% of my questions. (What should I do in my relationship? Let go. What should I do about that cranky relative? Let go. What about the future I am worried about? Yes, let go of that too.)

But still, and often, just as in my newcomer days, I can sigh and say, “But how?” and I try to keep the whiney tone out of my voice.

So, I love the advice on letting go from the amazing Melody Beatty. Beatty is a recovering woman, recovery writer, and a recovery role model. I highly recommend her books especially the day meditation book called, “The Language of Letting Go.” My first sponsor gave me that book in 1983 and I still read from that dog-eared, underlined, tear-stained copy every day. 

So here is her advice on how to let go:

*If you are holding onto a worry or a problem or a person—think of that as holding onto a baseball.

* If you have tried to solve a problem three times (and worry doesn’t count) then stop yourself. Let go. Throw the ball.

*If someone asks you for advice, you give them the advice one time. Then throw the ball to them. Let go. Say nothing more.

*If a person has not asked for your advice, or if you offered some advice and the answer was “No thanks,” there is nothing to throw. Let go. The ball is not in your hands.

It might be helpful—if you are really struggling with an issue or a person—to get a small ball to hold, name, and then toss. Let that ball go off the cliff, into the river, let it roll down the road or anywhere away from you.

That’s what letting go looks like. Let it go.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Total Commitment to Your Recovery

There is a value at looking back in recovery. Where did you come from? How did you get here? Addiction and recovery move in circles and cycles. Even though we say, “Look back but don’t stare” and there is value and sometimes efficiency in looking at your own story.  

The book, “Women Who Love Too Much” by Robin Norwood was such an important
part of my early recovery. It’s fair to say that my intervention was a book. That book. The right book at the right time. I was so unaware that I had a problem with alcohol, and I had a million rationalizations for my disordered eating, but my relationships problems were front and center. I could see them; other people could see them. So, I read the book.

I was desperate and desperate enough to turn the pages even though what Norwood was revealing was very painful. I was on every page.

And then, like a pinball machine, I felt every bell and buzzer go off when Norwood linked relationship problems to alcoholism, drug addiction and eating disorders. Dam her! And yes, thank her! --her book saved my life. Because of that relationship book I found AA and a couple more Twelve-step programs, and a therapist, and a group.

And now, 31 years later, I can hardly believe that was me. Except…

Today it’s not alcohol, drugs or food that can undo me. But my thinking still needs work. And I still need to look at issues like scarcity, fear, control, desire, and the addict’s mantra “More” …. yes, I still want more: more shoes, more work, more energy, more recognition, more comfort, more confidence, even more yoga, and things that are seemingly good for me. But there is a fine balance between desire and dependence.

So, when I did dip back into Robin Norwood’s miracle book, “Women Who Love Too Much” I find this paragraph--it's underlined, starred, and highlighted, and it’s still very relevant: 

“Total commitment to your own recovery requires that you suspend your own use of alcohol and other drugs. Mind altering substances mitigate against your fully experiencing the emotions you are uncovering. It is only through deeply experiencing them that you will also gain the healing that comes with their release.”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day Medea

 If productivity was down in your workplace this week you can blame your mother. Across the city workers were lingering through their lunch hour in card stores reading and sighing. Buying a Mother’s Day card is not easy.

For some, the card that says, “Mom, Thanks for being perfect” is fine, but for the rest of us, with complicated mothers and complicated relationships, the search for the right message is tough.

But even as children–of all ages--struggle to summarize their
maternal relationship in a card, those on the receiving end have mixed feelings too. Most of us know we don’t come close to the platitudes in those greeting cards.

What is a good mother? Do we measure up? On this day that celebrates kindness, patience and sacrifice many of us squirm remembering our less than ideal maternal moments; We wonder if we’ve done something really bad along the way and worry whether our worst day as a mother damaged our kids.

Mothers who hurt their children is a painful topic. The reality of mothers’ hostile impulses against their children is old news in psychological circles and parenting books, but we rarely allow parents to admit those feelings.

Thank goodness, most of us don’t act on our thoughts, but some mothers have struggled with the limits and lost. When we hear about them, many of us know--in the privacy of our hearts--that it was just the grace of God, good friends, a reliable baby-sitter and money in the bank that kept us from taking their place.

 So maybe we should, especially on Mother’s Day, have some compassion for the mothers who lost it, those women who did the unthinkable; they hurt their own child. If some mothers weren’t so newsworthy for their sheer failure at mothering the rest of us would not know where to draw the line in self-judgment.

We can count ourselves lucky and a little grateful that most of us have slapped but did not scald, screamed but did not hit, or cursed but did not kill. When we react to a child-abuse horror story with the common, “Can you imagine?” the truth is that most of us can.

We owe a debt to those mothers because they give us the outside limit from which to measure our parenting. The “bad” mother relieves us of the shadowy fear we all carry. 

We can’t talk about bad mothers without mentioning Medea; the mythological woman who killed her kids to punish their philandering father. But Medea got to her breaking point after a world tour of abuse, abandonment and humiliation.

After being dumped in a strange country with no way home, she lost it and she killed. Medea’s story is a myth but, as with all myths, it points to something real in the human psyche. When we read about women who hurt their kids a healthy mother has to stop and ask herself, “How did that woman get there?”  Nobody starts out wanting to kill their children; nobody starts out thinking scalding is reasonable discipline. It’s baby steps all the way.

Every mother who lost it at least once, or who did something she swore she’d never do, can be grateful for everything that keeps her from crossing over to the territory of the terrible mother.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian novelist, wrote: “If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and we could separate them from us and destroy them, but the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” That includes yours and mine.

So for Mother’s Day let’s thank the good mothers and show a moment of compassion for the “Medeas” of the world, who in their tragic solution to life’s problems show us where we ought not to go.