Sunday, November 27, 2011

Surrender the Person

Here is a useful prayer for the post-Thanksgiving week. I learned this from Marianne Williamson who writes about practical applications of The Course in Miracles. One of my favorite quotes from  Williamson is a perfect reminder of our Step Three: “What is placed on the alter is altered.”

Here’s the format of her surrender prayer:

“Dear God, I am (mad, sad, upset, hurt about…) this person (name names). I place everything that happened, all that I fear might happen, this person, all of these people, and all of my feelings about this in your hands. Please help me to see if differently. Amen.”

Repeat as often as needed.

It’s not a prayer for magic or a prayer to make anyone right or wrong. It’s spiritual first-aid, “Take this.” And it is a prayer that I will be changed and that my perspective be altered.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

Even though it’s been years since I had Thanksgiving with my own family I still get nervous as this holiday approaches. When I was growing up November always brought a wave of panic. My mother wanted the house to be nicer than it was, so each year we were subjected to a frenzy of last minute decorating on a shoestring.

One year she bought cases of caulking compound to remedy the drafty chill. We had that caulking goop for years and in the summer we used the guns to play Combat. Another year she decided to make over the master bedroom. Her plan was to “tent” the bed in yards of gauzy fabric. But my mother didn’t know how to sew; she could picture the end result but not how to get there. We had that fabric for years. I made togas for Latin class, we wrapped gifts in it, and ten years later, when my niece got married, we made shower decorations with the last of our pastel yard goods.

While my mother was decorating, my father cooked. He would stay up all night tending the bird. On Thanksgiving morning he the scent of baking pies was added to the aroma of roasting turkey, and that would combine with the odors of Spic & Span and dusting spray, as my mother furiously cleaned.

Tension ran high. We were shouted into baths and clean clothes. When the doorbell rang at noon, we smelled, and looked good.

Aunt Junie always arrived first and brought her own pies. Yes, she knew my father was making the dessert--he did every year--but every year she brought her own pies and acted surprised. What can I say? She was his older sister. Sibling stuff doesn’t go away, it just gets played out in new ways.

Next was Aunt Martha, who pinched us –hard –on the cheek. We’d whine to our mother, and be told, “Be nice to her, she doesn’t have any children”, as if that explained why she’d want to torture someone else’s. Then there was Uncle Elmer who had one eye that drifted to the side and a big warty growth on his cheek. We perfected air kissing to deal with holiday hellos.

Soon the house would be filled with people. The cousins went straight to chasing and teasing each other. We saw then, but only knew later, the significance of each cousin’s ways: The one who always stood back to watch is now the writer; the cousin who schmoozed with the adults became a politician, and the one who happily ran to get refills for the grown-ups--finishing off their drinks enroute—is now a speaker on the recovery circuit.

Of course we didn’t see the adult side of things. I didn’t know about the barbs my mother got about our old house from the Aunt who “married better”. I didn’t know that this pain was the fuel to my mother’s annual decorating frenzy. I also didn’t know until later that the men sitting around the kitchen table were zinging their own darts at my Dad. He was the only one who had finished school and moved “upstairs” in the plant. Now I see why he had to excuse himself so often to “check on the turkey”.

Most of our families have a version of these scenes. On Thanksgiving we’ll be humming, “We gather together….”, but mothers will sigh over daughter’s hair, the childless will offer parenting advice, and the uncle who has plenty will tell those who have none how they should invest their money. Old wounds will be given a good jab intentionally or not.

We come to this meal each year hoping for the holiday we remember from childhood, the one with laughter and fun. So if the tension rises in your dining room on Thanksgiving just consider it a warm up for the December holidays to come, and like a warning shot fired over our feelings, let’s remember to be gentle with and grateful for the people we sit down with.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Self-Care, Again

Today’s lesson: self-care. Why do I fight it? Someone pointed out that fighting self-care is paradoxically, a form of narcissism. “I should not be tired, ill, under the weather” etc. This should not be happening to me. But it is. Fighting self-care is also arrogant. “I’m too busy and important for this.” Ah, well.

Here I am with a cold, cough, tickle and sniffles. It simply is.

Acceptance. Surrender. Vitamins, hot lemon water, football, girly magazines: self-care.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Out of the Woods--Stories on CD

This week I am listening to a wonderful CD of AA “old-timers” stories. The folks telling their stories feel like true friends on this journey. Here are people with 20, 25, 30 and 40 years of recovery and the growth keeps on coming—but with the new twists that we talk about at “Out of the Woods”.

Some of the AA members telling their experiences with long recovery talk about being an old-timer and sometimes feeling left out in AA; of their need to talk to other people who have ten or 20 years of recovery; of the ways they apply 12 step principles to new situations and different addictions as life changes; how old-timers (in natal years and recovery years) can help younger members and a crucial story about depression and treatment in long sobriety.

Listening to this CD reminded me that we can keep growing even after we have memorized every word of conference-approved literature, and that life gets richer as those messages get deeply embedded in our thinking.

This CD is called: “A Lifetime of AA”. Copyright 2007 and available at

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lessons from Management

Our management team at my job has been talking about how we work together. As part of that conversation a colleague sent this quote. I just loved it. Here is a business writer using language and ideas that feel so familiar. I just had to share this:

In life, the issue is not control but dynamic connectedness. I want to act from that knowledge. I want to move into a universe I trust so much that I give up playing God. I want to stop holding things together. I want to experience such safety that the concept of 'allowing' - trusting that the appropriate forms can emerge - ceases to be scary. I want to surrender my care of the universe and become a participating member, with everyone I work with, in an organization that moves gracefully with its environment, trusting in the unfolding dance of order.”

----Margaret Wheatley
Leadership and the New Science

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Be Still: A Practice

I’m making a commitment to daily meditation, and I’ve begun to go through the resources I’ve saved for years. Here is a meditation practice that I learned years ago on a Matt Talbot retreat in Massachusetts. I like this one because it has a beginning, middle and an end, and I can make it short or long by adjusting the intervals.

It works like this: Read or say each line and pause for a brief interval allowing those words to sink in. (You can sit with each line for 30 seconds, or one minute, or three minutes depending on the time you have.) Here are the lines:

Be still and know that I am God.

(pause and sit)

Be still and know that I am.

(pause and sit)

Be still and know.

(pause and sit)

Be Still.

(pause and sit)


Friday, November 11, 2011


In a recent meeting we talked about “Half measures availed us nothing” and I remember, with gratitude, my willingness and desperation to do what I was told in early recovery. Ninety meetings in 90 days; a sponsor, step meetings, a food plan, calling a sponsor every day, service work, changing people, places and things. I didn’t question, I acted. And 25 years later those are habits.

But I have my current version of half measures. Meditation. I have books, videos and CD’s. I have been on meditation retreats and taken workshops and I know the brain chemistry of meditation practice. But I don’t meditate on a daily basis. And I want to.

I still have the faulty belief—not conscious maybe but still…that I can substitute knowledge for experience, knowing for doing. Not.

Yesterday reading some materials to prepare for a spirituality workshop that I am leading I saw this over and over: every religion has a recommended practice that basically says, “Sit down. Shut up.”


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Two Parts of Life--and Recovery

Nikos Kazantzakis, philosopher and writer (He wrote “Zorba the Greek”) said, “In the first half of life we fight the devil; in the second half of life we fight God.” He was saying that in our growing up and in young adulthood we are learning what not to do and about right and wrong, But in the second half of life—in maturity and in our aging into death --we let go of rules and surrender to what is bigger and unknowable.

The first half of life is about discipline and self control and managing yourself. But the second half of life is about giving up control; it is about surrender. That, of course, is much harder.

I was chewing on these ideas today and I realized that there is a parallel for us in recovery. In the first period of recovery (as we go into the woods) we fight the devils: alcohol, substances, addiction, impulse, weakness, and our “character defects”. We learn self control and self management and discipline—what many of us did not learn earlier. We learn the disciplines of AA to give our lives structure. And in later recovery (maybe the “out of the woods” period) we seek God even more than abstinence, and having some structure then from living a 12 step life—we then live sober not to follow rules but as surrender. We go from the known and dictated and externally imposed toward what is greater than us and what is completely unknown. Hence faith.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Why Mommy Won't Let You Sip from her Water Bottle

There is a great article in the October issue of Redbook Magazine about Mommy Drinkers and drinking mommy bloggers.

It makes sense, yes, that interventions will be facilitated by new technology and that the safety and anonymity of blogs will help more people to read about and identify all kinds of issues and solutions. So this article talks about the increasing number of young Moms who are drinking to excess but also are being reached by recovering Moms who blog about parenting and their drinking.

From the article: “An estimated 5.3 million women in the United States have risky drinking habits, and it’s estimated that one in four children has an alcoholic parent.”

Many of these drinking Moms are the ones who look good on the outside—middle class lives, supportive husbands, chic jeans and boots at the morning drop-off, interesting jobs, and successful blogs.

Definitely check out the article: “Mommy is an Alcoholic” at (click on the link below) or in the real magazine pages 203 to 208. (I still love the real thing and turning pages.) And also take a look at the blogs: One Crafty Mother and The Extraordinary Ordinary.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Chonological Cure

We know what a “geographical cure” is. It’s when we imagine that when we move to another place we will be a different person. It’s evident in thinking that goes like this: “I’ll always be on time at my new job” or “I’d be civic-minded in a small town.” or “I won’t be depressed in Denver” or “When we move to our new house I’ll be organized and keep the house clean.” Before recovery we might have tried a geographic cure that included, “I’ll stop binging or drinking or using or needing him—when I move to the new city.”

And then, as the joke goes, “I moved to the new city, and a few weeks later, I showed up”.

Yep, I’ve had my share of geographic cures. And the same me always showed up. But this week I realized that I still have a version of that thinking well into recovery. But now it’s my “Chronologic Cure”.

I have been putting events and projects in my new (Letts of London, 35x, leather) 2012 calendar. And today when I recorded plans for two long distance trips in the same month I realized that I was still fantasizing that a new me that will show up later. I was picturing myself as a calm, happy, go-with-the-flow, write-on-the-road, get-everything-done-with-ease kind of gal. Now, I do get a huge amount done in any week but not without cost to self and loved ones nearby. But here I am jamming an international conference, two presentations, writing deadlines and a recovery workshop over a six week period.

We do change and grow in recovery –but that would require a radical personality make-over.

Yes, it is the allure of a new calendar and a new year. All those clean, blank pages. (In the Letts those blank pages are the creamiest paper). But look at that illusion that I will be so changed in 60 days. No, not even 90. A year from now? OK, I’ll be different but still me.

But there in my new calendar is the evidence of the “ism” that we speak of. Long past taking a drink my thinking remains that of a woman who can imagine herself completely transformed by an occasion or an experience or a dress or a new calendar. That’s my “chronologic cure”.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Short Version

I ate, I drank, I shopped, I “dated”, I worried, obsessed and I began to recover. All the addictions were and are about not feeling; trying to fill that hole inside. And what is that? I think it’s this:

Someone, somewhere, a long time ago wounded me. The fear it left in me remains as anxiety and a desire to seek and then control love, and as a blind spot to the love that is all around me.