Sunday, September 28, 2014

Restless and Fired into Madness

 “We are fired into life with a madness that comes from the gods and which would have us believe that we can have a great love, perpetuate our own seed, and contemplate the divine.”

This is Plato describing the human condition. His description turns on “Which would have us believe…” There is nothing new under the sun, and it’s not likely that addicts are specially gifted but just maybe extra sensitive to that inherent madness which is born in us (fired into life) or maybe we hold on longer than the average bear to believing that we deserve and can have all of it: great love and the divine.

I think, though that we can. Not by using our special medicines (alcohol, pills, food, sex, work or loving too much), and not by holding ourselves up as special or different than other humans but by and through surrender.

I’m contemplating this right now as I read the wonderful book, “The Holy Longing” by Ronald Rolheiser: Canadian, theologian, specialist in spirituality and systematic theology. This is one of those books that was recommended to me over and over and now, finally, I am leaning into it.

I’ll share more here as we go along.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shepherd Me Beyond My Fears

By now you know how much of addiction is about fear, and how much of recovery is also about fear.

In early recovery I--and maybe you--wanted fear to just go away. Then we began to tolerate just enough to try to examine it, ("What is this shit?"). Then we tried to befriend our fear, then maybe, like me, you began to try all kinds of things: therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, prayer--lots and lots of prayer. But still, under all that faux befriending, was the secret hope that fear would Go Away!

Now sometimes, when I can, I try to let the fear be there. I know it won't last forever. A gift of a long recovery is knowing that it will shift. Uh huh, it might get worse, but shift it will.

And still I pray.

Now too I chant and even sing. There is a refrain I hear at church sometimes that always seems written for recovery. It is this song written by Marty Haugen called "Shepherd Me, O God." It is from Psalm 23. When I hear it at church I always get teary because God and recovery and faith converge in these words:

"Shepherd me O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life."

If you'd like to hear it, hear the melody, and maybe include this in your meditation time I am putting the link to Youtube here. It's brief and peaceful. Take a listen:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Coffee, Cocaine and Cupcakes?

In the earliest years of AA sugar was "prescribed" as part of the recovery plan. The Big Book suggests keeping hard candy on hand as a quick remedy when craving a drink.  It probably worked because there is a high sugar content in alcohol. Ditto for smokers since a lot of tobacco was cured with sugar. The thought was always to address the most dangerous addiction first and alcohol has always seemed more threatening than candy.

For years we've heard jokes in 12-step meetings, "I never got arrested for driving while eating" and we also still hear the sometimes joke and sometimes lament that, "I don't have a six pack at night anymore, now I just have a bag of cookies or a half-gallon of ice cream." But slowly, ever so slowly the laughter is subsiding.

More and more we know that the addiction to food --and particularly sugar --is just as dangerous and disabling as the addiction to alcohol or drugs. Still deadly--just slower and maybe with even more shame. Culturally we have come to see alcoholism as a disease but overweight and obesity are still judged as signs of sloth.

And it's painful.

My first addiction was sugar and my first recovery was with food. My alcoholism was hiding in ice cream and cake and sugary pink and pale green drinks. Whipped cream was always an accomplice. So it took years to unpack the layers of addiction, habit and shame.

In today's New York Times Abby Ellin reports on changes in some treatment programs which are addressing food and sugar addictions alongside chemical dependency. Take a look at  her short article in the link below and especially the last couple of paragraphs which quote Christopher Kennedy Lawford.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Keeping Secrets from Your Partner

Does this topic make you nervous? It makes me nervous.

It might be who you spend time with, or what you spend money on, or how you really feel about your ex or your partner's mother. You might have a big secret like never having an orgasm with your partner, (no cheating just vibrators), or you have a seemingly less harmful secret like you say you are vegetarians together  but you eat burgers and fries when you are alone.

Are they secrets or just nobody's business? It's about the relationship--you know that. I have lied about clothes I bought, when I shopped, and yes, sometimes who I saw that day. What he doesn't know can't hurt him--I actually believe that's true. But what I know for sure (me and Oprah) is that what he doesn't know will usually hurt me.

I have had to learn that over and over. My secrets become my paranoia:  I decide not to mention the card from my ex and a week later I find myself wondering what he's reading on his phone. If  fake an "O" I'll  later wonder if he's having as a great a time in bed as he says. It always comes back to burn me and that, inevitably hurts us.

Now here are the facts so we don't feel shamed and alone in this: The Normal Bar--a statistical study of American relationships --reports that 43% of men and 33% of women have kept major secrets from their partners. And even 27% of the happiest couples (studied and confirmed happy) keep secrets from each other. The most common secrets include emotional and physical infidelity, masturbation, shopping and spending, and secret eating, smoking and drinking.

Maybe the criteria for your secret needs to be: Why am I keeping THIS secret, what do I fear would happen if I kept this behavior but not as a secure  And what am I risking if and when this is revealed?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Alcoholics Anonymous International Convention 2015 Atlanta

Have you ever attended an AA International convention? They take place every five years and alternate    between the East and West coasts, and between the United States and Canada. The dates are always the same July 2 to 5. Next summer it will take place in Atlanta, Georgia July 2 to 5 2015.

I attended my first International ten years ago in Toronto and was blown away. You will hear this from everyone who has been to one but it's true: it's an extraordinary experience to see an entire city taken over by recovering people. And we do take over the entire city:  the streets, stores, restaurants, public transportation, museums and parks. And the bars. Yes, the conference cities even prepare their pubs and bars to be welcoming and accommodating. There are signs of welcome and many jokes and always special non-alcoholic drinks.

Five years ago we went to San Antonio and again, an extraordinary experience of meetings, talks, showcases, special topic forums and shopping. Yes, even recovery shopping extravaganza's. Twelve-step brings out the top speakers and podium super-stars (tho we never admit to super-star status --we must maintain at least a semblance of humility.) But it's true. You will hear amazing presenters and super stories of recovery.

And there is something for everyone. While the International producer is AA there is also plenty of support and programming from Alanon and NA, OA, DA etc. So friends and family are very welcome.

A tip I learned ten years ago: register early. Registration will stay open thru the conference but hotel rooms go fast. If you want a room near the convention center and big event sites you must book your room now. Right now.

Here is the link to the AA International main site. Go here to register and after you have registered you'll have a number to begin your hotel search.

This is kind of a Mecca situation. If you are in recovery you should experience an International conference at least once. But once you go you will always want to go again. Alas--what a luxury problem.

Friday, September 05, 2014

How to Live Without Fear?

If you ask someone in early recovery how to handle your fear they are likely to tell you that  "Faith and Fear cannot coexist." or they will say, "If you feel fear then you need to do more service." But if you tell someone with long recovery that you are feeling fear they are much more likely to say,

"Oh, I hate that feeling!"

In later recovery we do know that faith and fear frequently coexist, and that while we should pray and help  newcomers, and be of service those are distractions from--not remedies for--fear.

But a long-timer will get you laughing and that is the best medicine after all.

It turns out that the best advice is that simplistic bumper-sticker slogan, which was also the title of a simple and simply fabulous book, "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway." Some of us, whether because of our thinking or our biochemistry, will feel more fear than the average bear. And no matter how much therapy, meds or esoteric practices we throw at it--we'll still feel more fear than the average bear.

And speaking of bears, this week I bought a print by artist Jessica C. White, and the title is "Information Desk." I knew I had to own this and keep it near my desk. Here it is. Take a look:

Isn't that swell? It makes me smile--at all of my fears.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Not So Fast: An Insight I Didn't Want to Have

This is the  P.S. to my last post about feeling crazy. This weekend I was telling my sponsor about how stressed I feel and how much of my  stress is coming from the gifts of recovery: great job, happy marriage, many friends, community activities, lots of writing and public speaking and teaching--everything in the "Beyond My Wildest Dreams" basket.

But still--stress. So much to do. Only 24 hours, etc.

But I promised myself --and my husband--that we'd have fun during this long weekend. So we went to the movies, and out to dinner, and today we did a  beautiful hike along a fast moving creek. Just heaven.

And driving home it hit me: my thinking is all off. Most of the time when I feel stressed I try to speed up. I try to hurry up. I try to do more. I have this belief that if I can get a little bit more done then the stress will go away.

But (and you probably already see the craziness here) I realized (and really fought this like crazy):

When I am stressed I need to do LESS not more.

(Please write back quickly and tell me that this is not true).

But I think it is true: When I am stressed I need to do LESS not more.

Today's little break--a hike, new sights, moving water (and new office supplies!!!) made me so happy and relaxed.

Live and learn. (However reluctantly)  :)