Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Comfort Food Diaries

I get caught on this hook over and over. Maybe you do too…or maybe you are a faster learner. But when I see women who are beautiful or smart or super successful, or who have a certain upper-middle class polished look and a lot of poise, I start to think...Well, …it’s actually what I don’t think:

I don’t think: “I wonder if she has ever been arrested?” or “I wonder if she drinks herself into oblivion every night?” Or “I wonder if her biggest secret is an alcohol-infused eating disorder punctuated by depression, anxiety or sex addiction?”

No, rather, I am more likely to think (yes even after 33 years of recovery) “Oh, look at her nice (hair, job, house, resume, poise) I’ll never be like that.” Yep—I am still judging the
books by the covers and comparing my insides to your outsides. Still. (Diane, stop already.)

But then I do stop cold when I pick up this new book, “The Comfort Food Diaries” by Emily Nunn. I look at the back flap first: Lots of good looks and poise and polish, and a writer-envy resume: A decade at The New Yorker, her own column, features reporter for the Chicago Tribune. And she’s writing about grief—the subtitle is “My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart.”

And then I start to read, and my book-cover judgment falls away. Emily Nunn has been everywhere you’d expect from a successful well-educated journalist, and then some. Turns out that she’s been to hell and back, and to Betty Ford in-between. She’s been an alcoholic, relationship crazy, clinically depressed, heartbreakingly devastated by her brother’s death and then loss of her fiancĂ© and that meant that he also took his young daughter who was so important to Emily. 

Envy gone, jealousy vanished. Sisterhood in full force.

It’s a great book and a surprising story. And one of the cool things is that she includes recipes. Emily can cook and she cooked her way thru addiction and cooked her way out—and she cooked her way around the country—depending on the kindness of loved ones and friends who cared for her while she cried and cooked and healed. 

This is a travel book and a food history and a story of one woman’s heartbreaking breakdown and her (literally) recipe for putting a life back together. And yes, the writing is kick-ass good because, she was, after all, a writer for the New Yorker, and that’s not nothing.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Be Kind

"Ultimately, we are all just walking each other home."

                                                                             --Ram Das

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Taking Recovery to Work: What Does That Mean?

This year I have been thinking and writing about this idea of consciously taking principles of recovery to the work place. We do, “practice these principles in all our affairs” but sometimes when I listen to others in meetings—or listen to myself driving home from work—I really wonder about that “All of our affairs” part.

I know that we strive for “progress not perfection,” but still.  I think this is a good topic for women and men in long-term recovery: How are we, as recovering people, doing in our work/career/retirement lives? 
Here’s what I jotted down last night. See if any of this resonates with you:

My recovery tells me not to use drugs, alcohol, food, sex or other behaviors as a way to squash feelings or things I don’t want to look at. So in my work life how am I doing with control, perfectionism, workaholism, or sloth?

My recovery tells me to trust my Higher Power and that there is a plan for my life. Do I pray about my work? Do I trust the processes there?

My recovery tells me to be honest: both the  “cash register honesty” and people honesty. And to be honest with myself. Am I honest at work? With time, with responsibility? 

My recovery tells me to look at myself first and to “pull my projections” as Carl Jung taught Bill Wilson. We have the Tenth Step Axiom: When I am upset, the upset is something inside of me. That’s a hard one to practice at work. Ouchy!

My recovery tells me to “Think, Think, Think” and to “Let Go and Let God”. Can I apply that at work?

My recovery tells me that when I feel down or I’m struggling that I should work with a newcomer or another alcoholic. So, is the workplace equivalent mean that when I feel unhappy at work I should go help a coworker? Or do a helpful task that I don’t get credit for? Maybe just pitch in and be of service and not look for credit or praise? Maybe it means I should mentor someone or offer encouragement to someone at my workplace.

My recovery tells me, “Don’t use no matter what.” So, at work maybe that means that I should not use fear, dishonesty, unkindness, or ego.

My recovery tells me to take an inventory once a year—or as needed. So maybe for my job or career I could also look at my “saleable goods” (skills, talents, abilities) and decide what I can let go of: old pride, past accomplishments and the grudges that I am holding on to. 

Recovery tells me to make amends quickly and only point out my side of the street. So, am I able to say, “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong” and “I made a mistake” at work?

My recovery tells me that I am a work in progress, and that I always have more to learn. So, can I remember Dr. Bob’s great words when I am at work, and post this quote on my laptop:

“Humility is perpetual quietness of the heart.”?

To read more about long-term recovery check out the book: Out of the Woods published by Central Recovery Press.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"I'm the One Who Got Away

Andrea Jarrell’s new book, “I’m the One Who Got Away” is both a cautionary and
celebratory tale of one woman—and ultimately many women.

You will find yourself in this story, and you’ll understand yourself just a little bit better as you watch Jarrell navigate from childhood to adulthood, from her mother’s life through becoming a mother herself.

“I’m the One Who Got Away” is a wonderful read for all women in recovery. All of the things you have faced are right here—and just as when, in a meeting, you find yourself saying, “I never expected to identify with that person” and then you do,  you’ll feel that here as you receive Jarrell's gift.

Jarrell is a child when her mother takes her and they flee from an abusive husband. Their relationship and journey lead to unspoken promises and misunderstandings that take years to unravel. You know those moments when it clicks:  “So, that’s why I do that!”

 Her story reads like one of the best recovery speakers—the one’s we wish for at the podium. You’ll see all the stages of trying, testing and healing that you have gone through in Jarrell’s story—and you’ll laugh, sigh, and maybe like me you will be saying, “Oh, no” and then “Oh, good!” out loud as you read this memoir.

Jarrell’s honesty about her attractions, mistakes, desires, and ultimately her recovery will draw you deeply into I’m the One Who Got Away, and you’ll turn the last page saying, “Me too, sister. Me too.”

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Codependence--You Just Gotta Laugh

Sometimes the best way to move through a stuck place is to laugh. And for woman in recovery, codependence can be a very sticky place.

How do we parse caring and codependence? When should we persevere, and when should we let go? Whether as a mother, lover or friend—even as a sponsor—is it admirable to “go to any lengths”? Or is that pure self-destruction and denial?

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior

So, clearly there's no do-it-yourself discernment.

In the waters of codependence, you need a good therapist, sponsor and a couple of smart recovering friends. You want friends who will tell you the truth. Yes, you hope they’ll tell you gently, but more important you hope they will just tell it even if they have to say, “You did what!!!” or “That is not kindness you crazy girl!” or maybe they will grin and say, “Sounds like you need some Co-Tylenol.”

You do know that Co-Tylenol is what a codependent takes when her partner has a headache?

You just gotta laugh. It’s actually therapeutic --big belly laughs can shake the crazy right out of you.

So, here’s what I heard last week:

In recovery, we are told to learn to stay present, in the here and
now. Our shorthand for that is, “Look down at your shoes, and be where your feet are.” But if you are codependent, you may actually be looking down at someone else’s shoes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Namaste All Day

I’ve done yoga for many years. Then a few years ago I became a certified Kripalu yoga teacher. That training was a highlight of my life and a perfect intersection with my long-term recovery: Body. Mind.  
Spirit. Heart.

As you know, there’s specialized vocabulary in yoga—the postures or “asanas” have Sanskrit names and there is also the language of yogic philosophy: the Yamas, Niyamas, Gunas etc.—these concepts that guide behavior, thinking etc.

The Sanskrit word that many folks know—in yoga or out --is the traditional yoga salutation: Namaste, which translates into “my soul recognizes and bows to the divinity in yours.”
You say Namaste at the start of class, and at the end to thank your teacher, and you say it to your classmates as well. It’s also, you know this, used in a kind of joking way out in the world, to say “let’s pretend to be spiritual”.

But what if we weren’t pretending? What if we brought Namaste into the whole day? I have tried this and though it seems like it should be easy—or the right thing for a yogi—it’s harder than it sounds. But I want to get there. I want to get to:

Namaste All Day.

If you think about it, it is a kind of recovery practice: seeing the other person without judgement; practicing acceptance; and kind of saying to yourself, “that person has a Higher Power too.”

Like me, I’m sure that you have had that experience—when you have silently judged someone in your meeting because of what they said, how they spoke, or what they wore—and then later, when your heard their story, you thought, “Oh, just like me”. 

Saying namaste in the moment allows a faster self-correction, and a reminder that “my soul bows to the divinity of yours.”

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.

NOTE: You can now register online directly at The Wilson House at

Diane C

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.”