Monday, January 31, 2011

Cut the Resentment

I wrote about this a year ago and I still love—and use—this idea:

Control is connected to resentment and to difficult people in our lives. A friend gave me this practice to try with anyone who challenges us. Here is what she suggested:

Early in the morning or late at night—when you can imagine that the other person is sleeping—visualize your higher or best self who is wise and compassionate, and in your imagination allow your higher self to visit that person. See your higher self using a pair of beautiful golden or jeweled scissors and cutting the cord that attaches you to that person. See the cord connecting you fall away and then bless that person and see your higher self return home to you. Allow the blessing to fall on your self too and thank your higher self and your higher power.

Do this visualization as many times as you can over two to three weeks and you will find that your resentment, obsession and struggle with that person will lessen or disappear.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Self Will Run Riot

We talk a lot about God’s will, our will and self-will. We talk about ourselves and others and shake our heads at “self-will run riot.”

But we forget that our fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous exists today because of self will run riot in our dear founder, Bill Wilson.

We recall the history of AA. Our beginning was in The Oxford Group. Rowland Hazzard who was treated by Carl Jung brought the practices of the Oxford Group to Ebby Thacher who—as described in the Big Book—brought the Oxford Group message to Bill Wilson at his kitchen table in Brooklyn. With Ebby’s help Bill stopped drinking and later—as we know—Bill—an Oxford Group member went to Akron where he met and helped Dr. Bob Smith. It was all Oxford Group theory, belief, practice and fellowship.

But Bill is a sales guy and a dreamer. He is offered a job helping alcoholics at Towns Hospital. Bill says yes. But the Oxford Group says no. The Oxford Group believed there should be no fees and no professional positions regarding providing help to alcoholics. The Oxford Group believed in making decisions by group conscience, and that members must “give it away”. (Sound familiar?) Bill’s Oxford Group in New York told Bill he could not take the job at Towns Hospital. So Bill quits the Oxford Group and starts his own meetings. Alcoholics Anonymous comes into existence because of self- will run riot.

You just have to laugh at this paradox and maybe you also have to be around a while to not let Bill Wilson shake your belief in AA.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I found an old notebook this week in which I had been taking notes when reading Ken Wilbur who wrote a lot about Jung and the concept of our shadow side. What Wilbur said about projection is this:

If another person’s behavior informs us it is information.
But if another person’s behavior affects us it is a projection.

Not always easy to sort the two—but then again-- if we are honest with ourselves we do kinda know whether we are being informed or affected. I mean, if I’m mad, sad, jealous, gloating, there’s a good chance I’m being affected.

It makes me think that this is another way to keep an eye on my side of the street—my reactions, my feelings and yes, ugh—my projections.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I have much to thank Oprah for. She’s covered many difficult topics and introduced language so that more folks can talk about addictions, abuse, sex, family issues etc. But here’s a recent piece of my Oprah Gratitude List.

Last week I saw news anchor Diane Sawyer interviewed on Oprah and she talked about her marriage to Mike Nichols. She said the best piece of advice she was given for marriage was: “Criticism is just a very poor way of making a request—so maybe you can just make the request.”

I love that. I get it. “You are selfish and lazy” is just a really poor way to ask: “Can you help me?”And “You never listen” is a poor way to say, “Could you sit and listen to me for five minutes?”

Thank you Diane. Thank you Oprah.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Feel Your Feelings?

A friend sent me this poem by Rumi. To live in this way that welcomes all feelings seems ridiculously courageous—but I aspire to the ridiculous. Enjoy!

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Monday, January 17, 2011

Brene Brown TED Talk on Vulnerability and Connection

Thank you to  Kathy for introducing me to Brene Brown at TED Talks. This is an awesome 20 minute video for Out of the Woods Women. I gotta believe that what she is talking about is what we are recovering about--Enjoy this!

Step Four: The Big Book Way

A month ago I committed to a new Fourth Step. Over the years I’ve done several but it was time again. My sponsor was doing one too so it was perfect timing. I considered formats and thought about a couple of ways to write a fourth step and I made a few notes—actually quite random notes.

Then on Saturday morning at my home group the scheduled speaker didn’t show and a woman stepped in whose recovery I admire. She spoke about how she had worked the steps several times and that after a number of years in the program she did it the way it is outlined in the Big Book—“And”, she said, “I added the fourth column—the one that is not shown but that is described.”

I did not know what she was talking about. I’ve read the Big Book many times and I could picture the example--now on page 65—the one that shows the three column format: 1. “I’m resentful at:” 2. “The Cause” and then, 3. “Affects my:” But what was this fourth required column she was talking about?

So I read the chapter. And there it is described on pages 66 and 67: “We turned back to the list, for it held the key…” And “Referring to our list again…we resolutely looked for our own mistakes….Where were we to blame?”

This is the fourth column of the Big Book format for a Fourth Step: My part. My mistakes. My wrongs. My faults. Oh dam.

So now I have begun my new chart: not as hard as I imagined. I have plenty to fill in. And yes I can see and name my part and my faults but I’m looking forward to reviewing this with my sponsor. I know that doing this with her will help me give words to more parts that are mine and that sharing the less than nice, less than pretty, less than honorable parts of me with another person will invite a deeper process of healing to begin.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Face

Another gift from my week in Florida when I had no cosmetics. I felt so strange at first then I realized that my husband kept looking just like himself but when I looked in the mirror I looked so different.

So I decided to go without makeup for a week after I came home. I became my own experiment and my own work of art. I also decided to not talk about what I was doing. No explanations. I saw people looking at me; some asked if I was tired. I said “No”, but decided to not talk away the experience. My husband—smart man—did not ask. And I didn’t tell.

It is freeing. I love makeup and being a girly girl but I realized in my cosmetic-free week that I want make-up to be a choice. I don’t want to be afraid of my face or ashamed of my face. I want make-up to be decoration and not a mandate or a mask.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Faith Flies

Anyone who gets on an airplane has faith. They may claim to not be a believer but they believe in something big-- much bigger than themselves. They believe in physics like I believe in God.

Last week I flew home from Cleveland late at night. Sitting by the window in a small plane I could feel how fast the plane was moving. We were hurtling through darkness. I knew that the pilot couldn’t see anything. Only the little switches on the control panel might have any meaning. Yet when I looked around inside the cabin the other passengers were sleeping, reading, playing on IPods and Kindles and calmly entertaining their babies.

There in the dark, where no one could see anything, we were moving into blank space hundreds of miles an hour and simply thinking, “Oh we’re on the plane.”

That is faith.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


I liked this so much I copied it into my daily notebook:

“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men and women dependent on those who have hurt them. You chain yourself to the person who harmed you and you are trapped.”

-----Laura Hillenbrand, “Unbroken”

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Holiday Airports or How to Test Your Recovery

We are home. A three day holiday trip to the Mom-in-Law became 8 days. Delay, cancellation, stand by. By now you know what happened in the Northeast and consequently what happened to airplanes and airports everywhere.

In addition to no clothes, no phones, no makeup, no internet and no fruit –in Florida! I did get a great experience and test of my recovery.

Here is the bad news and the good news:

In the first day –or two—I saw my almost physical resistance to acceptance. “They do not mean our plane? Not our plane; not my plane?” (You would have thought I owned the plane). Even when the very patient airline staff member explained that Yes it was Florida and no there was no snow here but there were also no airplanes here either—I had this visceral insistence that it could not be. Then as I accepted that we’d spend the extra night, God laughed. It was explained that we’d spend at least four more nights. (It turned out to be five).

That first day I felt very unrecovered. Then I also watched myself be very nice to complete strangers but a cranky, unsettled wife to my husband. What does it say in the Big Book about how the people we love get hit the hardest?

The other not-so-recovered part of me that I got to witness for days was the shopping addiction. This was totally weird. I did not drink, smoke or take any drugs. I also did not binge on sugar or pizza or holiday goodies but I shopped at airport newsstands and at CVS like it was Saks: “Oh, look pink nail polish, I must have some; and those plastic barrettes adorable! and nude colored peds—amazing! This went on for days.

The other less than recovered part of me was my thinking—mostly about work. I called my boss who was very gracious but I could not shake the worry—“what will people think?” “I’m going to be in trouble.” “I’m such a bad employee”, etcetera etcetera etcetera. All those paperback self-help books in the airport newsstand did come in handy. New word: rumination. New list for my therapist: What the…?

But there is also good in this unexpected holiday inventory:

My first instinct was to pray. And to pray for acceptance. Even though the results were not great I did keep praying. And I kept saying, “This is what it is and this is what is happening”.

I also started a gratitude list. I was sober and stayed sober, I just bought 18-hour mascara, my manicure was the new varnish kind that lasts two weeks; I had eight days with my husband in small spaces and some of those days with his mother who sometimes called my by his ex-wife’s name—and I laughed! And I and we kept laughing.

Also on my list: not traveling with an infant—several families were; Not blind—a couple near us were BOTH blind; no one screaming at me—a husband behind us in the long wait lines kept screaming at his wife. And no drinking—we saw lots and lots of drunken people in airport bars.

But here’s the best and what I want to hold on to: In all these days all my comforts and defenses were removed from me: privacy, control, looking good, attractiveness, work—I could not please or impress or even create and I found out that even with all of that removed—I still exist.