Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Humility Rocks

Humility is an attitude but it’s also an action. Surprised? I was too. That’s what I love about recovery---things that I’ve read and thought about and even talked about have these layers and the layers of insight are revealed over time. In addition to never wanting to drink again, I keep coming back because I want more and more of these layers and new ideas and ultimately new behaviors.

I’m reading—and rereading—“Drop the Rock” by Bill P. and Todd W. and Sarah S. It’s primarily about Steps six and seven, but because the authors have long sobriety their ideas touch on so much more.

Here’s the gem I’m chewing on now:

“Humility is an attitude and a discipline; we ask God to remove our shortcomings AND we must move and act in a manner that reflects our willingness and surrender.”

Humility is more than lowering our eyes and saying, “Ah shucks, not me.” And we know that it’s also not saying, “I’m no good, everyone is better than me.” And then we “act in a manner that reflects our willingness and surrender.” For me, that means finding the middle ground between having the right opinion on everything and having no opinion on anything. It means speaking up to say “Well, I think…” but with a physical posture and tone of voice that says, “But you may have another idea…”

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Controlling Other People

It’s not even about controlling other people. We can’t actually. But the trying and trying.

I found this in my journal: “Abandoning our attempts to control other people is a profound form of personal liberation.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Time

One of the central attractions in the city of Prague is the clock tower in the main square. There is a certain irony that vacationers, supposedly freed from clock watching, are drawn to this tower clock. They arrive five minutes before each hour to stare upward at the moving hands and the parade of carved wooden puppets that mark each changing hour. Tours guides offer stern warnings that the area near the tower is notorious for petty crime. While tourists are transfixed by the clock and its puppets, pickpockets help themselves to money, passports and yes, watches.

The tradition of village clock towers evolved from the practice of having a man stand guard to keep watch and periodically ring a bell to mark the hour. The name of that profession is the origin of the watch we now wear on our wrist. Timepieces gradually moved from the public clocks of the middle ages, to clocks inside the home, to pocket watches, to ones now strapped on our arm, getting closer to us all the time. While convenience has advantages, we no longer enjoy the communal reminder of passing time.

Time is an important topic for Father’s Day. This week’s newspaper ads show this deep connection. From Timex to Rolex, wristwatches are the number one gift for Dad. It may be the perfect gift too. Fatherhood is a short season and it flies by.

My father died when he was 56 and I was 18. His death was sudden and unexpected. It wasn’t until I crossed the 50 threshold that I understood that my father had died young. I knew, of course, that I was young when he died, but now I know that he was young too. Age, like time, is relative.

Time was an important part of my father’s life. He was an industrial engineer, a “time and motion study man”. His work was about efficiency and calculation. He carried a clipboard and wore an elegant gold Hamilton watch.

Whether due to nature or nurture, I too have an overly developed sense of time. I multi-task, write daily to-do lists, and I lust after organizing systems. But I also resist being tethered to time. Maybe it’s because I watched my father save so much time, which he never got a chance to use, that I have a love/hate relationship with “time management”.

My own calendar shocks people. It’s an oversized month-at-a-glance book in which I track tasks by scribbling through the borders and across the lines intended to demarcate the days. Each month’s page becomes an abstract work of scribbles and swirls and then it’s torn away. I don’t look back.

Death isn’t the only way that dads go missing from their kid’s lives. Divorce or drinking can do it too, but most often it’s work. That’s not new. Fathers of the 1950’s didn’t come to school plays or Girl Scout ceremonies; Mom came and told Dad about it at dinner.

Are today’s Dads wiser? It seems so. Last year fathers reported spending four hours a day with their kids, compared with just 2.7 hours in 1965. But I wonder, are those hours together real leisure and pleasure or are we multi-tasking the homework and the errands with the quality time? It’s a cliché to say how fast childhood goes and how fast fatherhood disappears too, but it’s true.

With our lists and calendars-- and even our watches—we can pick our own pockets. In trying to better organize them our lives can be stolen away.

Next week summer begins. Will the livin’ be easy? Or will we tick it off and time it out?  Keep watch. Just look at the time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's All about Dopamine

In this week’s Science Section of the New York Times there’s a great interview with Dr. Nora Volkow—Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (See the link below). She talks about the neurobiology of addiction—the biochemistry of the brain for alcoholics and addicts and she describes how any favorite substance plays with Dopamine receptors: release more, block uptake, suppress nerve cells that inhibit release.

Here is the case for brain change in addiction and why it may really be a disease—not just a metaphoric disease—after all.

So maybe the term “dope fiend” turns out to be correct for all of us. It’s all about dopamine.

Read more here:

Monday, June 06, 2011

Kindle Your Recovery

I’m just back from a wonderful trip to Bermuda. Sunshine, a perfect and permanent 78 degrees each day. Beautiful hotel and seafood after seafood after toffee pie dinners.

But no AA meetings. Oh, they were there but never in the town we were in. So what to do? Kindle!

I keep the Big Book and The Language of Letting Go, daily meditations by Melody Beatty on my Kindle reader. I also added “The Spirituality of Recovery” and Geneen Roth’s books about women food and money recovery on there too.

So each day away I had both conference-approved and non-approved (but saved my life) literature with me, so I gave myself prayer, meditation and reading time every day. It works.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Your Heart's Desire

The book I mentioned earlier this week, “Sleeping with Bread” introduces a spiritual practice called The Examen. This practice comes from The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. Ignatius taught that God speaks to us through our deepest feelings and yearnings.

Ignatius believed that we should pay attention to our “consolations” and our “desolations”. Consolations are whatever helps us to connect with ourselves, others, God and the universe. Desolation is whatever disconnects us.

The Examen is simple—and we love simple.

Each evening you take a few minutes to sit in quiet and then ask these two questions:

For what moment today am I most grateful?
For what moment today am I least grateful?

You can also ask it like this:

What gave me energy today?
What drained my energy today?

The idea of the Examen is that, over time, a pattern will emerge to show us our true heart’s desire, the purpose of our life, or God’s will, if you use that language. This can be a very simple way to incorporate ongoing inventory and listening to God or one’s own inner voice.