Thursday, September 29, 2011


"Shyness is not so much a wish not to be seen as a wish to be appluaded on sight."

                                                                         --Stephen Tennant

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Go to Target

I was reading the novel, “Love in Midair” by Kim Wright and came across this passage that made me laugh out loud. Maybe you too?

“I go to Target. I get a toaster, can opener, muffin tin, three towels, three wash cloths, a bath mat, that cheap knockoff Tupperware stuff, two wine glasses and sox. You can love one man and leave another and love a man and still leave him and leave a man without ever loving him, you can fuck everybody you meet or live like a nun and in the end you still wind up at Target.”

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Make the Language Work for You

Every day I say--actually read-- the Third Step Prayer and the Seventh Step Prayer. As often as I can remember, I try to really hear the words I'm saying and not allow the rote familiarity to let me skim over the meaning. When I slow myself down and think about the words I can ask myself, "Do you mean this today?" And mostly I do or I  can pray about that too.

Years ago a sponsor showed me a word change she made that worked for her, and I have incorporated that. In the Third Step Prayer wherever it says "Thee" or "Thou" I say "you"and "Thy" becomes "your" my version of the prayer reads like this:

"God, I offer myself to you--to build with me and do with me as you will...Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do your will....Your power, Your love and Your way of life." That subtle shift makes the prayer true to me and helps me to better hear what I am saying.

Yesterday another friend gave me another shift to use in the Seventh Step Prayer that makes it more personal and more real in each day. Her suggestion is to make this addition/substitution:

Where it says, "I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character..." she suggested saying or thinking --kind of in parentheses--the actual defect that's on top of your list.

It makes the prayer go like this:

"My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character--(like my gossiping and my need to be in control) which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and to my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do your bidding. Amen"

In these ways I make these prayers very personal and relevant.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Women Writing

“If a woman writes about herself, she’s a narcissist.
If a man does the same, he’s describing the human condition.”

                                                                    --Curtis Sittenfeld

Friday, September 23, 2011

Live in the Present

How many different ways can it be said? Here is a beautiful version by Blaise Pascal:

“We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the present usually hurts.”

--Blaise Pascal, Pensees (#47)

Monday, September 19, 2011

To Buy or Not to Buy...that IS the question

When we are traversing these woods of recovery we often circle around to earlier issues or slowly sift thru other behaviors and find more subtle addictive behaviors underneath. For many “Out of the Woods” travelers we come again to look at our relationship behaviors—that is at the heart isn’t it? And we also begin to look at the addictions of daily life: food, work and money.

I’m reading the book, “To Buy or Not to Buy” written by April Lane Benson, a psychologist specializing in the treatment of compulsive shopping. Yeah, I want to stop right there. “Who me?” but Yes.

For some people compulsive shopping is a primary addiction and for others it’s secondary—our drug or alcohol problem was first or more blatant and shopping too much or “retail therapy” gets a wink and a laugh. Until it doesn’t.

Here is one of the eye openers for me from Benson’s book: The shades and variations of compulsive shopping support its denial much the same way that variations may have kept us in denial about our drinking.

Compulsive shopping can look like any of these:

Daily over shopper; occasional shopper but binge when you do; a collector (often a male form of over shopping); shopping excessively for others; compulsive gift giver; buying multiple versions of the same thing; relentlessly hunting for bargains; constantly buy and return (like binge and purge); constant searching at flea market, garage sale or thrift shop.

You might think, “Well, that kind of covers everybody.” But remember back to when you assumed that everybody drank and then in early recovery you realized that a lot of people didn't? Similar deal. Dam.

Check out Benson’s website where you can read more about this and even take a little quiz. Yeah, fun, right?

Saturday, September 17, 2011


One of my favorite recovery speakers is Bob Earle from New Mexico and one of my favorite Bob Earle stories is the Eskimo story. Earle tells this story when he talks about how he came to find AA and how we might come to find God.

 It goes like this:

There are two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the men is very religious and the other man is an atheist.
Eventually the conversation turns to God and the atheist says to the devout man, “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God—I even experimented with the whole God-prayer thing. Just last month, I was far out on the tundra and I got trapped in a big blizzard. I could not see a thing and I was so lost. And so I tried God. I got on my knees and I prayed, “God, if there is a God, I’m going to die out here, please help me get back to camp.”
So in the bar, the religious man looks at the atheist and says, “Well for heaven’s sake, you must believe; here you are! You’re alive!”
But the atheist rolls his eyes at the religious man and sighs and says, “No man, all that happened was that some Eskimos came along and showed me the way back to camp.”

If we are in recovery we have certainly met some Eskimos. The tricky part is after we are in recovery for a bit, and we are trying to change our lives, we are not always sure when we are meeting another Eskimo.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Steps 6 & 7

I keep coming back to read “Drop the Rock” again. Steps Six and Seven. Today I read, “God can’t remove our defects of character if we keep practicing them.”

Oh, I hate that. It means I can’t keep saying, “I’ll just finish up this last bag of candy or finish these cookies someone gave me.” I won’t gossip any more—right after I tell this one story.” “I’ll be brave or surrendered very soon, but this thing I’m facing today, that’s scary.”

I have to get it through my head that God is helping me and willing to remove these but the big cartoon hand is not going to come from the sky and snatch the bag of licorice from me or swoosh me out of the store where I'm contemplating just one more pair of shoes. I mean, if I just get this pair then I’ll have all the shoes I need—until I see the newest, latest, most chic….

“Stop practicing them.” It’s that easy and that hard. And why I need to keep talking.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wishing My Life Away

I never thought I was one to wish my life away. I remind myself to “be in this day” and “be present” but lately I see that in bits and bites I do wish my life away. I want this week to be over and I want Friday to come, and I want the big project due Sunday to have happened already. I want the difficult conversation to have happened already and the new person to have learned his job now. I want me to learn my new computer —no process, no timing. I want it to be later today, tonight, Friday, next month. I want the deadline to have come, be met and be gone.

Every time I say “I can’t wait until…” I am wishing my life away.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Even the Dead Weep

Even the dead weep at a time like this.
All those on the other side, making preparations to welcome such a large group.
Death is going door to door in New York City walking past doormen,
going up dark stairways, down halls and taking the train to Long Island and Connecticut
and getting off at little Cheeveresque stations in the suburbs.
Death nears exhaustion, leaning in one more doorway, waiting for the buzzer to be answered,
hesitating, sighing, tired.
She has tears in her eyes as she visits another house, and another and another.
At night death goes down to the site and sits on the rubble wishing it wasn’t true.
Some of the dogs come and sniff at death, then back up and give her a funny look.
Even death is too tired to be moved.

September 12, 2001

Friday, September 09, 2011

Step Over the Drunk

The other day I was telling a friend about my introduction to Alanon. I started attending when I was new to recovery because my relationship issues were so tied to my drinking.

My recovery began in Baltimore, Maryland and for many years Baltimore’s Cathedral Alanon Group was one of the oldest and strongest. Longtime members there were jokingly called Black Belts in Alanon, and in fact, there was a group of women there with very strong recovery. One of their sayings was, “Step over the Drunk”.

What these old-time Alanon-ers meant was that if you were on your way out to your job or your Alanon meeting and the drunk in your life was passed out on the doorstep you were to, “Step over the drunk”, and keeping going. It was literal for some members of the group who were still living with active alcoholics, but it was also a slogan that meant, “You keep living your life no matter what the drinker does.”

On my way home—after telling this story to my friend—I had a realization: Sometimes I am the drunk that I have to step over.

So many times fear is on my doorstop, or lack of confidence or envy or insecurity and I need to see those defects just like they were drunks, and step over them and keep going.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Step Ten Quick and Often

I’m working on Step Ten and, as is my way, I’m reading everything written about it. (Why act when you can prepare?)

But I come back to this simple recommendation from page 84 of the AA Big Book:

One: Watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear.

Two: Ask God at once to remove them.

Three: Discuss them with someone immediately.

Four: Make amends quickly.

Five: Turn our thoughts to someone we can help.

Here’s what strikes me: it’s not a lengthy process and it has a speed to it. Look at these words: “at once”, “immediately”, “quickly”, “turn”. This also suggests it’s not a nighttime activity as I had always assumed and practiced it. This suggests it’s on the spot, now, here, fast and in that immediacy and repetition many times during the day is the building of a habit. It’s kind of “Ooops. Help me. Dam. Sorry. Next.”

I’m also chewing on the idea that inventory includes the good and the bad, the saleable and the spoiled. So what part does looking at the good I did this day come into a 10th step inventory?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Happy New Year

Labor Day is the best holiday, coming, as it does, with a long weekend and no obvious family obligations. There is, however, the strum of anxiety that crosses these few precious days. This is the last call of summer and we want to order one more round of fun before the house lights come up on Tuesday.

There is something important for us at Labor Day though. This is the time when many of us organize our lives—like our school supplies--make our decisions for the coming year.

The New Year begins now, and we know that in our bones. For at least twelve years we started over on the first Tuesday in September. Back to school meant that we could try out a new identity forged over the summer. Maybe your look changed. Had you let your hair grow? Or cut it short? Would everyone sense the sophistication you gained visiting your sister in L.A.? Back in June you were that same old kid, but every September a new you debuted the day after Labor Day.

There were inner changes as well. In September you promised yourself you'd be more popular, more friendly, more outgoing. Or maybe you decided you'd study more and hang out with the good kids. Every single year you could try something new. You could be a scholar this year after a past as the class clown. Or you could be the friendly one after years as the grind and curve setter. The opportunity for a re-do came every year the day after Labor Day. And it still does.

January isn’t the right time for New Year’s resolutions. How could it be? We’re too busy with the holidays and broke from gift giving. Are you really going to create a new body or mind or spirit in the middle of all that? No.

September is the time to not only promise yourself a new exercise program, but to start it. It's light after work and it's not too cold in the morning. September is also much better than January for starting a diet. You are coming off a summer of fresh foods, and you’re not bloated by 30 days of holiday treats. As for a new look; who can afford one in January? You wear your name off all your plastic just trying to get through the holidays, and then tax time is creeping in. But now when sweaters look appealing and the fashion magazines are thick as old fashioned phone books, now is the time to think about new clothes.

No, the new look and image and relationships you have been promising yourself come in September just as they did when you were a kid. Remember how it worked in Junior High? You decided to wear a tweed jacket because that summer you discovered poetry (or girls who liked poets). Or you promised yourself that you’d set your hair in a smooth flip every morning to look like those girls in the magazines.

In September you could try out in public all the looks you had practiced in the mirror behind your bedroom door. So what if the good intentions only last a few weeks. Some part of it always stuck, some part of the “new you” was the real you-- and real change-- and that's how you moved on.

You still can. The new you begins now as it always has. Go get some new sox, a red plaid shirt, a book of poems and a haircut. This is the time to be kinder, nicer, smarter, to listen more, eat less and hang out with the good kids. The trees show us how it's done: try new colors; shed the old layers. It's September. Happy New Year!

Friday, September 02, 2011

What to be...

I saw this on the cover of a notebook:

Be a
or a
or a