Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Calendar

The new year begins with a new calendar in my closet. This is in addition to the fabulous and previously mentioned Letts of London daybook. This smaller, pretty calendar in my closet is where I note my exercise each day--I started this happy ritual a few years ago--not as punishment but as  encouragement, and that has remained. I take a long time to find one that makes me smile each morning. I hung up my calendar an hour ago and I love the blank pages and crisp feel of the paper--all newness, all potential, all blank space ahead of me, a year of blank pages to fill with recovery.

Tonight I'll speak at the local Alkathon meeting. I'm beginning my new year intention to be more active in my AA community. In a meeting this morning I heard a woman say, "I take myself less seriously but I take my recovery very seriously." I'm ready to live that too.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What am I Without That?

Here's something I found in one of my journals. Maybe a good think to prepare to make New Year's goals or  intentions:

If you are afraid of losing a relationship, a job, a house etc. ask yourself:

What am I without that?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thomas Merton after Christmas

The day after Christmas and all through the house—profound gratitude.  Christmas and Hanukah are over. Gifts are opened, exclaimed over, exchanged and worn. Thank you notes to be written. Some I’ll mail but the biggest thank you’s I have this year are for recovery, the 12 steps, all 12-step programs, my dear friends, great therapist, fabulous sponsor, self-help books (always my cognitive life raft) and God. Thank you for recovery, change, self-awareness and the sometimes fast, sometimes slow, willingness to change.
Here is a gift.
 This prayer was written by Thomas Merton as he struggled with many things—including God—in his life
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadows of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Good Holiday Advice

One of my favorite meeting topics is “holiday advice for staying sober”. I have found great gems in the “what-to-do” and “what-not-to-do” at holiday time.
Some favorites:
Keep your keys in your hand: a basic of early recovery. It reminds you that you can leave anytime you get uncomfortable.
Don’t park in the driveway: I learned this one in Alanon and it applies to any recovery.  Have an exit plan. Be sure you can get out if you need to.  Excuse yourself and go take a short drive; volunteer to run to the store for the extra half & half.
Don’t sit your drink down. Know your drink so you don’t accidentally pick up someone else’s. Drink Coke or Cranberry juice or orange pop so you can identify your drink. If you do leave the table and come back and there is a drink there—go get a fresh one.
Ask what’s in it: Especially desserts but other food too. I have seen rum in the mashed yams and cognac on the roast beef. With desserts be very specific, “Is there any alcohol in this?” Lots of cooks think alcohol is cooked off by baking—and especially in early recovery—you don’t even want to have the taste or smell even if it did cook down.
Double-check the box of chocolates. Especially if it’s the higher end gourmet or artisan chocolates. Lots have booze or booze flavor.
And one I just heard last week:
Don’t make amends or try to heal a relationship at holiday time. Yes, we are all feeling sentimental and want that longed for good family. But if your impulse and feeling about mending a relationship is genuine and true you can wait ten days.
What is the best advice you have received for recovery at the holidays?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The fellowship of AA is part of the practice; we join with others to heal and change and practice our new beliefs and behaviors. But the bonus and the real joy in a sober life is friendship. To have sober women friends is the most wonderful thing.

Last night I sat at supper with four other sober women—not talking step work or program literature, but talking recovery in our lives as it applies to husbands, boyfriends, mothers, family, dating, shopping, shoes and work—and yeah, food. We laughed, cried, gave advice, solicited opinions, recommended stores and made connections.

To an onlooker we were a bunch of women out on a school night—but to share all those parts of my life with women with whom I also share affection and recovery—Oh what a lucky woman I am!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


In the Big Book we read that alcoholics are “restless, irritable and discontent”. We use that phrase back at ourselves sometimes in a bashing way—as if it is something we have to get over or fix.

I know that we, as drinkers and recovering drinkers, have done a bit of damage to others and to ourselves thrashing about in our restlessness, fussing in our irritability and with a glass-half-empty discontentedness. But I’m thinking that there is another way to look at this.

What if being restless is part of being human? You know that saying, “We are not human beings living a spiritual life but spiritual beings trying to live a human life.” There is something to that.

Saint Augustine wrote, “You made us for yourself Oh Lord, and we are restless until we rest in you.” The antidote to our restless discontent is not therapy or grim self-discipline it is God. That is what our 12 steps are for—not to cure drinking but to bring us to a spiritual awakening—to help us find a God or Higher Power or an energy bigger than us so that we can, in fact, rest.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Make Your List Twice

I got a great piece of planning advice a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been trying it. When I do I’m much happier. It goes like this:

Make your to-do list (I’ve always made lists and they help to a degree but…)

Then think about the priorities in your life (What is it you really want?)

Then given those goals and desires, re-order your list with your priorities at the top.

I always end up moving my prayer and meditation to the top of my list, and things related to recovery, and then writing goals, things that make my marriage better and then, the laundry, groceries, and when I can catch myself, the “people-pleasing” chores later. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is for me and what is for others—I love sending clippings for example—but if I keep asking, “Does this move my goals forward?” I can keep items on the list but not at the top.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Today is Emily Dickinson's birthday. How will you celebrate: Wear white? Stay home? Write a poem? Good idea. Pine for unrequited love? No. Here is Emily's more eloquent version of, "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair"

Heart, we will forget him!
You and I, to-night!
You may forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done, pray tell me,
That I my thoughts may dim;
Haste! lest while you're lagging,
I may remember him!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Ah Ha! Humility

I have been having the most ego-ish couple of days. Fear and ego and “Do they like me?” “Am I good?” and “Do they think this of me or that of me?” Exhausting. The dog of my mind is yap yap yap. I know better, but when have we ever been saved by intellect?

The bad news: this feels like my newcomer brain. The good news: I have tools. The better news: I finally remembered to use them :)

I prayed, wrote in my journal, wrote to my sponsor, read some literature and walked really fast for 30 minutes. (Move a muscle--change a thought.)

It didn’t change right away—in fact it’s still nudging at me this minute. But when I sat to meditate I started to pray that my insecurity be replaced by confidence but then a wonderful thought came, “No what you need to pray for is humility, “Please replace my insecurity with humility.” Ahhhh, that’s it.

“Humility is perpetual quietness of the heart”. Dr. Bob said that. Humility is being right-sized—not good or bad, but one among many. ahhhhhhh…….

Friday, December 02, 2011

I Think I Can

I’m getting ready to present a workshop for family caregivers on “Finding a Spiritual Center” and so I am going thru many files and all my library of spiritual books for ideas and exercises. I came across a very old book that, on reflection, must have been my first self-help and spiritual book "The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper.

I had that book as a very little girl, and the version that I had first came with a 45rpm (remember those?) record that played the story as you read the book). I was five years old when I first became attracted to the little engine that didn’t have enough power—or belief—on its own but then learned the mantra—and cognitive practice—of saying “I think I can; I think I can.”

It was all there then.