Friday, November 30, 2012

Do You Have a Softball Team?

This week I am on Cape Cod finishing the book, "Out of the Woods".  A friend has loaned me her beautiful home so I can write all day long. Today I took a break and went into town for a pedicure. I went to a salon I'd never been in and a young woman with a British accent had time to do my toes. When she asked me why I was on the Cape I took a breath and said, “I’m writing a book.” “What’s it about?” she said, running the water for my feet. “Well”, I said, taking a breath, “It’s about women in 12-step recovery.” And I paused, not sure what would happen next. “Are you in recovery?” she asked. And I nodded. Then she said,  “I am too, ten years.” And we had a great conversation.
When I asked her about sponsorship she told me about her sponsor’s advice. “You need to have your own softball team”, she was told. “You need seven people that you can call in as needed; seven who are your team.” “You need seven people in recovery that you know well enough—and who know you well enough-- that you can call them any time.” I had never heard that advice before and I think it is terrific.
I immediately and discretely started counting on my fingers. Yep, I have seven. So that’s another mini guideline we can use for our ongoing recovery. Do you have seven women that you know well enough to call anytime? That means seven women who are watching you recover just as you are watching them. And of course to get and keep that seven you gotta be in meetings on a regular basis because life happens and that seven won’t be the same seven a few years from now. Life happens, schedules change, we get new jobs, we fall in love and sometimes we move to a new town.
Do you have a softball team? Should we get shirts?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hidden in a Bottle

Yesterday a friend spoke at the Saturday meeting. He’s been sober a long time and in recovery he learned to sail and bought himself a sail boat. His face fills with light when he says the word, “sailing”. He told the group that a couple of years ago, at a craft sale, he found a stained glass sun catcher that is a picture of a sailing boat inside a bottle. He hung this in his kitchen window and each morning, when he has his coffee, he is reminded that his love of sailing was hidden for years inside his bottles of booze.

It got me thinking: What is trapped in my bottle? What is trapped in your addiction? In your box of cookies? In your pill box? In your codependence? Is your artist trapped in your husband’s sock drawer? Is your love of dance trapped in your daughter’s struggle? Is your freedom trapped in your ex-wife’s new life? Is my next book trapped in my obsession with his ex?

Picture that bottle—it could represent any addiction.--and even after years of recovery we all still have something. What’s trapped in there? You may know or you may be in for a wonderful surprise when that bottle, box of candy or too long work schedule breaks open and spills its secret delights like a big piƱata.

Yes, there are painful things inside our addictions—stuff we don’t want to feel or think about or remember --but like the sailboat in a bottle we also have talents and treasures and dreams in there too. There are gifts hidden in our addictions that will light up our faces just like my friend’s face light up when he says the word, “sailing.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reclaiming My Face

I’m alone on Cape Cod this week. I am here to write for a week and I have a house and a beach and some woods to myself. It’s heaven. Every couple of years I get the chance to do this and each time it takes just 36 hours to drop down into a deep place, and everything else falls away. And that includes caring about how I look.

A few years ago I was on a month-long writing retreat. I lived in a barn with a bedroom and an art studio and I didn’t care about clothes or hair or even bathing. I didn’t wear any make up for a month and I liked how I looked. But at the end of 30 days I began to wonder if I could go back into my “normal” world without make up?

I think about that now. What is the difference between this face I like on retreat and my discomfort with this same face in my other life?

In early recovery I used to wonder in any new situation, “Who do I go as?” The question was tribute to my years of people pleasing. A breakthrough moment was the day that it came to me that, “I can go as me.” There was a “me” there!

As I packed to leave the retreat I began to ask, Can I go another week without make up? Can I go 21 days? I wanted make up to be a choice and not something that I have to do. If I can be in the world without make up then make up can be a choice. Can I use makeup but not be defined by it?

When I talked to my sponsor I said, “I think I’m reclaiming my face”.
If this is what I really look like, I don’t want to hide that --especially from myself. I don’t want to be afraid of my own face.

It’s timing of course. Many of us admire the freedom of appearance of someone like Georgia O’Keefe but most of us admire her 90-year-old, desert-artist face. Yes, I may be willing to look like a chic, elegantly wrinkled woman when I’m 90, but what about at 57 and 67 and 77? The face we fret over most is the getting-old face rather than the being-old face.

Maybe this reclaiming of my face is reclaiming of my mortality. If I change the appearance of my face does that change what is inside? Face-lifts might make us look younger but they don’t make us be younger. Botox may make us look less worried but it doesn’t make us less worried, it simply disguises an even greater worry. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

...and the hair grows in

One of my favorite novels--which we now know is kind of a memoir--is the fabulously funny book, "Heartburn" by Nora Ephron. She nails so many things about men and women and marriage and couples and well, human beings. The book also has amazing recipes including the best Key Lime Pie ever. One passage that I copied and keep in my tickle file to keep me on my toes is this:

"One thing I have never understood is how to work it so that when you’re married things keep happening to you. Things happen to you when you are single. You meet new men, you travel alone, you learn new tricks, you read Trollope, you try sushi, you buy nightgowns, you shave your legs. Then you get married and the hair grows in."

---Nora Ephron, “Heartburn”.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Grace for Thanksgiving Dinner

For food in a world where many walk in hunger.

For faith in a world where many walk in fear.

For friends in a world where many walk alone.

We give you thanks, oh God.


---Dinner Grace from the movie: “Seven Days in Utopia

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Advocacy for a Recovery Economy?

In the November issue of Renew Magazine there is a provocative article about advocacy and recovery. Steve Diogo interviews Christopher Kennedy Lawford. He writes: “To the recovery community, Lawford’s message is direct and simple: “Get out of your church basements and go do something.”

Here are a couple of other quotes from the article to think about:

“We need to know the science of addiction…and it doesn’t just apply to alcohol and drug addiction. We all know that addiction is a brain illness, and if someone has an alcohol issue they probably have a sex issue, probably have a gambling issue or an eating or shopping issue as well.”

The American Cancer Society raises over a billion dollars each year to fight cancer. Cancer costs our nation one-third of what addiction costs, but you know how much we raise? Twenty million. That’s all you need to know. We need to get visible. We need to write checks. We need to create a recovery community. We need to create a recovery economy.”

This isn’t a brand new idea. Bill Wilson knew that recovery from alcoholism needed a public side and needed people who could put public words and faces to the issue. That’s why he was instrumental in creating The National Council on Alcoholism. There was AA—personal, anonymous and taking no position on outside issues, and The National Council that could educate, communicate and lobby.

But what do we do now? And how much does new technology and social media push this question? What do you think?