Tuesday, July 10, 2018

When Recovery Takes a Vacation

Well, of course recovery never really takes a vacation but recovering people do.

Going to meetings while traveling is one of the smartest things we can do. It’s not just that we get to stay sober or abstinent longer and better, but vacations get better the longer we are in recovery.

One advantage of vacation recovery is that we learn to stress less about the “stuff” of travel. One of the best pieces of vacation advice I ever received from a sponsor is that “The trip begins when you are packing.” I used to be so miserable all through the process of getting to the place where I was going to be having my vacation that the car ride and the airport and the hotel check-in were miserable--for me and everyone around me. I wanted to get to the vacation place because I thought that that’s when my adventure would begin. But that’s not true. Listen to the stories people tell about their favorite trips…it always includes the taxi and the airport and the jitney and …

So, I began to shift my attitude to say to myself, “This too is part of the vacation adventure”, then it became true and I began to have more fun.  I was then able to look for the good in the delayed flight, and the funny staff, and the weird taxi driver and the odd meal.

But the other reason that vacations get better as your recovery gets longer is that those of us in 12 step programs have an amazing resource that other travelers don’t have: We have helpful contacts in every city and town in the world.

One of the best kept secrets is that people in twelve-step programs have instant travel assistance and access to great tourist advice any where we go.

Over the years I have been to meetings all over the United States and in France, Germany, Poland, Italy, England, The Czech Republic and Bermuda. I've gotten directions, restaurant advice, suggestions on local sites, invites to performances, guidance on public transportation, sometimes rides and always smiles, encouragement and patience with the language barrier.

There is something so fun and smart about asking a new twelve-step group for suggestions about where to eat, what to do, the best way to drive to the next city etc. I’ve been tipped off to bargain shopping, fabulous inexpensive restaurants, and the places to avoid. We don’t need a guidebook to tell us where the locals eat or shop—we have local “family” that we can ask. This is where AA and AAA meet up and it is such a bonus. 

One of the coolest things that happened to me recently was on a trip to Chicago. I love Chicago—art, music, beach, river, architecture, shopping and the food! 

On my recent trip I checked the Chicago AA directory before I left home and, because it’s a big city, I put in the address of my hotel and clicked the button that said “One-mile distance to meetings” hoping to be able to walk to a few.

To my surprise there were several choices less than a mile from my hotel, and crazy surprise—when I looked closer, the address of the meetings was the very same address as my hotel! Was it possible?

Turns out it was true. When I arrived, I asked the concierge about the location of meetings and he directed me to a beautiful conference room on the lower level of the hotel where there was a daily AA meeting. Go figure, and Go Gratitude!

It also gives you just a clue about how big our fellowship is, and just how acceptable and normal it is to ask about AA just as you might ask where the nearest sushi place or nail salon might be.

When you travel with recovery you learn that twelve-step principles prevail regardless of location, politics or language.

Read more about long-term recovery in "Out of the Woods" published by Central Recovery Press:

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Balancing Work and Play in Recovery

I have to give myself this little reminder every day, ”Don’t miss summer.” That’s written on a sticky note in my calendar and in my very own voice on the micro recorder I use in my
car to track my “to-do” list as I drive.

Yes, perhaps you can see that Work is way ahead of Play in my life. I have an abundance of lists, reminders, recorders. It’s all about productivity. 

I’m looking more closely at that drive this year. I’ve finally come to see what others have seen: I work hard, I do a lot, and yes, I get a lot done. I neither defend or apologize for this part of me. I recognize that my super work ethic is a gift of recovery—and a consequence of the time before recovery. I’ve been making up for lost time for a long time.

I don’t regret the past—exactly. But I do wish I’d started writing earlier, and sending work out sooner, and getting published ages ago. Working hard at my career in nonprofits, and at my writing career brings me so much joy. 

There is a little bit of grief in this too. Back in the days before recovery, I was buried in both substances and in fear, and I couldn’t focus or dare, and couldn’t find what I now know to be my dharma.

But even in my hard-working, ultra-productivity, there is this voice in my ear this year that says: “Don’t miss summer.” 
Winters are long in Upstate New York, and my long recovery is stable. I can trust a day off now and then, or a weekend away, and I can trust that stepping away from my desk doesn’t mean that my writing will go down a ten-year rabbit hole as it did once long ago.

So, one gift of recovery is meeting my hard-working self, and the second gift is meeting that parallel part of me that I think can still learn to relax and play. And I want to do both of those this very summer.

Read more on making a life in long-term recovery in "Out of the Woods--A Guide to Long-term Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press.