Tag Archives: kindness

The Next Right Thing.

next right thing

When I was still in active addiction, my choices in life were pretty limited. As a matter of fact, I came to the conclusion at one point that being an addict is like having a real handicap- you just cannot live a normal life at all. Simple things, like going to the grocery store, are a major life event- there’s a fine balance between being way too high and not high enough, and lets face facts, I was terrible at finding that balance. Of course, it’s all just a bunch of lies that your fiendish mind is feeding you, 24/7, but when you are in it, it seems very, very real. So, if going to the store is a big deal, things like going out to dinner with your family or flying somewhere on a trip out of town are just off the table, pretty much. I mean, unless your drug of choice happens to be alcohol, because that shit is EVERYWHERE. I’m sure that comes with its own set of challenges though- I can only imagine the bargaining and idea of moderating that must go on for alcoholics who are still using. I’ve often said I have a deep respect for alcoholics who can stay sober- I don’t know how in the world I’d stay clean if amphetamines were sold at every 7-11 and Safeway I frequented. As usual, though, I digress. My point is, life is very limited for the addict in active addiction. “Well, what about the choice to just not use?” You might ask. And to that I say- “Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! You don’t get it, do you?”

Not using is less of a choice and more of an event in the life of an addict. It is something we dream about, we begin to think about constantly, it’s a promise we make to ourselves, and it usually goes something like this- “Tomorrow, I am going to stop.” “After this last _____ I am definitely done.” Or, “Just one more, just one more, just one more.” It can seem hopeless, and the more hopeless it seems, the more we obsess over it. For me, personally, I knew that I needed help on many occasions, but I was so scared to ask for the help I needed. I was afraid of losing my daughter. I was afraid of what people would think of me. And later on, when I was well established in my career, I was terrified of losing my job. There is a huge stigma attached to addiction, and this can make it nearly impossible for an addict to reach out for the help they desperately need. I know it did for me. What finally pushed me into getting help the last time was the realization that I better beat “them” (them being HR/ the police/ any and all government agencies that my paranoid brain was living in fear of) to the punch line- if I asked for help FIRST, I was safe, right? Well…actually, kind of, yeah. My addled mind got it sort of right. Had my job intervened on my behalf and sent me in for a friendly pee test, I would probably be writing this from the backseat of the car I live in. Luckily for me, I took some initiative, and despite my overwhelming fear, I faced up to the fact that I couldn’t do it on my own, and checked myself into treatment.

So, what happens when the dust settles, and you find yourself living an entirely different kind of life without drugs? Well, for me, the first two-plus years I spent still dealing with my behavior- the very thing, the impetus really, that drove me to be desperate for help in the first place. I hated myself. I thought if only I could be done with the drugs, I would be back to my “normal” self, and life would be good. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for two things: One, that my brain was truly fucked up- those years of assault with heavy drug use had made a mess of me, and my emotions and thinking were distorted and volatile. Two, I had been using for so long that there was no “normal” me. From the time I smoked my first joint at 13, until the last narcotic entered my bloodstream at 39, with very small stretches of abstinence interspersed throughout, I had missed out on everything. I had no idea how to live like an adult, act like an adult, or even how I was supposed to cope with an adult life.

I spent a good chunk of time just climbing out of the rubble pit of my own mind. Once the residual drama and conflict and chaos of active addiction started to fade, I found myself with So. Many. Choices. Oh my God, you guys, the options I have today! I am not exaggerating when I say that I can do pretty much anything I want to do, within reason, if I so choose. The choices are so varied that it can be downright…paralyzing, if I’m being honest. Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of parent? I basically bulldozed my life and started it over, from the foundation up. It is both incredibly liberating, and terrifying. I don’t generally know what the hell I am doing, and yet I recognize that it is imperative that I make the decisions for myself. I can ask for help and advice from trusted friends and family, but ultimately, I must choose the life that works best for me. And that is so scary, because I could mess up. I could RUIN EVERYTHING. Just look at where I came from! I have no business running ANYTHING.

Yesterday, I had an epiphany. I don’t have to worry about the bigger picture all the time. I just need to have a general idea of where I’d like to be, and in the meantime, in my daily life, here is what I need to do: Act With Love. Choose kindness over impatience, whenever possible. Even in traffic, when half the population of this town appears to be driving with their heads up their asses. Practice the Golden Rule- treat others the way you want to be treated. Will they reciprocate always? Of course not, but I’ll try to do it anyway. It feels good. In NA and AA they often use the saying (among billions of others, trust me) “Do the next right thing” and this is what I am choosing to do- I may not be able to see what lies down the road ahead, but I can figure out the next right thing. I can do that. And yes, I have larger goals and bigger dreams, but…in the day to day struggle just to like myself and feel good about who I am becoming, I think acting with love is a really good place to start from.

**But don’t take my word for it, because I have almost no idea what the hell I am talking about, most of the time. LOL. **


Everything That is Right With Me.



I’m feeling rather chipper this afternoon, and thought I would sit down here for a second and write. Nothing special has happened, no great new career has fallen out of the sky and into my lap. I’m still chubby. My house is still kinda messy. I am still struggling with these goddamned cigarettes, goddammit.

But yesterday and today, I have really asked the Universe, or God, or whomever it is out there listening to me, to help me be okay with it- “it” being the many, many things that are, whether I have a hand in it, or any control over it, or not. Whatever “it” is, God, can you help me be okay with it? That is the big prayer I am sending up, day after day. And it seems like I am getting my answer.

Because every time that cruel, hypercritical, mean, awful voice in my head starts to verbally abuse me, another, WAY more believable voice says “NO.” This kinder voice shuts that mean voice DOWN. As I am pulling on my jeans, the mean voice goes “What the fuck, porky? Are you kidding me? ” And the kind voice goes “You are beautiful. It’s fine. Go take your walk, enjoy your life.” And the mean voice, it just sort of fades away.

I think to myself “I should really put some make up on before I go outside.”  And this gentle voice pipes up, before the mean voice even has a chance- “Look at yourself. There is nothing you need to cover up…get out there and take in the afternoon.” (in case you are confused, yes, there are three voices happening here- Me, the mean voice and the kind voice. If you can’t grasp that, you are probably a man. So go hug your girlfriend, because she is probably having a hell of a time with HER voices.)

Do you guys have any idea how wonderful it feels to have someone sticking up for me? I mean, even if it is just me, it’s about damn time. Because let me tell you something- I am a pretty good person. I love my kids, I show up every day, I try like hell to do the best I can. I am nearly forty, and my life sure doesn’t look the way I thought it would, but it’s a good life. I am making the most of it, or at least trying to. I sure the heck don’t appreciate this critical voice that no one else hears busting my balls twenty four hours a day. I am tired of it. I am sure I am not alone.

So you know what? I took my walk, without any makeup, and I had a wonderful time. My dogs were thrilled, and no one stopped their car to point at me and laugh. I saw woodpeckers and Monarchs, and stretched my legs, cleared my head.

I have spent years and years beating myself up for my shortcomings- I am far harder on myself than I would ever be on anyone else. That needs to stop…because I am lovely (said the kind voice.)

Why the World Needs You to be Happy.



Yesterday, I went a little nutty when I found out that a dude from Liberia brought Ebola over here. I went a little nuttier when I found out that he went to the ER and TOLD THEM he had just traveled here from Liberia, and they “failed to communicate” this  to the doctors, who then sent him home with antibiotics, where he exposed a shit load…okay, several, at least- other people to this deadly disease. I mean, I was a little overboard. I was upset that something this stupid happened, I was upset that someone else’s stupidity basically opened up a big can of worms for (what felt like, to me, at that moment) the entire United States. I was upset that we are even allowing travel to and from Africa right now- I mean, it’s kind of a bad idea, don’t you think?  I was so upset, I had to go home and meditate after work before I picked up my daughter, because I knew my turmoil would just color everything I did that night, whatever my intentions.

So, I did that, and I came home, and we had a pretty below average night. I spent most of it reading “Orange is the New Black” (yes, it was a book first, apparently), and being blown away by how poorly the prison system is run. Yet another thing I can do nothing about, at least immediately.

Do you kind of see where I am going with this? There is shit going DOWN in this world, all the time, everywhere, that is OUTRAGEOUS. That is unjust and unfair and horrific, and heart wrenching. Wars and plagues, suffering. Rampant abuse of power. The way that it is presented to us, you would think we live in a totally chaotic and soul-less society, that extinction could very well be where we are headed…and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. C’mon, admit it- you have thought that, quietly, a time or two, when you watched the news too many days in a row.

I am begging you- don’t buy into that shit. Do not do it. We are all at risk, every single day, when we are bombarded by the stories we hear on the news, and on social media, and plastered all over the internet- even the less reliable stories that are repeated to us in the break room at work, or in our cubicles, or wherever we are. Try to temper it with a bit of your own reality.  Take a look around you, right here, where YOU are, right now. There is still hope. It’s not all bad, man.  Shit has been going on, and going wrong, since the dawn of time- if you let it eat you up, if you let it infect your heart, you are out of the game, and we need you. We need you pretty desperately.

How many opportunities do you have, on a daily basis, to do something that makes someone else feel good? Before you say “Not very many”, think about it. Because I think we have endless opportunities, every single day. I am not talking about huge things, like finding a cure for Ebola (although I would really appreciate that, personally, if you could) or even big stuff, like volunteering, which I am sure we would all love to do, but don’t always have the time or even know how to get started. I am talking about just going out into the world and not being an asshole. Not riding the ass of the car in front of you because you are late for work, but slowing down, instead, and chilling the fuck out. I am talking about holding the door for someone, letting the person behind you in line with one item cut in front of you, not saying “no”, automatically, to the dude with the “please help” sign in front of the store.  I am talking about smiling at someone, paying a totally random stranger a compliment, saying sorry and thank you when appropriate…and even when not really necessary.

I am talking about going home, and insisting that your children spend a little time talking to you over dinner. This requires that both you AND them put your phones and Ipads away. I am advocating creating a small pocket of the warmth and tradition and connection that we all complain are absent from our lives and from the world. It won’t fix everything, but my God! We have to start somewhere, right? And we need to be happier, we need to smile more, we need to have the peace in our hearts that comes from knowing that all is NOT lost, don’t you agree? Because when all of us have lost that…without that…we are truly in trouble, my friends.

So, you have your instructions for the day- go out in the world, smile, be happy, don’t be an asshole. Try not to get Ebola. Check back here frequently for further instructions. Thank you.

Judgement, Jabs, and Other Rude Behavior.


When I was quite young and had absolutely no life experience, I was overflowing with opinions on things about which I knew nothing about. I was not confused in the least about what was right or wrong, and I was not shy about letting people know my thoughts about things, either. Looking back, I realize that my opinions and beliefs weren’t even really MINE at all, but just the ones I’d borrowed from the adults I’d been raised by…which is pretty amusing to me, now, when I see how incredibly different my thinking wound up being from where I believed it to be. I was so confident in my own superior knowledge that I was totally closed off from consideration of any other possibilities. This is the first indication that you aren’t as smart as you think you are- when you are so convinced of your own correctness you can’t even hear another person’s point of view.

Because I was so smart and so much less confused than everyone around me, it was quite natural and easy for me to judge people unkindly for their mistakes, their lifestyles, or their bad decisions. I didn’t try to hide what I thought about people anymore than I did my thoughts about anything else. I grew up hearing “you are better than that” quite a bit, and this was applied both to my behavior and to who I was in relation to others- I was told that I was better than the folks I ran around with, and I believed it, for the most part. Rather than find new friends, though, I chose to stick around and lord my snotty better-ness over everyone. Except the ones who were better than me, of course. Even I knew that if I were better than some, some were better than me.

Do you have any idea how damaging this thought process can be, especially over the course of many years? I was constantly sizing people up, trying to figure out which group they belonged in so that I knew how to behave. I had no idea who I was when there was no one else around to measure myself against. I hurt good people simply because I deemed them “less” than me, and looked up to total assholes because they appeared to be “more”. I was mean, unkind, rude and ugly, all because I believed a weird version of what I’d been told and had no thoughts of my own.

The universe must get a special thrill when they come across an idiot like me. I got the opportunity to experience 99% of the issues I had so vocally, adamantly judged others for. You name it, I went through it- from unwanted pregnancy to welfare to homelessness and horrible choices, I eventually had my own story to tell about it. Not surprisingly, my mind had changed greatly about things by the time all was said and done, and I was better for having learned it.

Along the way, I began to notice my hesitation to agree with someone when they were spouting off about another person’s behavior, actions, or motives, especially when it was harsh. My first thoughts were selfish- every time I had judged someone, it seemed to wind up happening to me, and I didn’t want that. Eventually, though, it just didn’t feel good to be mean, even behind the back, of someone who was already struggling with stuff. It felt better to present other possible, more generous reasons on the person’s behalf…which really didn’t please whoever was tearing them down at the time, let me tell you.

As this change was happening inside of me, I also began to notice how much less black and white there was in my thinking, and how much more gray, how many variations there were to the spaces between the lines I had once seen as clear and distinct. As unsettling as this was, it was also amazing, because now there were endless possibilities where right and wrong had been before. The more allowances there were for differences, the less I could form an opinion about someone else, which meant I was far more open to knowing them, and hearing them, and finding the good in them. When I stopped judging others constantly, I changed into someone better.

I’m not saying I am perfect- far from it! Everyday, depending on my mood, I think shitty thoughts about some clueless stranger, for the way they look, or the way they drive, or whatever. It is human nature, and a habit that isn’t easy to break. But when I catch myself, I stop, and find something nice to say. I know how dumb that sounds, but it’s true. I also have to accept that not everyone is working on the same stuff as me, and I notice lots of people who make no effort at all to curb their opinions or judgements. As crappy as this can be, I know that they will keep on until they get it, and they’ll get it when they have to. No sooner. It doesn’t have to change my behavior- I don’t need to slap back just to be even.

It was the sound of my own voice echoing back at me as I struggled that convinced me, more than anything else, to change; not the cruelest words anyone else had ever used to cut me down. I have to believe I am not alone in this. So, I hold my tongue, knowing in that silence their own words are loud and clear in the air between us, ready for whatever journey they are on.

And Out of the Woodwork, They Come…

courtesy of Francesca Miller
courtesy of Francesca Miller

The bulk of my days, Monday through Friday, are spent working, or getting ready for work, or doing all of the things we have to do once work is over. When I am not doing those things, I am generally doing a short list of other important things that never seem to end, in rotation. Things like: Figure out what to make for dinner; Go to the grocery store because there is nothing to make for dinner and/or we are missing one or two vital ingredients needed to make dinner, and/or we need milk. We always need milk. Clean up the house; Try to spend some quality time with one or more of my children; Try to spend quality time with my dog. Run BACK to the store because we are out of cat food. We are always out of cat food. Try to fit exercise in there, somewhere. Wash some clothes- we are ALWAYS out of clean clothes. Go to bed.

As you can imagine, this doesn’t leave a ton of time for cultivating and sustaining friendships. At least, not the kind you want to have when you find yourself with a sick child in the hospital on a gorgeous day at the end of May. Which is exactly what happened to me the other day. See, my little child has a tendency to react in an alarming way to what would be an inconsequential bug bite on most people- she gets all puffed up and swollen in a way that her infectious disease specialist has succinctly described as “weird”. So, this time, when we went to the ER, they decided that we couldn’t go home, like we usually do. We had to stay, be admitted, get some IV antibiotics into my awesomely brave little peanut.

Which would have been fine…except- I have another child out wandering the world without her cell phone, who had no idea what was going on. Even if she did, I didn’t have anyone to come stay with her, and once I did reach her, she refused to come up and stay at the hospital with me. To make matters even more lovely, I started my period in a heinous way ( need I say more, girls?) which may or may not have contributed to my gloomy perspective on things.  Oh yeah, also, I did not have my phone charger, so my phone went dead in what seemed like a matter of minutes. Well, about five seconds after I posted something like “I am alone in the world. I hate everyone.” as my Facebook status. I know, I know- it even sounds melodramatic to ME, now. But at the moment, that was how I felt.

We were moved from the ER to an inpatient room about seven thousand years later, and we both, baby and I, fell asleep in her big old hospital bed (after she got tired of pressing all of the buttons and beeping the nurses station fifty seven thousand times- sorry about that, nurses!) about seven in the evening. When I woke up in the morning and plugged in my laptop, I was amazed at the number of people who responded to my sad-sack status.  The number of private messages from friends wanting to know what was wrong, and how they could help, was even more staggering.  By nine o’clock that morning, I had two good friends there willing to hang out with my child (who was under quarantine, no less) so that I could go grab some coffee and hide in my car for a cigarette. Before that, I had my boss there, as well as another co-worker on her break, and so many other people who were willing to come if I just said the word. And did I need anything else? Food? Baked goods that were so yummy (thank you for the chocolate banana croissant, girls) they could barely be categorized as food? Then, of course, our beloved Donna, without whom I really don’t think I could survive, came, and I got to go home, shower, grab a phone charger. And that was the other wonder of wonders- when I plugged in my phone, I had alarms alarming and alerts alerting in a way that I can only describe as “symphonic.” That phone beeped and clanged for five minutes after I hooked it up.

I went in to the hospital feeling terribly isolated and alone, and it made me really determined to work harder, to put in the time that good, strong friendships deserve. I left the hospital feeling loved and cared for, and really determined to work harder, to put in the time that good strong friendships deserve…except that now, I know it won’t be nearly as much work as I thought. It will be a great pleasure. And I know just where to put my efforts.

Thank you all so much for your kindness. Every word and gesture meant the world to me.

Dear God

Dear God-

Hi! It’s me again. I’ll tell you up front that I don’t have anything really urgent to talk to you about, so if you are busy, you may want to get back to this later. Not that I doubt your multitasking skills for a minute, I’m sure you’re way better at it than your average human being, but…you know what I mean. I just wanted to check in, let you know I am still here, I haven’t checked out on you. I hope you don’t mind that I am putting you in my blog. I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, you know?

I’ve been a little down lately. Seems like no matter how hard I try, things around here stay about the same, if not worse. I know I don’t do everything right, not by a long shot, and I don’t pretend that I have a clue about how to create the family and the results I long to see. I can see the end result in my head, but I don’t know how to get there. Maybe I just don’t have the right personality for domestic stuff. Maybe I just don’t have enough help…it would be nice if all of us around here could pull it together and work as a unit for once. It seems like we all just live together and have totally separate lives. This just isn’t the way I thought it would be.

I know I should be grateful, and I AM! I know how lucky I am to have two healthy, beautiful daughters, a fantastic and well paying job that I like, and coworkers who are like an extension of my family. I know how lucky I am to have a house at all, let alone in a safe, pretty town half a mile from the beach. I’m SO lucky to be healthy, to be safe, to be loved. I’m not trying to downplay any of that stuff. I let you know all the time how thankful I am to be where I am in life…I think I know better than some how much worse it could have turned out for me. And I know I will NEVER know as well as others do what it means to really be without. Even at the worst times in my life, I could always count on a roof over my head, food when I was hungry. All in all, I’ve lived a pretty blessed life.

So you’ll have to forgive me for being so selfish and telling you that, still, I want more. Can we talk for a minute about this relationship I’m in, God? I know, I know- I can FEEL you rolling your eyes at me, up there. I know you have much more concerning issues on your hands, like global warming, the middle east in general, and the end of times right around the corner. I get that, in the big scheme of things, my love life is really a non-issue, but humor me. You, he, and I know the whole story of us…you know how hard I have tried, how many things I’ve worked through, looked past, compromised on. You know the doubts I’ve struggled with since the very start. All of that, to wind up here-ambivalent, stuck, distanced. My heart is just out of forgiveness, God, and I don’t know how to move forward from this place. I don’t even want to forgive anymore, and that has been the one thing I had that assured me there was still really love between us. Without it, it’s like my heart is completely closed. I know he feels it, my disconnect, and I don’t want to make it hard on him, but I can’t help it. I’ve got nothing left, and there’s no way I can pretend differently. I start to feel bad about it, then it occurs to me that he absolutely brought this on himself.

Obviously, I can’t go on like this for very long. So the big question is, what now? I know it’s really up to me, that I didn’t seem to ask for a lot of advice when I was making all the decisions that led me to here. I don’t expect a giant arrow in the clouds pointing me to my dream life, or an email with a power point slide show detailing my options and all possible outcomes. Although, come to think of it, I wouldn’t turn that down, either. I guess I would just like to ask for some clarity, soon. If you could please help me pay attention, so I don’t miss possible answers. If I could just have a head that is quiet enough to really think this through.  If you could maybe help me feel certain when I hit on the right idea, instead of doubting myself into inaction like I’ve done so often. God, if you could please  just help me not be afraid. I’m choosing to hold onto unhappiness because I am so afraid of messing everything up.

It seems so wasteful to work so hard for something you thought was possible, only to find that it could never have become that thing, no matter what you did to help it along. I want to be happy, God, and not because everything is perfect and I am so accomplished and polished and wonderful-I want to be happy the way you are when your heart is peaceful, and you aren’t constantly on your guard. I want to relax, God. I don’t care if that means I have to be alone…I will miss the familiarity and companionship, for sure. I will miss having someone that is pulling their share of the weight of this life. But I will not miss hunting for the true story underneath his words. I will not miss the loneliness that comes with loving a man you cannot risk trusting. I will not miss the fear of all of the things I don’t know yet. Every day of our life together, I have felt their presence, a constant undercurrent.

Please help me be strong, sure and kind- help me not let my mean nature complicate things. Help me to remember that he is a good father, a hard worker, that he probably did the best he could, too. He’s just working with a different set of tools than me. If there is a way to mend this, God, I am all ears- I’d like to tell you that I don’t see how, but you’re the big miracle guy, here, so it’s your call. I don’t want to hurt the baby, and she loves us both so much. I don’t want to complicate my life by changing everything, AGAIN, but I believe I am of no real use to anyone like this.

Other than that, God, I think all is well. I am always glad, at the end of a day like this, that things tend to look less impossible in the light of day. Thanks for this beautiful life.