Tag Archives: substance abuse

Learning how to Love

anger chinese proverb

Of all the things I have struggled with since I have been clean, practicing loving kindness is highest on the list. I know, I know- I don’t think I come off as someone who has a rough time with something like this. For sure, I know the appropriate way to act, and how to say the right thing, the thing people need to hear, most of the time. But there is a difference between how we intentionally show up in the world and the way we act, react, and even the way we think, when it’s only us alone with the chosen few who live their lives closely entwined with ours.

In other words, sometimes- too much of the time- I am an impatient asshole to my ex, who lives in close quarters with me ( supposedly a win-win for all parties, but in practice, not always the best), to my friends, and worst of all, to my kids. I struggle to be nice. I have a hard time keeping my temper in check. I yell too much. I say things I regret- if not immediately, then eventually. I hurt the people I care the most about, and it’s crazy because, you might recall from some of my earlier posts- this was one of the main reasons I wanted to get clean in the first place. I wanted to stop hurting people, especially the people I loved.

Well, here’s a news flash: You Don’t Get Better Over Night. Look, I am nowhere near as bad as I used to be, but I am also not the same person I used to be. The person I am now has a different tolerance for pain- because believe me, if I am hurting people with my behavior, I am suffering too. As a matter of fact, it has come to my attention that it’s possible I might beat myself up much harder than I do anyone else. But my truth remains the same- these are people I love, I want to treat them that way. Period. Without fail. And I could do better…in my head, I can almost always see where I went wrong, when I should have walked away, where I could have taken a breath, how I could have chosen to say nothing. Why? I ask myself all the time, Why couldn’t you have done better?

I think I know at least part of the answer- Anger has been a huge defensive tool for me for so much of my life. Anger kept me safe, kept people at arms length, kept questions from being asked that I didn’t know how to answer. When you are a volatile person, people tread lightly around you. Walk on eggshells, even. When being vulnerable is the thing you most fear, anger is a heady drug.

And there is the whole matter of habit- all those pathways burned into my brain, all the things that I let make me angry for all those hundreds or thousands of days in a row. Any switch I had lead to anger, because it was safer. Safer than being unsure, safer than being hurt, safer than being afraid. Anger is big, powerful, and much easier for me to deal with than the “softer” options, such as crying or, I don’t know, admitting that I messed up, that I am in deep trouble, that I need help.

But that was me BEFORE. And this is me NOW. And the woman I am today cannot tolerate the way it feels to behave this way. This morning, when I prayed my daily prayer, I asked sincerely for help- “Look God, I am serious, I NEED YOU to help me with this. Please, please, pretty please. I can’t do this on my own.” And then I said the rest of the stuff I said, and moved on to the meditation practice part of my morning. I had to smile when the theme of the day was “loving kindness”. My God does not mess around.

I have been deliberate with my words and actions all day today, trying to be gentle with myself, because I am growing, and because I am still starting out on the path to who I want to be, and because I just deserve it. And I have been gentle with others, because it has been easy to- it’s when things get rough, or I am tired, or overwhelmed, when it gets hard.

But I believe that when we truly want to change, we begin to change. And that when we sincerely ask God for help (again, feel free to exchange the word God for whatever word you feel comfortable with), help comes. We must do the footwork. We can’t just say “help me!” and then keep going on like we always have. You show up, and the benevolent forces of the Universe show up with you.

I am trying so hard to be someone who knows how to love other people in a way that is beautiful, rather than damaging, and I know it won’t happen over night. But I also know that it has to start somewhere. Why not here?

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Committed

committed
found on Pinterest

So, I walked into my Tuesday night women’s 12 step meeting uncharacteristically late, just as the group was trying to coerce one of the regular girls into being the Secretary. ( I just want to stop right here and let you know that it is so early right now, and I have had so little caffeine, that I have been unable to spell both “Commitment” and “Secretary”. That’s pretty bad.) Anyway, you could see that this poor girl was NOT into it, and as I rushed through the crowded room to my seat, I heard someone go “I’ll do it!”.

Apparently, it was me. If I could, I would insert an eye-rolling emoji right here. The current Secretary was stoked, they did not follow protocol and vote me in, and by the time my butt hit the chair, I found myself with a new service commitment (neither of these words are getting any easier for me, dammit.)

For those of you unfamiliar with 12 step recovery stuff, first of all- congrats on your normalcy, hahaha! Secondly, in every meeting there are certain service positions that must be held- treasurer, coffee maker, bigger meetings might have greeters, and there are other roles, too, but the secretary (ha! I did it on the first try that time!) runs the meeting. They show up early to set up, run the whole thing, then pack up everything at the end and shut it down. It’s not hard or scary or even unfamiliar to me- I’ve held this position two other times at this very meeting over the past several years.

But it is a big commitment. And I had no intention of signing up for anything when I left my house on Tuesday night. Yes, my darling sponsor told me months ago that I needed to find a position, but I ignored her, as one does when it is something one is not interested in. And I am busy. Overextended. I have my irons in too many fires. I am busy working, and writing and planning my two upcoming vacations, building this blog, and going to the gym, and…and…and…

And God had other plans for me when I walked into that meeting Tuesday night. AND I wouldn’t be so busy, would I, if I didn’t have this gift of recovery…right? I probably wouldn’t have my job, I certainly wouldn’t be planning any vacations, or going to the gym, or writing anything I was proud of.

Do you know that when I wrote out my list of resolutions this year, I committed to writing, to my meditation practice, to my home life, to caring for my body, to building my relationships with friends- but there was not one word written down about how I would commit to my recovery. It never even crossed my mind, and that is troubling. Because the person I am RIGHT NOW, this woman who I really like, I mean, I LOVE myself- I was created, at least in part, in that very room full of women. They let me cry, they listened to me go from a scattered, broken, angry, loud mess to someone so much better- admittedly, still pretty loud, but I’m a work in progress.

I guess it’s okay though, because my God has got me- he puts the words in my mouth so that I can blurt them out; “I’ll do it!”, and of course, I will. Every morning, I pray (so sorry if this makes you uncomfortable- it used to make me kinda wiggly too, when people started talking about God, and prayer. My best advice to you is just, you know, get over it. I’m not trying to convert you. This is just my deal. 🙂 ) for God’s will to be done in my life, rather than my own. He took me up on it this week, for sure.

I was remiss in not adding my recovery to the list of things I will commit to this year, for without it, I wouldn’t have anything else, and I know this to be true because I have lived it. When drugs are in my life, they are ALL that exists. My program saved me, gave me almost everything I needed to find my way out of the darkness, and showed me that there was still something good, something worth salvaging, inside of that darkness. I will commit to my recovery this year. It’s time to give back.

 

Surfacing

surfacing by chuck aves
art credit: Chuck Aves

I decided I better write this out before I do my usual blog reading session this morning, because I know there will be a million stories from my fellow writers about the year behind and the year ahead. I want my words to at least feel original on their way out! So here we go:

2017

This year has been one of the best years of my entire life, and I am not exaggerating. It has been a year of incredible self examination and change on a deep level. I am not the person I was 365 days ago, and I like this version of myself so much more. I put another year between me and the worst of my past, and so much of the fear and doubt and self loathing that I didn’t even know I was lugging around with me for so long, it has diminished. I am ending this year so much lighter than I started out- both lighter, as in carrying so much less, and lighter, less covered in darkness.  This year has been HARD, but it was work I needed to do, and I’m glad that I did. There is a calm place inside of me that I can almost always reach now, and there is a brake to slow me down where there never was before. I don’t have to escalate. I can hear myself. I am learning to mind my responses, that I don’t always have to react.

I lost someone that I love this year. It has been four months and four days since he died, and I think about him every single day. I thought about him every single day when he was alive, too. I don’t know what else I can say about this that I haven’t already written about here or here . A little bit of my heart, the only one who shared a lot of my favorite memories, and a really valued friend left the physical world, and I miss him. But I survived it, I stayed clean, and I learned how to grieve deeply, and that you can grow that way, too.

I feel like in 2017, I dived into the depths, and did some much needed exploration and learning. I brought light to places that had been dark for so, so long. I found places that had been forgotten, and brought them back into order. I have seen parts of myself I didn’t know existed, and know myself so much better now. I can look at myself from a different and kinder perspective, and it’s such a relief. But you can only stay under for so long.

2018

Surfacing. Open. Curiosity. Interest. Joy. Inspiration. yes.

These words are the theme I have chosen for the year ahead. Of course, these words are MY choice, which means, if I get a vote, this is what mine will be. We don’t always get to choose.

If I do get to choose, however, I will have a year that is mostly lighthearted, and filled with love. I will have a year filled with appreciation of all that I have already, and all of the new things that will come into my world. There will be road trips, and plane flights, friendship and laughter. I am open to the possibility of love (you guys don’t even know how embarrassing that was for me to write. Definitely need to do some work in that area!) if it is easy and it fits- and if it is not easy, then it has to be worthy of working for.

My choice will be a year of connection, and togetherness, and bonding. I feel like I did so much solitary work this past year- it was good, and it SO needed to happen. But I am ready to venture out into the light of the great big beautiful world, and learn how to play with others. I want to go hiking, and to the flea market, and on day trips and weekend trips, play board games, get dressed up for dinner, and sit around in living rooms that aren’t my own, maybe, laughing until my sides ache. That is the kind of year I see for myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I have all of the usual resolutions, and maybe I will write more about them tomorrow. But today, I needed to state my intentions for the year to the Universe.

Last year was amazing. This year will be the best one yet. Happy New Year’s Eve, everybody.

Not a Magic Sprinkle Unicorn Kinda Day

angry unicorn

Lest you start to believe that I am some sort of woman on a beautiful island oasis of recovery, meditating peacefully, surrounded by a sea of serenity and singing mermaids, let me clear that shit right up for you; Example one? I give you this day:

-As usual, dragged my ass all morning, screwing around, reading YOUR blogs, judging everyone on Facebook, reading a silly little novel I picked up while Christmas shopping at Target. Then, naturally, go into full on panic mode when the coffee finally kicks in, and I realize I actually have to leave the house in 45 minutes. Which would be fine, if I knew where my pants were, or had, you know, showered. Fuck.

-Pull it all together in decent time, only to find that every single pair of shoes I wear to work are mysteriously missing. I still don’t know where the hell they are. I looked under the couch, under the bed, in the laundry pile, and yes, even in my hell pit of a closet. They are GONE. I finally unearthed some ridiculous spike heeled booties that make my ankles wobble and my feet ache, but at that point I was just grateful to have something to cover my feet.

-Show up for work four minutes late, not because I wasn’t there, but because those stupid shoes are so high, and so spiky, it took me nine minutes to walk through the parking lot and into the hospital. NINE MINUTES. Sitting at my desk, I realize that there is a very real possibility that one of my cats peed on my shoes. Something isn’t smelling right.

-Additionally, on top of all of the shoe drama, I have slammed my knee into a drawer, my face into a door, my fingers into both walls AND my desk, and snapped myself in the face with my scarf ( this hurts worse than you might think). I wore my glasses all day not realizing there was caramel (don’t even ask, because I don’t know) or some sort of candy filling, globbed onto the arm-therefore, it is now in my hair.

-I ate too much cheese over the past few days, and it has now become a whole different tummy issue. If you don’t know, you don’t want to know.

-I didn’t have time to meditate.

-I’m feeling a little grouchy, a lot tired, and I don’t even have anyone to blame it all on, other than myself and just a plain old shitty day.

On days like this, I have a hard time accessing my gratitude. Yeah, I’m not hiding out in my house with the blinds drawn, strung out and paranoid, but it’s really hard to live in constant awe of your beautiful life when you are right in the midst of normalcy. But you know what? That’s okay. I’m as normal as I’m ever going to get, and people have days when everything goes wrong.

Am I going to use over it? Hellllll no. That thought never, ever crossed my mind. It sure would have, once upon a time. Any excuse to throw the towel in, and I was all over it. But that is not who I am today. I can have a bad day- a day WAY worse than this one- and I can survive it. Today, I know I can. And I have enough days in a row behind me that I can say, with confidence, that tomorrow I’m going to make it too. Even if it’s worse than this stupid day.

Although I REALLY hope it isn’t. Now excuse me, I need to go change my shoes.