You Share Project


I was recently contacted by Ashlee, founder of the You Share Project. She asked if it would be okay to share one of my previous posts on her website. I agreed and today it went live. It’s weird to see my big ole mug out there, but there is something freeing about that as well. I am not ashamed of who I am nor of the woman I am becoming. This just makes it all a little more real.

Go check out the website:  www.youshareproject.com

It has some pretty amazing stories and you might find your self in one of them.

Have a happy and blessed Tuesday!

Why Facebook is ruining my mojo


This has been a rough week for me emotionally. Nothing in particular has happened with the exception that I’ve spent a little too much time on Facebook. That is my downfall. When I see what old friends are up to, what they’ve accomplished, the accolades they’ve earned, I feel small and insignificant. Comparing myself to others is so dangerous. I rarely feel better; I rarely  wish them well and feel genuinely proud of them. No, I tend to see how I don’t measure up, how I am not good enough, how everybody else has done so much more with their lives. Not me. I’ve remained stagnant. I am not who I was supposed to be. I missed opportunities; I drank away my chances and ambitions.

For someone with diagnosed and treated depression, I know better than to engage in this type of behavior. So what draws me to the negative? What makes me want to slink into nothingness and disregard the joy I know I have in my heart tucked away? Why do I continue to condemn myself for the path I have taken? I am not ninety years old. I have so many good years in front of me.

I believe it is the familiar that keeps me coming back to the mental beat downs. It’s what I’ve done and it’s what I’ve known for so long that it feels familiar. Notice, I didn’t say good, rewarding, fulfilling, or pleasant. Familiar.  What’s so funny about this word is that family is in this word. To me, my family is a source of comfort, love, understanding and absolute unconditional love. This applies to both my immediate and extended families.

But the familiar feelings that social media brings about do not have this comforting connotation. I can, however, make these two worlds collide. For as I have grown in my recovery, I have seen sides of my sisters and brothers that weren’t apparent to me previously. They shown me love and understanding and a support beyond my wildest dreams. If I could change my perception about my family of origin (who were messed up beyond belief as I was growing up), I can change my perception of what familiar means to me.

I have to work to figure out what that will mean to me. I am certain of what it is not: comparison, belittling, feeling less than. No, those are feelings that don’t bring out the peace I seek. For the most part, I’ve enjoyed how social media has been an outlet for me to see who is doing what. But, I did not moderate which is not unusual for me.The small part of me that wants to close my laptop, stare off in space, and think about the “could have’s” and “should have’s” is enough of an indicator that this too is an unhealthy part of my life. I know that people tend to put their best out there and don’t discuss the mishaps or feelings of depression so what I am seeing is not necessarily the whole picture. However, I take it to a new level when I insert myself there and belittle me.

My new familiar will not include daily scrolling on Facebook. It will include messages throughout the day that remind me that I am not too old, too inexperienced, or too late to redefine myself. In fact, I am doing so every day. Little by little. God has a plan for me and He is lining up what needs to fall into place so it is blessed and perfect for me. I need not look to other’s accomplishments and feel envy. That was their plan and not mine.

Spring is a great reminder that after death comes new life. And like the flowers buried deep beneath the surface of the soil just waiting to burst out into a new life, so too is my inner identity.

“Bitterness and resentment only hurt one person, and it’s not the person we’re resenting – it’s us.” Alana Stewart


Today, I am super tired. My son has growing pains (literally) and needed someone to rub his achy knees at two in the morning. That coupled with a late-night movie I HAD to see end- have left me feeling wiped out and drained. I’m pretty sure given the chance , a 20-minute power nap would quickly become a four hour luxury lie down. Needless to say, I am a bit edgy. But I am aware of those feelings and I know why I feel this way so I have a tendency to let things roll off of me because I understand the source.

This afternoon, our high school musical group performed a twenty minute preview of their upcoming show; we were allowed to bring our classes down during our extend time to watch the performance. It’s a privilege not a requirement for us to take them there; I know how talented our kids are, so it was perfect for me to give them some support.

Well, as soon as we sat down, I had a row of boys who talked, laughed, and carried on. I gave them the evil teacher eye look. No luck. I quietly shushed them. Nope. No response. I stated firmly, “Gentlemen. It’s proper theater etiquette to refrain from distracting the audience and perhaps the players.” This worked a bit; the curtain opened, and the preview began.

Those assholes laughed and talked throughout most of their performance. While I was still able to hear and to enjoy their show onstage, I was miffed. These are the same boys who demand respect because they play football. I don’t have anything against athletes; I was a three-sport athlete myself in high school. But I am against rude.

Afterwards, I spoke to them and gave them the yadda yadda yadda about being leaders and being respectful. Off they went- not caring a fiddle what I said.

Enter resentment and bitterness- my two friends I love to hate. They show up out of nowhere, eat all my food, trash my house, linger far too long, and I have to literally kick them out of my house before they will leave. I need to change the locks.

Feeling the way I did needed to be tracked back to why. First, I was in a position of authority, and they blew me off which is annoying. Next, I was correcting their behavior not for my benefit, but for them to be able to do the right thing and to be supportive of something other than themselves. Furthermore, the kids in the musical work tremendously hard for three solid months and a little recognition would be appreciated.

But for me to feel bitter? What was that all about? I guess it boils down to people in this world who expect, feel entitled and demand when it’s their turn but who in turn are oblivious to the needs of others. If that doesn’t define a late stage alcoholic, I don’t know what does. I do not like in others what took me 44 years to recognize I was doing. Something we are told in AA is “to keep our side of the street clean.” When I am feeling bitterness and resentment, I am not on my side of the street; I am down the street, a half block over running to the next neighborhood. How they behave is none of my business; how I behave is. How they treat others is not my problem; how I treat those same “others” is. I have to ask myself if I am coming from a place of love, then I do I really have bitterness in my heart? I do not; I can not.

In the long run, when I stew over something that has happened, chances are the other person

a. doesn’t care

b. has forgotten

c. has no idea what I am talking about

The damage is to me. To my core. To my inner identity. This is where deep breathing and long pauses have become my ally. I have to ask myself if harboring negative energy is worth it in the long run. I know it is not because if I do not release it right away, it will park itself right on my couch and hang out, creep into the back bedroom, and slowly make its way into my storage closet. Cleaning closets is never fun. No. It’s best for me not to open the door but to instead change the locks and the turn the music up.

Today, I am so grateful to be able to let go to the universe the things I cannot change and to know my limits and what my part is.

 

Go ahead. Push my buttons. I dare you.


“The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The age old question of what is Truth rolls around in my head from time to time. On the base level, I get it. “I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God.” That part’s easy.

The truth that I struggle with is the kind that comes dressed up in different clothes. It’s the one who sidles up to you, gets into your subconscious thought process and then brings the nasty stuff to the forefront of your mind. You know the one, the voice who nags you, “Who are you kidding? You’re not cut out for this. You don’t have the skills.” THAT truth. The one which, if I am not careful and mindful, creeps into my daily living, slows down my mojo, makes me furrow my brow and look for a fight.

Many days, I am pretty good at shutting that voice down. I tell myself a number of things: “I am worthwhile. I have value. I am a beautiful masterpiece. I am a miracle. I am a child of God.” This usually helps warm me up inside to just the right temperature that I have a sense of balance and a calm. I remind myself that I will not allow those toxic thoughts to knock me off my square or to impede my happiness.

But sometimes, it doesn’t come as a voice. Sometimes, it’s someone else. Last night after the meeting I chair, a woman with whom I am not very close told me this: “I am challenging you to two weeks to NOT talk about your daughter in your shares. You’ll grow so much more and so will she. Two weeks!”

Something you should know about me is that on-the-spot-responses-when feeling-backed-into-a corner do not suit me. If I am asked about literature I’ve read, fire away. But myself? No, answers do not come easily or naturally. I felt immediately the blood in my face pulsate in every direction. I was very aware that my heart rate increased rapidly. I honestly do not recall what I said in response, but it was something along the lines of “What?” spewing out in a sharp tone with my face telling all of my innermost secrets of what I thought about her in that moment.

“Yep,” she continued. “Two weeks.”

I turned around and walked away. She may have still been talking; I don’t know. What I do know is that for THREE hours I was pissed off beyond what is normal. So I called my sponsor and detailed what happened. I don’t share about my daughter every time and quite frankly, even if I did, it’s none of her business. My sponsor told me to ignore her, stay away from her and continue to work my own program. Sage advice which I tried to heed. Really. I did.

But something came roaring out in me that I couldn’t ignore. What was at the bottom of my button being pushed? I don’t care what her intention was; she was inappropriate. One thing we pride ourselves on in AA is working on keeping our own side of the street clean. Offering unsolicited advice (unless it’s your sponsor or someone with whom you’re really close) is off limits. Suggest ideas but don’t demand that other people do what you tell them to do. What I did want to explore was my reaction. Why was I so angry? What button was going off inside me? But in order to do that, I had to first turn off the voices that were telling me I “should have” handled it better. I “should have” taken a deep breath, smiled, and calmly said, “Thank you. I’ll take it under consideration.” and then let it go and be done. But that isn’t how I handled it. I fumed; I shamed myself; I wanted to rip someone’s head off. An hour later, I wished I had her number because I had some pretty good comebacks (Ain’t that always the way…).

So what I learned is that I felt like I was being told what to do. I don’t respond well to that. Being the youngest of nine, I played that role for far too long; in fact, I still have to remind my siblings that calling me Lala is a little ridiculous. I had to dig deeper though. What was the Truth?

The Truth is I felt small and I felt less than. I felt someone else was calling me inadequate. I believed I was being told that someone else had a better way of taking care of me and that I wasn’t doing it right.  If I didn’t still believe that deep inside on some level, I would not have cared, and I could have responded differently. Yet even after working for 28 months daily on my sobriety, I still have inner cleaning to do. I still have to find new messages to play so when the 8 track tape comes out of hiding, I can dismiss it and say, “Wow, I don’t even own a tape player anymore, so I can’t play that message.”

To take a look at this today and to discover this Truth was a little disconcerting. I wanted to believe I was further along in my self talk and subsequently, my self love. I had hoped that I could dismiss her comments. I wanted to be the duck for crap’s sake and let it roll off my back like water droplets! <insert stomping of the foot here> But I am not a duck. YET.

The good news is I get to look at myself today and have an honest talk with my inner self. The old me would have lashed out and gone for the jugular.  I would have been flippant and rude and probably would have made sure she never opened her mouth to me ever again. But I didn’t do any of that. Other than the disgusted look I gave her, I was restrained and I am going to give myself credit for that.

Today, I do know that other people have their own Truth and I don’t have to share that with them. We can be different in that way. So while the truth (little “t”) hurts, I need to be careful with it and discern what is true, truth and Truth and really let the rest go. The best part is that life has a way of handing me lessons. Since I haven’t mastered this one, I can be sure it will reemerge in another way and then I’ll have another chance to be a duck.

 

Giving the Green Light to Yourself


Your own mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter except by your permission. – Arnold Bennett

 

One of the gifts of being sober is having the ability to feel a variety of feelings- happiness, joy, peace, serenity, anger, confusion, envy, fear- just to name a few. The beauty is that whatever I am feeling, I can recall why I am feeling what I am without the drinking shame, fear and resentment attached.It’s a “bare bones” kind of effect. Well, initially. I am getting pretty good at identifying the main feeling; then, I peel back the proverbial onion and see the sprouts, the roots, the core of what is really bothering me.

When I was drinking, pretty much everything was everybody else’s fault. I was  a victim through and through; I was powerless in my life; everything was being done to me and there was nothing I could do about it. I was going to have to just accept the miserable life I was having: raising kids who didn’t appreciate me, teaching for pennies and feeling no gratification, being married to someone who just didn’t understand me and didn’t like deep, intellectual talks, being stuck going to a church I had to go due to the small town tradition. On and on. Over and over. It was truly madness. I had fallen so far into my addiction, I no longer believed a good, fruitful life was ever going to be mine. And even is it were possible or maybe within my reach, I sure as hell didn’t deserve anything good. One of my favorite lines was, “You just don’t understand.”

It’s hard to write those words because no matter how much work I do, how many recovery blogs I read, how many episodes of the Bubble Hour I listen to, (strongly recommend- particularly if you can’t make a meeting in person), how many times I reach out to my sponsor and sober community, I only need to scratch the surface and those feelings can come roaring back at full force. I need not dig deep to conjure up the feelings of disapproval and disgust. Despite how hard I have worked hard not to let my alcoholic mind take over, the creeping disdainful thoughts want to come in.

However, it’s so important that while I stay focused and accept myself where I am today, I do not amputate the old part of me.  I am learning to explore all of my feelings- even the uncomfortable ones.  And that is really the key: giving myself permission to feel my feelings. I’ve learned that giving myself the green light to sit with the thoughts for a bit, to breathe deeply, to center my mind, and then to be aware of what else my body is telling me to do all play a role in my recovery.

Another good part of remembering the past is to have a barometer of how far I have come. It’s hard to see how sick you are when you are sitting in the midst of it all. But to have the gift of time review is so helpful to me, especially on the days when I feel I have been stagnant. I can look at the old patterns of thought and see how I overdramatized situations, heightened the importance of my role, in order to justify how I was feeling.

Being vigilant of how I feel at any given moment is key to my sobriety. If I disengage myself from the “haters”, my mind is free to be filled with positive, happy energy. I am becoming aware of the energy I either have zapped out of me or flowing through me based upon the conversations I decide to engage in. For instance, if I know a particular coworker will be at the morning coffee klatch, I move on. I don’t have space in my mind to let her in with her trash. I can walk away today knowing that my mind is not a garbage can for others to dump into.

It’s liberating and it’s self care- two things before I began this journey (two years and four months ago today!) didn’t exist in my life.

 

 

“Sometimes you just need to reflect on what you know before you learn more.”


One of my students told me that today. She was telling me how much she appreciates the class periods when we just absorb the information, talk about it and apply it to real life. In my mind, it’s a ‘blow off” day; but in their 14 yo brains, it’s a chance to catch up on what they’ve been reading and to put it into practice. I was taken aback by her words.

What does it mean to reflect on what I know before I learn more? This is so “simplex”- simple yet complex at that same time. If I apply this philosophy to my life it looks something like this:

I know I am searching for a better, more improved, authentic, enhanced relationship with my Higher Power. Some people call this God, Yahweh, El Shaddai, Jehovah, The Light and others. Being raised in a strict Catholic home, my sense of spirituality and religion are really confused. I’ve taken the greater part of my sobriety wrestling with what I believe God/spirituality/religion mean to me. So, I’ll start with what do I know?

I know my HP is part of me sometimes. It is the force within me that pulls me to do right: help a friend, smile when I don’t want to, stick up for a coworker, hold the door for a stranger. It’s the calm flow of energy that I can feel gliding through my pulse; it’s the deep, cleansing breath that takes the negative gunk out of my mind and the toxic beliefs out of my inner self in order to make room for more tranquility, joy, and serenity. When I can feel my HP in me, I am moved to tears; it feels so good to be so calm, to KNOW that I really am in the care of something greater than I. It’s the peaceful wash of nothingness that bathes my body just before I nod off to sleep. Sometimes I am pulled to call someone, to make a turn in a store I wouldn’t normally take, to send an email or imessage to someone I haven’t spoken to in a while just out of the blue. I am learning to trust that as my HP; it’s the connection to myself and a different realm for the purpose of the greater good. When I write here, for instance, or in my journal, I let my fingers dance across the keyboard and keep breathing asking my HP to fill me. Some moments the tug is stronger than others.

However there is another part of me that believes my higher self is external. This happens when I see kindness in action: my boys playing well together and sharing a hearty laugh; my husband selflessly volunteering to help out another family member; my students thoughtfully processing something we’ve talked about and doing good for others. But I see my Higher Power in more than just other people: a glorious sunset, or a cleansing, torrential rain where the worms can find solace in a crack, or even in the open country sky where the stars glisten in the sky like a multitude of precious gems flickering in the sun’s glare.

Beyond nature though, I am learning my Higher Power sometimes just is. I don’t need another human, or animal or bit of nature to see Him. It’s this Almighty Presence that merely takes up space in order to comfort me but leaves me open and unsmothered in order to catch a breeze upon my cheek.

So this idea of absorbing what I know until I can learn more is really brilliant. I still have questions about who or what or how my power greater than myself can be or is or may evolve into. The beauty is I get to let it happen in its due time. I can enjoy, accept, and ponder all in the same moment. I don’t have to have any more questions; today, I get to just accept where I am and think about what I do know. There’s comfort in that and a lot less pressure.

Darn kids are so smart these days!

 

Finding Your Inner Identity


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The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are.” – Carl Jung

One of the most important parts of my recovery has been learning about myself. It seems kind of funny to me that at 46 years old, I am still having an identity crisis. Although, I think the term “crisis” is over used and a bit dramatic. Any crisis I had before was largely due in part to my brain being saturated with alcohol; the ole synapses just couldn’t fire properly.

I literally had to figure out who I was from the ground up. When I first got sober, I had no idea what I liked in terms of people, books, food, clothes, anything. My opinion was your opinion. I like whatever you liked. All I wanted was a person to like me so I could come along for the ride. Never mind that I wasn’t even sure if you knew my name.

I often hear people who come into the program who have literally lost everything: their home, spouse, children, license, car. Everything. I didn’t lose anything. Now hold up before you think I am bragging.

I didn’t lose anything because I didn’t have anything. How do you lose self respect and self esteem when you never had any to begin with? I couldn’t lose what wasn’t mine. So my bottom as we call it in AA was much different from other people’s in my mind. (Time has told me, however, that I am not that different at all…)

So in order for me to begin this quest, I had to slow down quite a bit. I had to stop and think about my answers before I would blurt them out. Where did I want to eat?  Hmm.That’s such a loaded question for  me because that would involve determining what food type I actually liked and was in the mood to eat, if I had washed my hair and it looked decent, if I had on nice clothes or lounge clothes. A simple question became a process- one that to most people comes rather naturally and quickly. I needed patience from those around me while I entered into the new realm of “Who am I?”.

Slowly and quite deliberately, the answers began to come. Learning to be mindful of what my body is telling me and not necessarily my outer mind became the experience. Giving myself permission to not know was so freeing to me. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to have THE answer not did I have to apologize for not knowing it. Allowing myself time to discover was like having  a new lease on life. Today, i invite new questions because it enables me the opportunity to stop and think – something I never did before.

With anything, I don’t always do this perfectly. Sometimes I still jump at an answer or I look to people around me to try to read their faces and assimilate to their needs. The difference is today I catch myself much sooner doing so. That progress is what helps to propel me forward and to continue on this path of new me.

It’s exciting, really, because who I thought I was and what I thought I cared about have changed dramatically. Friends and places are different. Some are the same, but for the most part, my circle of trust has shifted. Because I am learning to trust the woman I am becoming on the inside, I am more apt to discover “unsafe” people and learn to quiet myself. (notice I didn’t say “Shut up.” That is how I talk to my new inner me.) Sometimes I hear “What is wrong” when I am quiet. I bring myself back to the conversation, smile, and say, “Just planning where I am going to find happiness today.” They can take that however they want to. It keeps me safe, focuses my mind into a healthy direction and alleviates the desire to join in and say things I will regret later. I spent enough time in my drinking days saying regretful, hurtful things and feeling ashamed later that I try to minimize those opportunities in my present life.

Reshaping and discovering my inner identity has opened new doors- doors I didn’t even know were available to me. But being mindful, slowing down and breathing through a situation has afforded me some pretty great opportunities. I hope trying this will do the same for you.