Letting Go

I’ve been in my recovery program for under seven years. I don’t pretend to think I know it all. Every time I think I’m gliding smoothly down the river, like I ‘got it’, my Higher Power sends me an insight showing me that it isn’t so at all. These past couple of weeks it’s all been about surrender. Once again I was reminded that the river is still long and I am far from the end.

I don’t adapt to change easily. I would really like stuff to stay the same way it always has been. It’s working, so why fix it? Things are moving along fairly balanced. Life is good. I live my life peacefully and work my program. I’d like it to stay that way.

In reality, I have a very short memory. It hasn’t always been working and smoothly flowing. Perhaps the last month or so, but, no. There have been plenty of challenges in the last year and it’s only recently that I have been able to sit down and think about what I’ve been through. Probably the biggest life change is finding myself single again. I’ve learned that I can and will get through anything and everything in this life. I have a Higher Power and it’s still there helping me through.

So I guess I can adapt and do so in such a fashion that I don’t recall the state of upheaval I was in six months ago. I can thank the program, my sponsor, friends and family. Writing this blog has been a new way to channel the energy and feelings I have dealt with. Opening my home to visitors and widening my circle of friends and acquaintances has changed my focus off of myself and onto the world at large. I was told early in my recovery that working with others would take my mind off of my small world and my challenges. Service will keep you sober! It has.

One of the solutions for me has been surrender. I had to let go of all of the old definitions of myself, just as I did in Steps Six and Seven. I had to be reminded this year that I am not my past, nor am I my defects of character. I can surrender them, let them go. As I recently read, it’s not necessary to analyse and investigate in order to understand the rocks that weigh me down. What’s important is that I drop the bag of rocks so that I can move on.

Probably the most significant aspect of all of this, of living and working the steps of recovery is not putting conditions on the outcome of who I am becoming. If I have really put my life and my will into the care of my Higher Power, then how can I dictate to my Higher Power what the new Tim will be like at the end of the process. I must let go of any preconceived idea or condition and learn to trust. I trust the process of the twelve steps and I trust my Higher Power.

I am grateful.

Epiphany

I had lunch with some friends today. It wasn’t sunny, but the view down across the jungle to the ocean is magnificent. We’re not a particularly ‘close’ group of friends. We get together once a month to discuss our writing. So I was surprised when one member of the group shared an ‘epiphany’ that she had just yesterday.

“I had been so angry with the place I used to work because they unceremoniously pushed me out and forced me into early retirement five years ago. I was so flipping mad. I wanted revenge. I wanted to do the same thing to them. And I nursed that anger for the last five years. I had poured myself into my work and my work was good and often praised.  How could they do that to me!”

“Yesterday,” she continued, “I was sitting on my porch overlooking the valley below and I realized all of the wonderful things that had happened to me in the last five years. I now live in a beautiful tropical country, I have met so many new friends, I still write, but in a different way and I have just published a book.  None of these things would have happened without ‘those people’ letting me go. Two days ago I hated them.  Today I love them and what happened because none of this would have been possible otherwise.”

A powerful revelation for my friend. And it’s a huge change in perspective. We discussed how momentous this revelation is in her life. Perhaps she needed the last five years to get to this moment of forgiveness and understanding, and arrive at the shore of the sea of gratitude. I have no doubt that this will change how she looks at so many other twists and turns in her life that she wasn’t happy about.

I can look at my past and regret it. There are plenty of things that happened in my life that I thought would have turned out otherwise. I made some questionable decisions and rash judgements along the way, but here I am! I survived and I have a serenity I wouldn’t trade. Each step along the way was necessary to get to today. Each element is another brick paving the road of happy destiny.

When I am in the thick of it, when I am mired deep in the crap of everyday life, when faced with impossible decisions and doors close in my face, I can turn and run. And who would blame me. Such an impossible choice and terrible circumstances. However, I have another option. I can stand tall and walk forward. Today I am grateful for all events in my past. Today I know that while I may not understand what is happening right now, it is a small piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I don’t yet know what the final result will look like so how can I judge if what is happening is good or bad? This might be that moment in my life when everything changes.

I am grateful that I can trust in something greater than myself and keep putting one foot forward and moving on. I don’t ‘get’ it all, but I know that I too will someday be able to reflect on this and see how intricately the puzzle is cut and the beauty of the final mosaic.

Thank you Carol. You made my day!

Preparing for the Holidays

The upcoming holidays are often a difficult time for anyone.  Add being in recovery and it becomes more difficult.  If it’s your first time around, it can be overwhelming: parties, holidays, friends and plenty of temptations. And, of course, there’s nothing that can push our buttons more often than our own family. How can I have a  good time if I’m in recovery?

First of all, especially for someone who is new in the program, look for the book Living Sober. It is published by AA Services, but the advice is easily applicable to anyone in recovery from any addiction. The book has several chapters on how to stay clean and sober during the holidays and other events where we may find ourselves tempted.  If not this book, then there are others available that your homegroup can recommend to help you through those difficult first months.  The holidays are especially fraught with times where liquor is flowing in large quantities and when people step outside for a smoke, it may not be just tobacco that is burning.

Be prepared.  Drugs and alcohol permeate our society.  You can’t nor are you expected to hide yourself away forever from the world. If this is your first time going through a holiday season clean and sober, talk to your sponsor or a trusted friend in your program. Ask them how they made it through that first holiday season, ask them for suggestions and recommendations.  My sponsor does a lot of role playing so that his sponsees can get used to the language of sobriety as well as to the possible scenarios that may occur.

Perhaps we only go to part of a gathering and not stay until the end like we were likely to do in the past. Some fiestas we may want to miss all together because we know who will be attending and we know they may be a trigger for us. Bring along a friend you trust who knows your are in recovery. Have an escape plan to fall back upon if it is getting too difficult. It’s okay to admit there are times when we are weak. There is no shame is stepping back from the action. None of us is made of stone; in early sobriety we might not yet know our limits so we need not lead ourselves into temptation.

Like everything else in recovery, these events become easier to handle as time goes on. But everyone still has to maintain their guard. Keep an eye on your glass. Just recently I refused a soda at a party because it smelled a bit “off”. I’m sure it was fine, but I am not willing to take the chance. It was easy just to sent it down on a table and then talk with folks and casually leave it behind as I joined another circle of friends. My recovery is my number one priority. I won’t risk it to please a host. Fortunately, a good host won’t care if a guest doesn’t imbibe. You may even make new friends by becoming the designated driver.

Be careful during this season. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Peer pressure and family pressure may seem like a lot at the time, but it will alway lessen. If you don’t go to the company Christmas party, there’s always one next year when you will have more experience at living sober in party world. January will arrive and things will get back to normal again.

Enjoy the holidays clean and sober.christmas-2890410_960_720