Foul Weather Friend

Some of my favorite sober sayings are those coined by the wonderful people I have met in recovery. One wise friend of mine, for instance, offered the brilliantly simple observation that:

Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us how to behave.

Drunks and druggies are specialists in terrible behavior. When we are deep in our addictions, we fumble and stumble through life, insanely selfish, hurting and endangering other people (and ourselves) with our rage and craziness.

What a tremendous relief it is to enter the rooms of recovery and with the help of AA and the Twelve Steps, learn how to navigate our lives and relationships with intelligence, kindness and humility.

We learn to listen. We learn to cultivate the courage to reach out and help our fellows.

We learn to take care of our own physical and spiritual wellbeing.

We learn the beauty of restraint, progress not perfection, living one day at a time. We experience the true joy of striving for serenity, not the frantic manic happiness of our drinking and drugging days.

We learn to practice acceptance, and reach out to a Higher Power of our own definition for guidance and inspiration.

We learn to let go of self-centered fear.

I have been thinking about the words of my sage acquaintance lately, because in recent days I have started to worry that I am forgetting how to behave. The diabolical pandemic is causing me to lose my recovery compass and my map. And while I have not yet taken a drink, all of the radical life changes that have come with the global health crisis seem to be throwing me off my sobriety game. I am struggling especially with the disappearance of in-person recovery meetings. Indeed the stricture that I must stay away from other humans and somehow figure out a life that does not involve encounters with other people, is depleting me of the emotional and spiritual energy that fuels me. And perhaps because I am a Baby Boomer, not a Millennial, seeing faces on computer screens or tapping texts into my phone does not sustain me emotionally. I need the presence and the touch of other human beings.

In my isolation and loneliness, I am falling into depression, despite powerful psych meds that have previously alleviated my tendency to become blue. My life force and drive are fading. I am losing interest in things that used to give me inspiration and energy. Increasingly, I feel restless, irritable and discontent. I am veering dangerously close to a case of the f-its and a possible relapse.

But wait…there is more. More is always being revealed in recovery, as previously noted in this space. And more means hope.

The epiphany that came to my rescue today was this:

Twelve Step recovery is not a fair-weather way of life.

Even now, with the entire globe in crisis, when I feel personally threatened by a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people my age and is spreading menacingly and mercilessly through my country, the recovery program of AA has wisdom that can shore me up and guide me as always.

And a central piece of that wisdom, which I must put into practice immediately, is that living by sober principles and behaving in sober ways is not just for easy happy days. One of the most famous passages in recovery literature tells us that we must put our precepts into practice “in fair weather or foul…stay sober, keep in emotional balance and live to good purpose under all conditions….”

As I reflect on these hard but life-saving truths, it occurs to me that my behavioral crisis was really an escapist’s search for a way out. I wanted an easy approach to get me off the hook in coping with the terrors and deprivations of the pandemic, a way out of practicing the principles of recovery under challenging circumstances. I was suffering from a terminal case of “stop the world, I want to get off.”

I am sure I am not alone. Millions of people probably wish they could leave the planet for a healthier happier existence somewhere else–or perhaps time-travel to better days.

But as an addict I know where the escapist impulse will lead me–straight into the nightmare of a relapse, which will end my life as surely as any lethal virus. Escape is not an option. Instead I must practice my sober way of living courageously and compassionately, avoiding the traps of resentment and self-pity, and making use of the tools I have to reach out to others and participate in my recovery program.

One of the toughest sober principles is to “live life on life’s terms.” The terms right now are harsh and terrifying. The weather is foul. But I can take heart in remembering that recovery is a source of inspiration and comfort, and a way of life and behavior, for all seasons.

 

Moment of Truth

Like most people who suffer from depression, and many people who struggle with addiction, I have had moments when I wondered if I wanted to keep on living. I have lost loved ones to suicide and from what I know about the days and weeks leading up to those terrible exits, I don’t think I ever came close. But I have thought about it and wondered in a dark mood if arranging my own departure from this world was God’s will for me.

Then, a week ago, I received an epiphany about my own will to live that I hope I will never forget.

And it called to mind a sober saying:

More will be revealed

I suffer from a digestive disorder that occasionally causes fluid to back up into my esophagus when I sleep, and closes off my airways. I wake up in the middle of the night and discover that I cannot breathe, as if I were being strangled, and I know that I will die if I cannot unblock my respiration by coughing as hard as I can.

Usually it takes just a cough or two to clear things up but the other night, my initial efforts to breathe did not work. The fluid blocking my air passages would not move. It took about ten desperate seconds and every ounce of  adrenaline and will to summon the effort required to clear my throat. I had to battle for my life and I fought hard.

And I won.

Not only did I win back the breath of life but I was also rewarded with a timely epiphany about how I would respond when given a real opportunity to die. And my response was an unequivocal resounding NO. My will to live cannot be denied.

The experience was an amazing gift. Now I know that while I may fantasize about the idea of taking my own life, those are the daydreams of my discouraged ego, or reflect some other character defect. I know that in the deepest part of me I want to carry on. I had the chance to die and I fought it with everything I had.

More was revealed. And what I discovered saved my life, and will continue to protect me from my self-destructive impulses if I cherish and always keep in mind that remarkable revelation.

And then, astonishingly, still more was revealed on the very same subject.

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk, when I was overcome with the sensation that my house was doing a somersault. I felt the walls and furnishings spin in a forward roll and I spun with them, falling onto my desk. I tried to stand and walk a few steps but felt as if I were on a ship pitching in a storm. So I walked gingerly over to my bed and lay down and felt the room continue to whirl. After awhile I tried to sit up and was so nauseous I staggered to the bathroom and was violently sick.

My son arrived and drove me to a nearby emergency medical clinic, where I was tested for signs of a heart attack or stroke. My blood was drawn, I had an EKG. As I lay back in the examining chair, the room, the physician and I went on another whirling ride. After an injection of Atavan, the spinning finally stopped and the doctor gave me the good news that my heart and blood pressure, kidney and liver, platelets and electrolytes were all functioning beautifully. It was probably an issue with my inner ear that had provoked my crippling dizzy spell. He ordered an MRI and some anti-vertigo meds and sent me on my way.

Today, when I woke up, on the ninth anniversary of my sobriety, the pitching and rolling sensation was gone, although I was a little unsteady as I walked into the kitchen to fix my morning coffee. My peculiar spell had vanished and with it the terrifying sensation that I might be dying from a stroke,an aneurysm, a heart attack or even some form of COVID-19.

What a marvelous way to start my 10th year in recovery.

And again, I was reminded, as I reflected with relief on the doctor’s positive assessment of my health, how much I want to stick around. And how very much happier and more hopeful life is now that I am sober.

 

 

 

 

Grrrrrumbling

Sometimes I wish I could growl. Not bark. Not bite. Just growl. That low rumbling sound of warning would be a wonderfully useful tool in my communication kit.

My dog Kirby just growled and I could not have been prouder.

The husband of the realtor selling the house I am renting (and trying to buy) just parked his truck in my front yard and moved his wife’s for-sale sign a few feet closer to my front door. It was a passive aggressive move (to attract more buyers) so subtle that perhaps only a high-strung person like myself who is desperately dependent on recovery proverbs to keep her in line emotionally would notice it. But I noticed it. And Kirby noticed it. And he growled.

I watched the realtor’s sly bid for customers from behind a desk piled high with forms that I am compiling to bolster the purchase offer I just made on the house. The realtor responded to my offer with a demand for a mortgage broker’s letter saying I am pre-approved for a loan. In order to be pre-approved, I need two years of tax returns, two months of bank statements and a completed mortgage application detailing assets and liabilities and all sorts of other financial and personal information. I have been rushing to compile these documents from various sources in order to strengthen my offer.

And meanwhile the impatient realtor is goading me by flaunting the fact that she is trolling for more customers. She dispatched her husband to move the for-sale sign to a location where not a single potential buyer could miss it.

I recognize that this is all fair play in the ruthless real estate game. It’s also rude and aggressive and underhanded. And I find it personally offensive in light of my earnest and energetic efforts to strengthen my own offer.

Is there a recovery saying to help me handle this? You betcha. A lot of them. But the most relevant would be:

I must learn to accept life on life’s terms.

Life’s terms can be tough and tactless and meaner than mean, especially in the home buying game. But I know that I have to accept the realtor’s terms and pray and breathe and hold onto my serenity no matter what.

And I know that I must also follow the sober advice to practice restraint.

That’s why I wish I could growl.  Growling shows forbearance. Jaws do not snap, vocal cords don’t formulate a grating bark or high-pitched howl. It is subtle and moderate but nonetheless registers an objection. It says in one judicious rumbling phrase:

I see what you are doing.

I don’t like it.

Yes, Kirby knows what’s up. I envy his vocal chops. But since being thankful is more appropriate to recovery than coveting another critter’s skills, I will try to focus on feeling grateful to have my feisty pooch as an ally in these trying  times.

 

 

 

 

 

Reprieve

In sobriety we are encouraged to cultivate  “an attitude of gratitude.”

Today I feel very grateful for my recovery.

Not because I am fully and perfectly recovered from my addiction and character defects. There is no such thing as being completely recovered. You never pass the sobriety course. There are no gold stars or prizes.

What recovery does give us is a “daily reprieve based on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

Recovery, as a sober friend of mine likes to say, “teaches us how to behave.” It is a guide, a guru in a lifelong program that if followed will keep us from relapsing into addictive behaviors and help us manage and rise above our flaws.

Recovery is also a refuge and a reference–a place our hearts and souls can go for help and comfort during times of stress and sorrow.

Like right now.

In these dystopian days, when a global plague, economic crisis, and widespread fear and frustration, are causing millions of people to feel angry, and provoking deranged individuals to increase their heinous crimes against people of color and other vulnerable populations, I find myself wrestling with feelings of rage about all the tragedy and injustice in the world. I want to vent my righteous ire and every day I am tempted to start fights with people who aren’t wearing masks, for instance, or who stand too close to me in the grocery store.

Then I turn on the news and hear more about police murdering African Americans, or shoving protesters onto the ground, or threatening to run them over. And I become more outraged.

Or sometimes, like yesterday, the violence erupts closer to home.

Last night I received another email from my building in Washington DC about the latest misbehavior during the covid lockdown. Only this time it was much worse than residents breaking the elevator buttons by pushing them with their feet. The email, and a phone call from a neighbor, informed me that a tenant on the 6th floor was holding a woman hostage with a knife. Her screams had led someone to call the police, who were staking out the apartment and attempting to negotiate with the violent man. The siege lasted almost 24 hours. Someone in the hostage taker’s apartment set off the sprinkler, flooding a bunch of apartments below the scene of the crime. Eventually the man with the knife was taken into custody.

Hearing this, I felt a renewed sense of outrage about criminal behavior exploding during the covid crisis. And a renewed desire to vent that indignation by becoming verbally violent myself.

Which is why I am feeling so grateful now.

Instead of finding someone or something to scream at, I am praying for a reprieve from my hostile inclinations. And seeking shelter from my character defects in the wisdom of recovery, which encourages me to avoid “righteous ire,” restrain my pen and tongue and practice kindness, fairness and patience.

Holding onto serenity and a gentle attitude toward my fellows is not going to be easy. I am no sweeter than the next person, although I am pretty sure that I am not criminally insane. I do know that I am thankful to have the wisdom of recovery counseling me to stay out of the fray no matter what happens in my country, in the world, or on the 6th floor of my apartment building in Washington, DC.

Gratitude and guidance will keep me sober one day at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

Magical

It says in our sober literature that recovery is “a way of life which requires rigorous honesty.”

Facing life with frankness is not easy–and it is especially challenging for those escape artists known as addicts. We drinking and drugging folk love denial and its best friend, magical thinking. We welcome any substance, activity or state of mind that can help us run from our emotional pain.

In recovery, we learn that the only truly effective way to exorcise our sorrows is to face them honestly and work through them using the steps we are taught in our sober program.

Still I find myself lapsing into magical thinking sometimes when I can’t bear to accept certain truths in my life. And I have to admit that in recent weeks I have been comforting myself with some make-believe notions rather than face reality.

To be specific, I have been in denial about the fact that someone in my circle of acquaintances has been treating me in a rejecting fashion.

I like to be liked and have tried my best to win the friendship of this individual–but to no avail. And having failed to make friends, I have comforted myself with all sorts of rationalizations for why this person has singled me out for shunning.

Admittedly it can be hard to tell if you are being rejected or adored in these times when social mores include wearing masks and standing six feet apart. For a while I rationalized that it was covid that had estranged me from my acquaintance. In my magical thoughts I fantasized that any minute the phone might ring or the person might send a warm text or email or even an invitation to get together

It didn’t happen.

Instead, a couple of days ago, I received fresh evidence of shunning. And this time, I could not summon magical thinking to shore up my ego or comfort my hurt feelings. I had to accept that this person didn’t want my friendship.

It was sad to let go of my magical hopes, although I know that sobriety requires me to face up to painful truths and get over them.

But while magical thinking is not a part of recovery, magic definitely is. We may emphasize honesty in our recovery proverbs but we also like to say the following:

Don’t quit before the miracle.

This morning I woke up to the beginning of what would prove to be a miraculous day: the sweet perfume and heavenly sight of white lilac blooms outside my window.  This led me down into my garden where I spent the afternoon planting lavender and petunias in rich soil that I scooped out of an oversized bag with my bare hands.

Afterwards, I went inside for a cold drink and a rest. The phone rang. No, it was not the shunning acquaintance begging for forgiveness and a coffee date. It was a dear old friend whom I see and talk to rarely. We had a wonderful wide-ranging conversation that more than erased the sting of rejection.

Sincere affection.

Genuine beauty.

Real magic.

Honest recovery.

 

 

 

 

Dreams and Schemes

If I could invent an app that I would love to have and use, it would be one that could take any life dilemma and give it a Serenity Prayer solution. My Serenity Prayer app would make suggestions for things I should try to change and things I should accept. It would offer me action plans and choices, boost my courage when I had to do something challenging and calm me down when I needed the tranquility to embrace a difficult truth.

I could really use that app right now. But in lieu of that, I am earnestly reciting the Serenity Prayer–the Queen of all sober wisdom–while endeavoring to do what I have to do and accept what I must accept in my present situation.

I have shared the words to this prayer previously. But it never hurts to repeat it:

God grant me the serenity/to accept the things I cannot change/the courage to change the things I can/and the wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t know why it is that the more out of my control my circumstances become, the more I try to tighten my grip on things, and the more I fail in both acting and accepting.

Right now, for instance, I am responding to elements of uncertainty in my life by fantasizing about some pretty negative behavior.

First, the back story.

I am about to embark on a challenging personal journey involving selling one home, buying another and reconfiguring my life around these transactions. Real estate ventures are quite daunting for an addictive personality like mine, which craves control, instant gratification and quick resolution of any difficulties. Home buying and selling involves protracted negotiation, anxious waiting and usually a few cliff hangers before all is signed and the moving van can be loaded. Although patience is taught in recovery, it does not come easily. So in between bursts of practical activity, I am scheming about some wicked short cuts.

One difficulty that I face is that I am renting and occupying the house that I wish to buy, which means that I am quite attached to it and feel irrationally possessive, even though I am fully aware that I have many steps to take before the house can be truly mine. In the meantime, I am feeling more than a little anxious about the fact that a realtor is eagerly showing my domicile to potential buyers several times a week. Recently this sense of alarm deepened when I learned that droves of folks from nearby cities are flocking to my part of New England in the hope of buying homes where they can hide from Covid-19.

So in between sane and practical home-buying actions, I am scheming about underhanded ways to discourage the competitors who will be descending in the coming days. For instance, I considered leaving books on haunted houses and exorcism on the kitchen table. Or posting a large memo on the fridge to CALL ABOUT FLOOD INSURANCE AND SUSPECTED BURGLARY. And briefly considered hiding the table fan deep in the closet on warm days while leaving the garbage can full and prominently displayed.

While these and other negative fantasies assuage my need to feel in control, I know they are examples of alcoholic “stinking thinking.” In truth I have no plans to actually try out any malevolent tactics.

Instead, I will follow the Serenity Prayer advice to take the actions I can to make this house mine, and accept that until I have a signed contract to buy it, a bunch of folks will traipse past my belongings every few days and one or two of them might want to compete with me for ownership.

For extra recovery points, I will probably clean and de-clutter the house, practicing the sober “code of kindness” before each scheduled visit.

I am still weighing the possibility of removing the hanging flower baskets from the porch to make the home I very much want to own a little less attractive to others. After all, while kindness is my code, I need to remember one more AA adage, borrowed from Shakespeare:

“To thine own self be true.”

 

 

 

 

 

Wait For It

Recent visitors to this blog may recall one or two posts in which I complained about the extremes of bad behavior occurring in my DC apartment building during the covid crisis.

Although I have temporarily relocated to Vermont, I am still officially a building resident and receive regular emails from the management. And the one I received today elicited not my usual feelings of resentment but a great deal of sympathy.

And it reminded me of one of my favorite sober sayings:

More will be revealed.

One of the pillars of sober behavior is kindness toward others. And one thing that helps us avoid snap judgements, instant resentments or other antisocial behavior, is to pause and wait for more information before dissing or dismissing our fellow humans.

Experience has taught me that often my hasty critiques and hostile responses to people and circumstances are amended when subsequent occurrences change my mind. When more is revealed, I usually revise my opinions and take a kinder gentler and more hopeful view of a person or situation.

And I always feel very grateful for the insights that allow me to adopt a softer more compassionate outlook. Life is so much better when experienced with a serene and not a bitter perspective.

This is especially true during the current pandemic, with its severe restrictions on our mobility and freedom, which seems custom-made to trigger those dangerous dry-drunk feelings of restlessness, irritability and discontent.

In these trying and terrible times, I am thankful for anything that turns my frown (or someone else’s) upside down.

For instance, today’s memo from my building, which reported that covid-crazed residents, not wanting to touch the elevator buttons with their hands, were using their shoes or bare feet to kick the buttons and had broken a number of them. The result was extra work and extra headaches for the already stressed and diminished building staff (some of whom had contracted the virus and were at home recuperating).

As I read this, I found my usual hostility toward the building management dissolving and a wave of empathy welling up in its place. For a moment I put myself in the manager’s situation, trying to cope with an ailing staff–and several hundred privileged and spoiled tenants, grumpy about covid confinement and not very well behaved.

I made a note to practice kindness in my future dealings with the building. And thanked my Higher Power for always rewarding my patience with healing revelations.

 

 

 

Nosey

Yesterday was a great day to put into practice two timeless sober sayings:

I must live and let live.

I must mind my own side of the street.

The living was pretty grand on my side of the street yesterday afternoon in the lovely Vermont village where I now reside. It was a bright and clear day, with temperatures in the sixties. Cardinals were whistling and warbling their cheery songs, forsythia was in full golden bloom and the creek at the edge of my backyard was rolling along prettily. I was seated in a comfy Adirondack chair in the garden I am creating behind the house. The ironwork fences and lattice that I erected to make an enclosed space for my dog and me were looking very pretty and soon there would be planters filled with fragrant lavender and colorful climbing mandevillea.

Was I contentedly minding my own idyllic backyard, grateful to be living such a lovely life? Not at all. I was focusing my attention on what was taking place in another yard across the creek. My eyes were trained on my neighbor, a stocky young man with a sunburned face, who was building a raised-bed garden on top of his neatly trimmed lawn.

Having nailed together four boards defining a modest space that I estimated to be about six by eight feet, my homie proceeded to fill his homemade planter with bags of rich black nursery soil. Next he picked up a gas-powered rototiller machine and used it to fluff up the dirt, then employed an equally noisy leaf-blower to smooth the bed.  After these endeavors, my neighbor went into his house and emerged with what appeared to be a can of beer, popped the top and sat down on his garden wall to relax.

Observing this sequence of events, I became increasingly distraught. Why on earth would anyone use a rototiller on a tiny raised bed filled with flawless garden-center soil, and then instead of smoothing the bed with his hands or a rake employ a noisy leaf blower to flatten the dirt? And what about the beer? I worried that this was the first of many he would drink in succession, and that his imbibing would be followed perhaps by the domestic abuse that has been on the rise during the current pandemic. My fantasies grew increasingly negative. I concluded that things were really falling apart on the other side of the happily babbling brook. Questionable gardening practices, possible drinking, the risk of domestic violence. It was all too awful to contemplate.

And none of it was my business. Not in the least.

In my eagerness to alleviate my boredom by spinning fantasies, I had forgotten to mind my side of the street (or creek) and also to live and let live.

I was turning into that repugnant cliche of rural village life known as the busybody.

My bad behavior was understandable, at least in part. It is tempting in these days of confinement and societal shut-down to let one’s restless, judging mind stray to other people’s lives and backyards, if only to stay entertained.

But being nosey and critical is not wise for anyone trying to hold onto a sober state of body and soul.

If we poke our noses too far into other people’s business, we usually find ourselves wanting to change and control other people’s behavior, and feeling frustrated and resentful that we cannot do so. I certainly had to suppress the urge to shout across the creek to my neighbor and inquire why he was using noisy machinery to till the soil of a tiny plot. And at a certain point that resentment will lead us to relapse–either to drinking or drugging, or to dry-drunk behavior that will make life very difficult for us and our loved ones

So today I am trying a different strategy. I am endeavoring to focus on my own garden. Today I am preparing to construct my planters and set them beside the lattice I erected recently. I plan to fill each container with bags of soil. Then I will plant the lavender and mandevillea I purchased a few days ago, smooth the dirt with my fingers and sit down in my Adirondack chair, seltzer in hand, to enjoy my little paradise.

Will my neighbor be watching me and judging my gardening as I judged his? Maybe. If he does, I will consider it a draw. And try not to get into a staring contest with him across the brook. Instead, I plan to focus my eyes, ears and nose on the sight and scent of my own pretty flowers.  On my very own very lovely side of the creek.

 

The Good Old Daze

One of my favorite recovery sayings is this one:

More will be revealed.

Much has been revealed to me, and I am sure to many others, during this scary and surreal time of the coronavirus.

Some of it has been beautiful and inspiring. Some of it tragic. But this is an eminently teachable moment.

One of the hardest lessons I have had to accept in this global fugue state that we are all experiencing is that I am now officially a senior person. As a woman of 63, I am  “a vulnerable adult,” whose chances of faring well if infected with the virus are not very good. The gravity and palpable truth of the safety warnings, along with the inescapable horror of the thousands of people my age and younger who have lost their lives to this plague, have forced me to face and accept my age with a degree of seriousness that I would have avoided indefinitely were it not for the pandemic.

But there is another less grim more bittersweet revelation about age that has come with the virus. It is a truism that one sure sign of being over-the-hill is a conviction that things were better in the past than they are now. There comes a point in late middle age when you start to notice that the world you knew and loved is disappearing–and realize that you miss the Good Old Days terribly.  And suddenly, soundlessly, you have crossed into Senior Citizen land.

Before the coronavirus struck, I rarely talked about how things were in My Day. My vanity and ego conspired to  reassure me that my day would last as long as I did. Of course I would keep pace with the times. I was youthful. I was vibrant. As I crossed the 60-year-old threshold I was feeling pretty good about having transitioned into a world dominated by electronics and influencers. I was on Facebook. I was a blogger. I was keeping up.

Still it was hard to suppress my chronic nostalgia and my fear of losing pastimes and social customs that had been dear to me for decades. As a lifetime lover of urban strolling and window shopping, I tried to deny that real-world retail, and the vibrancy of city life as I had known it, were slowly becoming a memory.  Moreover, I have to admit I was feeling the effects of social distancing long before we were all told to wear masks, hide in our homes and stay six feet apart. Facebook, Instagram and perusing pictures of possible dates on Match never did much to assuage my loneliness or longing for daily human contact.

Now, ensconced in the bizarre dystopia of  the pandemic, I am watching life as I have known it all my days become life as I knew it and will possibly never know it again. And in between bouts of compulsive news watching, I find my mind drifting back to what have irrefutably, and perhaps irrevocably, become the Good Old Days.

The thrill of holding hands. The loveliness of lingering around a dinner table with friends. The sweet serendipity of finding a seat on a crowded train or space for two to chat on a long park bench shared with strangers. Or weaving in and out of a crowd on a bustling street. The delightful pageantry and fellowship of humans en masse, at a Broadway play or baseball game, country fair or urban flea market–and the freedom to revel in it without thinking and without fear.

Gone for now. Gone for the foreseeable future.

All of the easy connection with others that I have taken for granted over a lifetime have been banished to the Good Old Days seemingly in an instant in this chilling new era in which we view all fellow humans as carriers of lethal germs.

Could there possibly be a piece of sober wisdom to help us cope with this radical and traumatic change of lenses through which we view our world and each other?

Indeed there are several.

For one thing, I need to preserve my “attitude of gratitude” and be thankful for the life I have lived so far, with all of the pleasures and marvels I took for granted and which now seem more precious than ever. I must not “regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”

Finally, I must remember the sober practice of acceptance. I need to accept that change is the price we pay for the blessings of a long life. And not let ego and vanity conspire to rob me of my sweet nostalgia in the interest of appearing younger.

Nor be afraid to reminisce shamelessly about the Good Old Days–even on social media. Like, for instance, this blog. Right here. Right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifted

Let go and let God.

I love this proverb. It is cleverly worded and profound. And I love it when I feel these words coming true in my life. It feels wonderful to hand something over to the God of my understanding and even better when that Higher Power solves or removes something troubling from my life. I feel so light and serene when this happens, and my faith feels so marvelously affirmed.

The problem is that I am not always willing to hand things over, no matter how horrible or burdensome my troubles may be. Like all alcoholics, I am a bit of a control freak, and sometimes I  have difficulty relinquishing command.

“Let me handle this,” I say to my Higher Power. “You are too chill and nice and spiritual. You won’t be good at this. Let me do the talking, the walking, the pushing and the striving. You stay out of it. Go sit on your meditation cushion, HP, while I figure things out.”

So it was during the terrifying early weeks of the Coronavirus crisis. Overcome with an alcoholic’s trademark self-centered fear, indeed happy to see that millions of people the world over were behaving in an understandably selfish and fearful fashion, I elbowed my Higher Power out of the way and tried to manage and control everything. I tore down to the Target to help myself to a hoarder’s share of paper products, then raced cursing through the traffic to the veterinary hospital to clean out its supply of diet food for my canine BFF. I wrote half a dozen angry emails, which fortunately I did not send, complaining to my building manager about the restrictions he was imposing on residents. And I glared and glowered my way through my daily rounds, huffily judging anyone who did not wear masks or observe six feet of distancing.

I was a traveling exhibition of character defects. It was a miracle that I did not add wine to my cart after snagging the last two bottles of organic lavender hand sanitizer at the local Whole Foods and proceeding triumphantly to the checkout.

My celebratory mood was short-lived.

After three weeks of anxious pushing and striving, culminating in a crazy weekend of compulsive shopping, frantic cleaning and feverish packing for an extended trip to Vermont, my control-freak bubble burst. I woke up the morning after I arrived in New England more restless irritable and discontent than I have been in years.

I was physically and spiritually exhausted from my dry-drunk bender. I felt hollow, lonely and miserable–until my neglected Higher Power tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that in my manic coping spree I had forgotten the most fundamental aspect of my wellbeing: I had left my recovery program in the dust.

Luckily I did not take a drink. But I am sure it would have followed, had I not listened to my HP and remembered a sober saying that has gotten me out of more than one near-relapse in almost nine years of recovery:

Do the next right thing.

I decided that the next right thing was to call in to a 10 pm AA meeting. It was a big effort for my extremely grumpy and stressed out self to pick up my cell phone, look up the number and call.

But I did.

The topic of discussion, oddly enough, was the role of our Higher Power in sobriety. And it worked. Not like a twinkling tap from Tinkerbelle’s wand. But the next morning when I woke up I felt that the burden of my fear and craziness had been lifted somewhat. And each successive day, thanks to regular phone meeting attendance, and praying to my Higher Power, has been a little brighter.

Which brings me to yet another piece of sober wisdom:

The God of my understanding will always do for me what I cannot do for myself.

Amen.