Why-ning

Sometimes the sayings you learn in recovery aren’t the ones hung on the walls of the meeting rooms or taken from the pages of sober literature. They are wonderful catch phrases that you hear when people share at meetings.

The other day, for instance, a woman offered the following:

“Why” is not a sober question.

Since overhearing those words, I have been pondering them–and marveling at their wisdom.  While asking “why” is obviously invaluable in many areas of life–from scientific research to daily problem solving–it is a query with which we should exercise caution when endeavoring to maintain a sober outlook.

“Why” is certainly compatible with a sober state of mind in circumstances where we know that finding an answer is possible and finding an answer will do some good (for instance, “Why won’t my car start?”, “Why does my head ache?”)  Asking “why” is disruptive to our sobriety, however, in situations where we are powerless to effect change and therefore need to practice acceptance in lieu of questioning what is going on.

Most addicts are familiar with that highly triggering question laden with self-pity and drama–“WHY ME?”–and all the other useless hand-wringing “whys” with which we waste energy wondering about things we cannot change, such as the past, other people and the weather.

Asking “why” in situations where an answer won’t help us feel better or solve a problem only serves to provoke negative feelings that can leave us vulnerable to a relapse–frustration, resentment, sadness, shame. The good news is that most if not all of these difficult emotions can be preempted if instead of asking “why” we simply accept the things we cannot change, as outlined in that brilliant microcosm of sobriety known as The Serenity Prayer:

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.

Giving up the “why” habit can be challenging. Despite more than eight years of endeavoring to practice sober acceptance, I still find myself tempted to look heavenward, sigh with exasperation and ask my Higher Power to tell me “why” something happened that I simply have to accept. In recent days, for instance, I have been questioning rather than accepting various troubling situations in my life, and making myself miserable in the process.

As the nostalgic parade of fall and winter holidays approaches, for instance, I have begun tormenting myself with questions of why I messed up the two Big Love Affairs of my life. Even if I could figure out definitive reasons why these Grand Amours fell apart and devise strategies that might have helped me get along better with these men, it would do me no good. One of my true loves passed away earlier this year, and the other is happily remarried. My hair-tearing, breast-beating “whys” about old loves do nothing but torture me and if I keep flogging myself I might just reach for a glass (or three) of hard cider whilst awaiting trick or treaters on Halloween.

Not all of my whys are emotionally wrenching. Some are preposterously trivial. Nonetheless they drive me to an agitated and resentful state.

For instance, the other night during a bout of insomnia, I turned on my favorite shopping channel, whose happy hosts and cozy live broadcasts from a plush suburban set have a soothing effect on my synapses. On this particular evening, however, I noticed that the broadcast was different from the live jewelry show listed on my program guide. Instead the network was offering a pre-recorded program on stretchy pull-on jeans known as “jeggings”. Worse, when the hour was up, the jeggings show was broadcast again. And yet again an hour later.  “Why is this happening?” I asked myself to no avail. “My program guide shows a lovely variety of retail offerings and instead I am forced to experience this dreary parade of stick legs and thunder thighs encased like sausages in stretchy fabric.”

Not satisfied with pondering the programming mystery, I called the shopping channel’s 800 number. A weary young woman attempting to be friendly said, “Hi, I’m Brittany. What is the number of the item you wish to purchase?”

“I don’t want to purchase an item. I want to know why you keep broadcasting the same program on jeggings hour after hour. The TV guide said it would be all sorts of things like jewelry and shoes and cute tops.”

“I am sorry. I can’t tell you why.”

“Why not?”

“I have not been given the information. There must be some reason but I don’t know it. I would connect you to Customer Service but they are closed now.”

Despairing, I asked, “Why is Customer Service closed. Shouldn’t they be open 24/7 for the nation’s number-one shopping channel?”

“I don’t know why, Ma’am. You can try them later.”

Reluctantly I hung up, as a tidal wave of “whys” rushed into my frustrated and panicky brain. Why the programming snafu? Why didn’t Brittany know why? Why was there no Customer Service in the middle of the night?

And then I remembered:

“Why is not a sober question.”

Finally, mercifully, came the aha moment. This, like the rueful reflections about my exes, was a situation where “why” was neither useful nor pertinent. “Why” and its answer would offer no relief because the problem was out of my hands.

Instead, acceptance was in order.

Acceptance and problem solving. I would have to figure out another way to cure my insomnia. I would have to find another outlet for my romantic impulses.

Maybe, I reasoned, I should consider asking “how” instead of “why.”  If I asked “how”, that would lead me to the specifics of “what” and “where.” And those questions would lead me to actually do something about my various predicaments.

And finally, if I followed those magical adverbial stepping stones they would bring me to yet another sober proverb–and, at last, a profound answer to almost any dilemma:

“We must live in the solution.”

 

 

 

 

 

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I have posted more than once about the invaluable sober wisdom advocating “restraint of pen and tongue.”

There is no doubt that when one is trying to manage feelings and cultivate inner serenity without the help of chemical crutches it is better to not go to battle with one’s fellow humans.

Moreover, I don’t think I am alone in observing that we live in edgy times. A lot of folks appear to be simmering just under the surface–and boiling over has become commonplace.

This irritable and even pugnacious national mood is all the more reason for me to mind my manners when interacting with others–a fact that was underscored for me on a recent afternoon as I drove home from a recovery meeting.

I was also reminded that restraint applies to more than spoken and written words. One must also curb one’s actions, especially the use of angry or vulgar gestures.

I am sorry to say that on the afternoon in question, I did not rein myself in, despite emerging from the meeting in what I thought was a peaceable state of mind. It seems that I, too, am more volatile than I used to be.

Not surprisingly, my kerfuffle erupted in rush-hour traffic.

I don’t know what it is about motoring that brings out the worst in people or at a minimum encourages us to unleash emotions that we repress elsewhere. But clearly those catalysts were at work when I made a slight miscalculation and momentarily blocked an elderly gentleman’s egress from the grocery store parking lot.

Glancing to my right at the white-haired, red-faced figure behind the wheel of a black SUV, I noted that he was giving me the stink eye while gesticulating his rage. He raised one hand heavenward, palm up, to communicate an exasperated WTF. Then he shook his fist for emphasis.  Rather than restrain my indignation, I mimicked his gestures with exaggerated gestures of my own. Grumpy gramps escalated with a bird flip that he moved in an obscenely suggestive fashion. I flipped, too. Then, mercifully, before it went to the next level (would he exit his car and actually strike a woman of a certain age?) the light changed. I moved forward and he made his turn and roared off in the opposite direction.

I felt ashamed and shaken and reminded to the depths of my soul why it is never worth it to get into anything with anyone–especially as a sober person. Now I would have to endure the discomfort of my negative feelings until they wore off. There would be no chemical palliatives for this remorseful and wounded road warrior.

I will admit to purchasing and eating, in the wake of the unpleasantness, a comforting if slightly disgusting bag of pumpkin-spice-latte-flavored popcorn. It seems I had also jettisoned restraint of sense and taste (and sense of taste) and I paid by feeling disgruntled and dyspeptic for the duration of the evening.

Lessons learned.

Chchchchchange

There is no saying more well known in recovery than “keep coming back.” It was the first  thing someone said to me at my first AA meeting, and it goes to the heart of what it takes to stay sober. “Don’t give up” is another way to put it, and of course that goes for any endeavor, but it resonates profoundly with alcoholics and addicts of all kinds.  I don’t mean giving up in the sense of letting go or spiritual surrender. Not giving up in recovery means summoning the strength to take the positive action (for instance, returning to meetings) again and again–and doing it even while the substance or obsessive behavior is calling out to me to abandon my sober journey.

Not only does repetitive return to sober actions, such as attending meetings or practicing the Twelve Steps, sustain and deepen recovery. It also encourages us to see that even though one day or one meeting or one life situation may not go well, if we keep at it things will change and our faith that recovery works will be strengthened.

I was reminded of the wisdom in coming back recently when, as sometimes happens, I attended a meeting and found that my encounters with one or two people there were awkward bordering on unpleasant. Maybe I was being a little too sensitive, maybe others were a bit brusque. Whatever the reason, I walked away feeling unloved and more than a little resentful.

In spite of, indeed because of, my ruffled feathers, I vowed to return the next day and see if I would fare better. And so I came back 24 hours later, resolving to be less sensitive, and found a different mix of people and, due in part to my own efforts to stay sunny, a different mood. I had a pleasant time socially as well as an inspirational recovery experience at the meeting.

As I left, feeling loved this time, I thought of another useful maxim–not from the rooms of AA but from the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who said that “you can’t step into the same river twice.”

The philosopher’s famous aphorism, rooted in his belief in constant flux, might be worth adding to the storehouse of recovery wisdom (which already includes Shakespeare’s “to thine own self be true” and other classic proverbs). Having faith in the possibility, indeed inevitability, of change  is essential to staying sober. It gives us the hope to endure the fluctuations in our daily experiences, encounters with others and in our own thoughts and feelings.

In my case, I found it useful to extrapolate that you really don’t ever step into the same meeting twice, even if it is on the same day of the week, at the same venue and at the same time.  The group of people is never exactly the same, nor is the mood inside my own head and heart.

I feel happy to know that ancient wisdom endorses the concept of not giving up and encourages me to believe in the possibility of change.

I am definitely going to keep coming back–and go with the flow.

 

 

Fermented Friends

I have alluded more than once in this space to the importance of practicing acceptance in recovery–and to the many proverbs and prayers exhorting sober folk to do so. I have also touched upon the poignant truth that acceptance can be painful.

One of the toughest things I have had to face in recovery, and even before I became sober, is the difficulty, and often the impossibility, of maintaining a loving connection with a practicing addict, or while caught up in addiction myself.

Why are love and addiction mutually exclusive?

Here’s a thought.

One of the cruelest delusions that comes with any obsession is that the substance or behavior with which we are obsessed is our best friend, obviating the necessity for any other love or companionship.  We believe tragically that alcohol, drugs, shopping or gambling have erased our need to be close to other humans. Since many addicts come from a place of shyness, insecurity, trauma or other psychological states that make approaching others frightening and effortful, the feeling that we no longer need friends offers at first a tremendous sense of relief and empowerment. Over time, however, like all illusions imparted by addiction, this feeling that we can do without fellowship dissolves into a sorrowful epiphany that we are desperately lonely and have alienated ourselves from our loved ones.

Before I experienced addiction to alcohol, in the days when my principle obsession was with men and love and, in particular, neurotic or addicted men, I became enchanted with a fellow whose alcoholism had surfaced at age 12 and who had found recovery at 48, two years before I met him. Our sober affair was sweet and kind, bright and passionate–but all too brief. Four years after we started, we came apart, as my clinging dependency and his alcoholic need to fight or flee pushed and pulled each other to the point where he relapsed and we broke up.

At first I did not understand what had happened. I had no knowledge of alcoholism or recovery at that time, and remarkably little self-awareness for a woman who had been in psychotherapy for several decades. It took me awhile to see that my beloved partner had returned to drinking, and that reconnecting was no longer a possibility. I did not know that partnership with an addict was nigh impossible–and two obsessed people not in recovery were doubly doomed to fail at a relationship.

What I did notice was that a man who for years had cared so passionately about preserving our connection was suddenly incomprehensibly callous. He turned off his phone and ignored me for days on end, and was cold, even cruel, when we did speak. What I did not grasp, until much later when I myself succumbed to alcoholism, was that my true love suffered from the illusion that he had no need for human affection: he had his wingman, BFF and lover in a bottle beside his bed.

My own epiphany came a few years later, when he and I were completely estranged and I had sought relief from my sorrow by focusing my addictive tendencies on alcohol and television shopping. My favorite activity was to combine both pleasures by parking myself in front of the QVC shopping network with a cell phone, a credit card and a bottle of fragrant French wine. In spite of these euphoric distractions, I still felt a longing to connect with a special man and actively pursued that goal through internet matchmaking.

One day, buoyed by a particularly nice Chardonnay, which had whisked away my inhibitions and boosted my confidence, I invited a truly special man to visit my home. He was sweet and gracious, handsome and smart, a musician and teacher, and a fellow devoted to several altruistic causes. My dog loved him. We had a charming and very romantic interlude on an unseasonably warm January evening. Several hours into the encounter, he made it clear that he was quite taken with me, and even inquired about spending the entire weekend together.

Alas, as I would regret for weeks and months afterwards, I sent this proverbial Man of My Dreams away, opting instead to rejoin my best friends–wine and QVC–on the TV room couch. I gave my perfect prince a perfunctory kiss and retired to the den to purchase 400-thread-count sheets and polish off the last bottle of Chardonnay.

The next day I awoke at noon and, having experienced something of a blackout about the previous evening, wondered why my suitor had not yet called to thank me for the marvelous tryst and arrange another date.  I fired off a petulant email–to which he replied that he had loved our interlude but I had kicked him out, leaving him unsure as to what to do next.

From there, things tanked rapidly. Having drunkenly and foolishly pushed away a man with whom I wanted to form a relationship, I felt in my confusion a peculiar sense of abandonment. I did not recognize my part in his departure and was clueless as to how to restore our connection. He too was confused and put-off and said what while he had loved the evening he did not wish to continue the association.

This is what happens when we embrace the delusion that alcohol, drugs and other obsessions are our best friends. We chase true love away.

Thinking back on all the affection I have squandered and how others have trampled on my feelings due to the destructive force of addiction, I feel tremendous sorrow and regret. But I am grateful for one thing. Today, thanks to admittedly painful experiences, I am aware that when and if a loved one relapses, I need to let go of any expectations that the friendship can continue in a healthy fashion. This happens quite often in recovery circles and I must accept it.

Not too long ago, in fact, a sober acquaintance experienced some stress in her life and went back to drinking. She says she doesn’t drink much, maybe a few glasses of wine a night, certainly not enough to become sloppy or abusive. But her return to imbibing has been sufficient for her to drop out of my life. I don’t hear from her any more and I am guessing it is because she has gone back to favoring the kinds of friends that you pay for and take home in brown bags from the liquor store.

I am sad for the loss, but grateful that experience has taught me the lessons I needed to learn in order to accept my friend’s defection with a little less pain and little more perspective. I am hopeful that if and when she returns to sobriety our friendship will flower again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Difficult Truth

You don’t have to be in recovery to see the wisdom in some, perhaps many, of our sober sayings. Here is a powerful one:

“Our secrets keep us sick.”

The related advice to be “rigorously honest” with ourselves and others is also an admonition that has broad appeal.

Here’s what I have found about rigorous honesty. The longer I am sober, the harder it is to distort or suppress my feelings or perceptions. As much as I would on occasion prefer to varnish or eschew the truth, I find that lying is less and less of an option. My sober thoughts are too clear and my emotions too strong to be denied.

Sometimes I feel like the Jim Carrey character in the movie “Liar Liar”–a chronically mendacious lawyer who suddenly finds himself unable to tell even the smallest fib, and realizes that his life and career have been built on a foundation of duplicity. His world collapses–and he must start over–when he can no longer dissemble.

While I cannot claim that my life is tied to the constant telling of untruths, I have noticed that without the distortion of chronic inebriation, my feelings and thoughts become clearer with each day, and my ability to deceive diminishes. This increasing ineptitude with pretense may seem like a virtue but it often creates trouble for me when I am trying to follow the additional sober advice to be kind and tolerant to one and all.

For instance, this evening I ran into someone who used to be a friendly acquaintance but who has through a series of unfortunate actions irked me to the point where no matter how principled my intentions I cannot open my mouth to say anything nice nor force a smile when I see her. Instead, my eyes glower when they meet hers, my face hardens, words refuse to form in my throat, and my legs hasten away.

Expressing such enmity makes me feel terribly guilty. I want to follow the recovery “code of kindness” and practice not only “restraint of pen and tongue” but also restraint of  hostility and hurt.

How to resolve my apparently irreconcilable conflict between forthrightness and friendliness in cases where my feelings toward a fellow human are undeniably negative?

I guess I could begin by deciding which of these conflicting values trumps the other. And I would have to say basic politeness and tolerance take precedence over expressions of ire and offense. And I do think there is a way to finesse it.

One word helps me get there, and that word is “enough.”

The idea is to be kind enough, tolerant enough, polite enough to sidestep hostility and avoid perpetuating bad blood between myself and the other person. And each time I see the object of my resentment, to try to do a little better.

On the other hand, I must find a way to express, as harmlessly as possible, whatever the problem or issue is, and resolve it. That’s obeying yet another sober rule, which advises me to “live in the solution.”

Working my way through the dilemmas posed by becoming simultaneously a more truthful person and a kinder one, will take time and thought, a lot of good will and a lot of practice. And a lot of prayers for guidance from my Higher Power.

The honest way of life is going to be rigorous indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grrrrr

Some circumstances in daily life require a lot of strength and positive energy if you want to get through them without behaving badly or relapsing. In such situations, I need a whole lot of sober proverbs to guide me and shore me up.

Tonight, for instance, I am facing an emotionally challenging circumstance with my darling little Lhasa Apso dog, Kirby.

It could be a script from Seinfeld.

I have been contemplating bringing Kirby back to our neighborhood veterinary hospital, not for a traditional follow-up appointment, but to get the doctor who treated him to fix a health issue she herself may have caused when I brought my adorable fur baby in for a medical emergency three weeks ago.

I feel as if I am talking about taking a car back to the garage to complain about a repair but this is about a dog and a veterinary clinic.

In treating Kirby’s previous issue (a digestive illness that left him listless and dehydrated) the animal hospital vet, or perhaps her assistant, shaved an area of his body. Now part of that bald patch is irritated and it itches and hurts and is driving Kirby crazy.

While I don’t have scientific proof that Kirby’s infection is the direct result of the shaving, I do know that he has showed signs of skin irritation since shortly after I paid a four-figure bill and we returned home from the hospital. He has never had any skin issues in that area before–or anywhere else, for that matter. There is a good chance the shaving triggered the problem.

And so I am feeling compelled to take Kirby back to the clinic as one might take a car or laptop back to the technicians at a repair shop, point out the unfortunate result of their work and demand that they fix him properly this time. And give me a break from their obscenely inflated prices. I could go right now: the hospital is open 24 hours a day.

I could act just like George on Seinfeld.

Well, not exactly. Not if I want to behave in a sober fashion. In a Seinfeld script, characters never make emotionally sober choices. They always lead with resentment, obsession and drama–whatever will create conflict, disrupt peace and definitely make things worse, not better.

Me, however, I am supposed to behave differently. I am in recovery. I am trying to follow all the sage sayings which are the focus of this blog. And one of the most important sober maxims is that I must pause when troubled to confer with my Higher Power about what to do. And then, following more advice, I must do “the next right thing.”

When I pause and consider what to do about Kirby’s medical issue, I don’t want to clip on his leash and stomp resentfully over to the animal hospital in the middle of the night. I know that “ego is not my amigo” and that I mustn’t play to my resentments (“kindness and tolerance are our code”). Even righteous rage, which I might be entitled to in my situation, is discouraged in recovery.

So what should I do?  When I think about it, “the next right thing” is not to tell off the animal hospital and demand reparations. The next right thing is to help Kirby feel better. And maybe the long wait (4 hours last time) for triage and treatment is not the best way to help my dog, especially if I spend the four hours fuming beside him or barking at the people behind the desk while the well-behaved dogs in the waiting room sigh and roll their eyes at me.

I need to “live in the solution” and maybe the answer would be to take Kirby back to his regular non-emergency and reasonably priced vet tomorrow morning, at a smaller clinic where he can be seen right away and where I will not feel resentful. Perhaps I should accept that I simply don’t like the big fancy overpriced and possibly too hurried and occasionally careless hospital around the corner. Maybe, as I’ve learned in recovery, I should accept that I can’t change the way they roll at the hospital but I can change my choice of veterinary care and offer Kirby a kinder gentler experience tomorrow.

And perhaps I should try having a little compassion for the harried vets, and think of all the pet lives they save or make better, at Washington DC’s only 24 hour animal emergency room. Maybe I should thank these vets for their service.

Maybe just maybe if I follow all of the slogans mentioned in this post I will have a chance of managing this situation like an emotionally sober person and not like Seinfeld’s neurotic George, my favorite and oh-so-relatable sitcom character.

 

Good Old HP

One thing for which I am sincerely grateful is that my Higher Power never says “I told you so” or “How many times do I have to repeat the same proverbs to you?” There is no doubt that HP has plenty of opportunities to chide me as I strive to follow all the great advice handed to me in recovery–and sometimes fall short of my goal.

Here’s a for-instance. As noted previously, a few days ago I found myself mired in a misunderstanding with a woman who lives down the hall, After torturing over the situation and feeling by turns resentful and remorseful, I was rescued by recalling the sober maxim to “look for my part in things and when I am wrong promptly admit it.” I bought a bouquet of flowers and an endearing card that featured a child’s illustration of adjacent houses and smiling neighbors, and left these offerings outside of my hall mate’s door. A few minutes later I received a lovely text thanking me for my thoughtfulness. I began to preen a bit about how well I had followed my sober suggestions, including an additional adage to always “do the next right thing.”

My smugness (not recommended in recovery) was a bit premature. A few minutes later I received an email from the building manager insisting that I remove the adorable doormat in front of my apartment inscribed with the words “wipe your paws,” and informing me that mats outside of entrances were verboten according to condominium bylaws. I had 24 hours to comply.

Did I promptly admit I was wrong and hastily remove the offending object? I did not. Instead I sat down and wrote an indignant reply to the manager saying that I could not understand how an adorable accessory designed to keep dirt out of the condo carpet, whilst adding a note of needed cheer to my drab entryway, could possibly offend anyone. Moreover, I could not imagine who among my lovely neighbors would have filed a complaint.

I was about to push the send button when I got a memo from my HP– not a dressing-down but a gentle reminder to practice “restraint of pen and tongue.”

Oh yeah, that. OK, HP, thanks for not rubbing it in. Sheepishly, I erased my email and substituted a four-word reply:

“No problem, will do.”

I wasn’t as gracious as I might have been but I was compliant. I moved the mat and even checked for stray bits of coconut husk on the hall carpet.

Then I went back inside and waited for my Higher Power to chide me for my clumsy social skills.

But, like I said, HP doesn’t do that. Instead I received the following memo, and with it, not a scolding but another saying to file away for my next challenge: and reassure me that I had done well enough:

“Seek  progress, not perfection.”

 

 

 

Uh Oh

There are dozens if not hundreds of sayings in recovery: one for every conundrum and contingency.

Here’s a sober proverb that is speaking to me right now:

“Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

My birthday is coming up in about a week, and it is indeed time to right-size my hopes surrounding that occasion. I agree with this maxim that there is a direct link between dreams and disappointments, hopes and hurt feelings, emotional soaring and crashing. And expectations, those fervent and certain feelings that something is going to happen, are the deadliest resentment breeders of all.

I am happy to report that with each passing year I get a little less childish and demanding about my Special Day, a little less likely to sulk about what does or does not happen and a little more likely to be a grownup who is learning to practice acceptance and gratitude. Still, it never hurts to keep my expectations in check and avoid those nasty resentments that might tempt me to return to one of my many addictions. At the moment I cannot see any trouble on the horizon. I have modest plans that should be fairly easy to carry out, and minimal anticipation about how much attention I will receive. And thank goodness it isn’t a milestone birthday. No pressure there.

But wait, there’s more (alas).

A ginormous opportunity to practice humility and non-attachment  is looming. A month from now a book that I wrote on the subject of recovery will appear on the shelves of my favorite local bookstore, and will also be available for purchase on the internet. Hopes and dreams? Demands? I am going to have to send my ego on a round- the-world cruise if I am going to have any success in suppressing my expectations about approval and attention and that terribly vulgar concept known as sales.

How shameful it would be to go on a vain and self-centered bender as the author of a book on recovery.  Plenty of pressure there.

The good news is that I have ample time to toss my ego in the dryer before the publication date. And a solid week to switch to decaf before the anniversary of my birth.

Here’s more good news: Anticipating that I may be in for some emotional trouble is a good thing. It can save me from feeling miserable on occasions when I should be happy and thankful.

I think I just thought of a new proverb:

“Expectations of expectations are preempted resentments.”

 

 

 

 

 

Stuck

In recovery, we hear a lot about practicing loving detachment in our dealings with other people–especially when relationships become challenging. Thinking about detachment, and its opposite, which I guess would be feeling stuck in something or to someone, reminds me of when I used to help my young son with art projects.

One of the trickiest parts of creating things with paper and glue, as I recall, was keeping one’s own fingers adhesive-free while attaching one paper cutout to another. If my fingers got too gluey and started sticking to the pieces of paper I was attempting to manipulate, it made it difficult for me to get anything done because my tacky fingers would tend to pull apart the delicate items I was attempting to put together. It was a frustrating mess.

So it is when I get too attached to or embroiled with other people and situations. Somehow I need to get through my interactions without getting too stuck in my feelings, designs or desires, because if I cannot detach gracefully and easily, I start destroying what I am trying to create with another person and end up making a hash of things.

Lately I’ve been feeling very stuck, not at all smooth, in my encounters with others. I am pulling things apart that I want to put together, and messing up dealings with people with whom it should be easy for me to practice the sober maxim to “live and let live.” I am having a hard time keeping my relationships easy and breezy, which I long to do in this the  hottest month of the year.

For example, although I have not had trouble with a neighbor in years, suddenly I am mired in a misunderstanding with a person who lives down the hall and am having trouble extricating myself. It feels ridiculous, as silly as those long-ago afternoons when my fingers got so coated in glue that I could not perform the simplest task with construction paper.

In fact in recent days I have had the desire to wash my hands and detach myself from a number of situations that are not working out and in which I have become unaccountably enmeshed.

I think it’s time to put into action one of the simplest and most helpful proverbs in recovery:

“Let Go and Let God.”

I need to follow the sober advice to pause when disturbed or confused (or stuck), detach from the object of my obsession, and pray for guidance from my Higher Power.

So I am putting out a prayer right now. I am hoping that my Higher Power will hear my entreaties and send a summer shower strong enough to wash the stickiness out of the air–and out of my troubled heart as well.