Archives for category: recovery

Maggie and Tibby Feb 13 15

Photo by K. Farwell

Seems like all they could talk about in today’s meeting was how almost every problem human beings encounter only happens because we turn our back on God. Perhaps I was programmed to hear that because I had,  in a meeting previous to that one, been given the insight that as my entire life unfolded before me almost every problem I encountered was to some extent if not entirely a direct result of stubbornly trying to do things my way when I wanted and how I wanted to do them. The times I experienced problems were those times when I purposefully shut God out so I could be in charge of my own life and destiny. Fortunately, God never stopped loving me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we have to just sit back and leave everything up to God. Of course, we have to do the foot work, but the key, for me at least, is having the willingness to “Let Go and Let God” even when I do the foot work. In other words, I need to work in partnership with my Higher Power and not run my life on based on self-will.  Many years of bad decisions have taught me trying to run things on my own self-will always just seems to create more problems.

My insight I gained this morning, however, was a bit more revealing than just being shown the importance of letting God be God.  I had something happen yesterday that shed a new light on my relationship with God. I had a man at my house putting in a new dishwasher, and when he came walking through the living room carrying the old dishwasher out to his van, I quickly grabbed the dog I thought would run away and held the screen door open. To my dismay, with both hands full, I watched one of my rescue Bichons, Tibby, prance through the open door. As soon as I could I  put the other dog down, shut the door, and went after Tibby. Here was this little white dog who was all fluffy from just being groomed and who was wearing his Thunder Shirt because he is afraid of thunder running away from me as it continues to thunder and begins to rain.

I could not catch up with him. He’d stop, take  a few steps toward me, and then run off again into the big fields and yards behind the houses on my road. I didn’t care that I was getting soaked, but I did worry about both of being struck by lightning and him possibly drowning in some drainage ditch. After about seven or eight minutes of this, I realized I wasn’t going to catch up with him, and I went back to my house to change out of my soaked house shoes into some that would give me some traction.

On my way back out of the house I grabbed a leash and an umbrella, and then I walked around the neighborhood calling “Tibby” until I got hoarse and was beginning to worry  I’d lose my voice. I returned to my house, and there he was standing in my front yard. However, he would not come to me or come back through the front door, and he ran off again. In desperation, I called a friend to come help me “try to find Tibby”—–but just as she was checking with her boss to see if she could leave work to help me, I saw a young man walking up the street toward my house with Tibby in his arms. I explained to him what happened, and he said he saw the dog and went after him because it was probably “one of those white poodles” that lady has—–I told him how grateful I was because I had been chasing the dog and calling  him——that I could not catch him, and was afraid I’d lose him. The man explained to me he probably couldn’t have caught him either if the dog had not stopped to go to the bathroom.

I cannot tell you how good it felt to have Tibby back in my arms safe and sound. But the insight I had this morning was that God must have felt that way all the times when I returned to Him after repeatedly putting myself and others in harm’s way just because I wanted to “get free, explore life experiences,  and do things my way.”

I always wanted to “try things” and “make my mind up for myself” even though I was oblivious to the danger I was putting myself and others into at the time. I remember yesterday watching Tibby stop and sniff, explore, mark everything, and then come towards me only to run off again. My relationship with God has been like that, and now, I hope, I can remain in His loving embrace without jumping out and running off again. Oh yes, I have thanked God for His patience and apologized for the concern I caused at those times when I willingly left His embrace.. God bless and keep you.

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I once heard someone say, “If you work the twelve steps everybody else gets better.” Now, to many that may not make sense. But think about it. Alcoholics Anonymous’ twelve steps are guidelines for living a spiritual life that focuses on bettering one’s attitudes and behaviors.  Often, people learn to stop judging others and to instead focus on changing themselves. In that light, it makes sense that “others get better” as such changes in people often lead to positive changes in those around them.

One aspect of AA’s program focuses on letting go of resentments…..a challenge that may take days, years, or decades.  I recently had something happen that validated my getting better in terms of how I think and react to my ex-husband. What happened was this: During a long drive home from vacation,  I made a rest stop at a rural Wal-Mart. As I got out of my car, I noticed a man in bib overalls bent over the open tailgate of a pickup. He was putting ice into a cooler. He was a dead ringer for my ex—–whom I have not seen or spoken to since our divorce over twelve years ago. Only, if this was really him, he’d gained enough weight to equal that which I’ve lost. I did not want to stare and/or draw attention to myself so I looked the other way and walked by.

My internal dialogue went something like this: “I could speak to him and know for sure if it is him. But then after all this time, what is there left to say? ‘Gee, you’ve gained weight. How are you?’ No, I’ve let go of most of my resentment so I do not need to do that. I could stop and say something friendly about the weather.  On the other hand, I need to take care of myself in this situation and just keep walking.” I kept walking.

It felt good not to act on residual resentment, and it felt even better to take action that protected myself. I do not know if it was really my  ex or,  if it was, if he was really “better” or not. That is not important. What is important is my attitude and action. Without the step work and “resentment work” I’ve done I would have probably reacted differently—–perhaps in a way that triggered a negative response from another human being. I still have resentment work to do, but I am pleased with my progress. Thanks for letting me “free associate” about my Wal-Mart parking lot escapade.

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy fourth of July. My two rescue dogs are in thunder shirts; the sounds of fireworks in the neighborhood are driving them crazy. Sometimes, all that works to calm them is to stack all four of my dogs on top of me in my recliner. We will be happy when the celebrating is over. Alas, I have grown up and lost the sense of fun and magic the fourth of July held for me as a child.  That does not, however, keep me from wanting  others to experience that fun and magic. May God bless and keep you.

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Needlework by S. Staples; photograph by K. Farwell

 

Once again I feel that urge to write. This morning’s sermon got me to thinking—–which is sometimes a dangerous thing. Usually I either think “rebuttals” and “disagreements” (when I am in my critical persona, one I learned from my mother) or I find myself embellishing one of the ideas presented. Today was an embellish day. The sermon itself was a wonderful one that did an excellent job of explaining what Lent is all about. I had not thought of it as an opportunity to exercise and strengthen my temptation resisting skills until I heard this morning’s sermon by Rvd. Edie.

She explained that temptation is a process. First, we become aware of an idea—-you know, those ideas commercials, for instance, are always planting in our heads. The second step is entertaining the idea—–this is a crucial step where the idea/temptation builds its strength and attractiveness to us primarily by us actively focusing our attention on it. The last step, of course, is to act on the idea. She discussed how we need to exercise and strengthen our attention skills and our ability to  intentionally re-focus our attention away from the idea that tempts us so that the last step of the process for us is choosing not to give into the temptation.

This is where I started embellishing as I listened to her sermon. As a person who practices the 12 steps of recovery I am quite familiar with these steps. When I see a commercial for a candy bar I can focus my attention on that and even begin to taste it with my imagination. Then my mind can build on the idea by telling myself, “Oh, come on, one little candy bar” won’t hurt you.” If I keep my attention going down that road, it won’t be long before I act on the idea and actually find myself eating that candy bar—-and another, and another until I make myself sick.

For a long time I have been telling myself and others in recovery to “follow it through” when the idea of having a drink comes to you—-not with thoughts of how wonderful a drink would be but with memories of what really happens to us when we take that drink and keep drinking. I have to do the same thing with thoughts of eating foods with flour or sugar in them. Giving in to either obsession has the potential to kill me. I wish I was exaggerating—-but I am not.

So, here’s the “kicker.” Those of us in recovery get to exercise “healthy attention” every day of our lives one day at a time. There is no magical end after forty days when we can go back to having what we’ve been practicing avoiding without facing deadly consequences. With all that exercise, you’d think we would develop immensely strong will power. Instead of exercising my “self-will” (which has, historically, been what has always gotten me in trouble) I have learned I can only be empowered to make healthy choices if I turn my will over to God and let God focus my attention and guide my actions.

I don’t always do so perfectly. Letting go of self-will is sometimes a daily struggle especially with food.  After all, I have to eat every day to live; therefore,  food triggers in my life are much stronger because of my daily consumption than they are with alcohol because that daily consumption ended for me over three decades ago.

I am learning to let fleeting thoughts of “wouldn’t it be nice to eat….” float right through my crowded mind. Contemplative prayer has helped me with that because I am learning not to fight my thoughts—-just to acknowledge them and to let them “float by” without giving them undue attention. I am learning to focus my attention on consenting to God’s love—–in my prayers and in my daily life. And that includes focusing my attention away from tempting food or alcohol thoughts.  It is not that I have given up certain foods or alcohol for Lent—–rather I have given them up for life and for living. I can only do that one day at a time by turning my will and my life over to the care and love of God as I understand Him/Her. May God bless and keep you.

Teddy Bear

Photo compliments of K. Farwell

I thought I was almost through grieving my father’s death—–and then came this morning. I was searching for a number in my telephone contacts and discovered I needed to delete “Daddy” from my contact list on my telephone. It has taken me over three months to have the courage to do that. Guess that makes me a number one “wuss.” I punched “delete contact” and cried.

It is not like I am a child. I am a grown up—-at least that is what my calendar tells me. In fact,  it is telling me next week I am one year older and am well over the age most people are when they become grandmothers.  So, why am I still “Daddy’s little girl” who cries because her father has died? Maybe because I love him. Maybe because it is part of the normal grieving process. It would be more worrisome were I not still grieving. I know all this theoretically, but the pain is still intense. Understanding it doesn’t make it any easier.

My recovery program tells me to “get out of myself and into service” when I am feeling sorry for myself. So today I am going to help lead another support group, and I am going to do some sponsor work tomorrow , and lead a recovery meeting on Saturday.   I am staying busy at home, too. I am busy crocheting projects for my business and for gifts—-and I am enjoying “squeaky clean abstinence” in terms of letting God guide my eating. I am even exercising. But there are still moments my mind wanders to what is painful in my heart.

At least now smiles come as often as tears with the memories. For that I am grateful. And I realize “deleting” my father from my contact list does not mean I am deleting him from my heart. Somewhere in the Bible it tells me there is a season for everything, and this is my season for grieving. It is part of my life journey, and Got is traveling right along beside me. Writing those words  triggered a sigh along with a bit of tangible relaxation. Once again, God is with me helping me live life on “life’s terms” as is so often said around recovery tables. I could not do so without God’s help, and I am very grateful for God’s unconditional love. God bless and keep you.

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I have the mid-winter blahs. Big time. Can’t blame it on the sun not shining or on ice or snow. I have once again started eating healthy—-which for me means no flour, sugar,  or carbs that are high-glycemic and weighing and measuring what I am going to eat before I eat it. In a couple of days I should be feeling a lot better. However,  these first couple of days of detoxing  from the way I was eating has made me depressed and irritable ——plus I have had to spend too much time in bathrooms.

What’s really gotten to me is taking care of my dogs. Boo had a growth removed from in front of his left ear about a week ago. That first night after surgery he spent crying and throwing up. I could not console him. He was and still is having to wear a cone to keep him from scratching his surgical site while it is healing.  In addition, one of my other dogs, Gus,  is a “licker”——he likes to lick and groom  or  “parent” other dogs almost non-stop.  Therefore, I had to put a cone on Gus to keep him from licking Boo’s surgical site.

Thankfully, Boo adjusted quite well to his cone, and he has learned to eat, drink, sleep, and climb stairs in spite of wearing it. I thought Gus had adjusted to his, but for the past couple of days he stopped eating and seemed listless. Last night I finally got him to eat by hand feeding him a little at a time by letting him lick  a few bites off of my hands. He seemed better today, but when I had a friend come over,  I took off the cone to see if that was what was depressing him. I waited to my friend was here  because it originally took the two of us to get the cone  on Gus in the first place.

A few minutes after removing Gus’ cone I noticed his whiskers under his lower jaw were pinkish red—-as if he had been eating something bloody. Then I looked at his mouth. To my dismay I found sores—-places rubbed raw—on both sides of his lower jaw. He must have rubbed himself over and over again on the inside seam of his cone without me knowing it. I will not put the cone back on him, and now I have to watch them closely or keep him and Boo separate for another almost entire week.

My friend and I put warm salt water on Gus’s raw spots to help them heal, but I know that too hurt him. I am feeling so guilty! Gus has already forgiven me, but it will be a while before I can accept hurting a dog in my care to this extent.  Of course, I’ve checked Boo’s mouth closely, and he has not rubbed any raw spots on himself.

I know I live one day at a time—-even days like today. One could say I’ve had a “semi-bad” day today—-but I am warm and dry, I have a roof over my head, my bills are paid, I have good friends, and I am healthy, at least for today. I am sober and clean. I am abstinent from foods that are unhealthy for me. My dogs love me in spite of their present condition. They have repeatedly shown me the meaning of the term “unconditional love.”

I realize I just made a list of things for which I am grateful. It worked. I no longer feel like moaning and groaning with self-pity. Now I am grateful for the gift of living today. I this moment and all of my moments are a gift from God. I also know I cannot live one day at a time without God’s love and support. I don’t keep myself clean and sober or abstinent—–God does when I am willing to let him. I am grateful for the gift of willingness that makes today’s moments possible. God bless and keep you.

 

 

 

 

Daddy's Poinsettia

According to Teleflora (http://www.teleflora.com/poinsettia/flowers-plants/poinsettia-detail.asp), “… in today’s language of flowers, red, white or pink poinsettias, the December birth flower, symbolize good cheer and success and are said to bring wishes of mirth and celebration.” In my church, it is an annual tradition to purchase Poinsettias in honor of someone who has died or in celebration. I have never purchased one or taken one home. This time I did so to honor the memory of my father who recently died. Now, if the Teleflora folks are right, I can hope that in addition to honoring my father this magical flower will also bring laughter and happy times to those of us who mourn his passing.

However, the time spent at church this morning focused on something much more important than magical symbols. A group of us attended a class on forgiveness and reconciliation. My  12 step involvement has repeatedly focused my attention on making progress in the areas of forgiveness and acceptance. Therefore, I  thought I was coming to this class with a good deal of “advanced work” that might give me “an edge” over some of the other participants. But of course, as every good “evolving elder” should be able to do, I was able to open my mind and heart so I could encounter some new ideas about forgiveness.

This morning I was introduced to a new take on the forgiveness/memory continuum—-and that was the suggestion that one of the pathways to forgiveness is to work at being able to experience a memory without simultaneously experiencing associated  emotional entanglements such as anger and hurt.

Another highlight of this morning’s class was the fact that forgiveness is not about fairness, justice, or apologies from those who have hurt and/or wronged us—-and that the process of forgiveness evolves over time. This process is nurtured by being part of a community that understands what you are trying to do and supports one’s involvement in this process.

This hit home with me because I realized that this has actually been my experience. In the past eleven years or so I have been actively supported both by my 12 step community and my church community in making the journey from a very painful divorce through hurt, blame, and anger to my current level of moderate acceptance. I can now think of what happened as a memory; I no longer get bombarded by waves of hurt, anger, or blame.  I can remember the important lessons I learned, and I can honestly say I am truly moving on. This could never have happened without my faith, my church, and my recovery program. Hopefully, I’ll get a bit quicker at my “forgiveness participation” as I continue on my life’s journey.

I want to close by wishing all my readers love, peace, and acceptance of God’s grace, love, and blessings during this year of 2015. In the past year this blog has been viewed about 2100 times with visitors from 39 countries, mostly from the US, Iceland, and Canada. Thank you, my readers,  for helping me believe in my writing.

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Ah, the winding down of the hectic holiday rhythms our culture perpetuates year after year. Slowly re-storing Christmas decorations, trees, etc. to their “usual place.” Time to take a deep breath, relax.  So I thought.

Friday night, stomach acid erupted up my esophagus and rudely wakened me in the middle of the night. I assumed it was acid reflux and I quickly downed a couple of TUMs. That wasn’t enough to calm things down, so I forced myself to swallow pink gooey Pepto. Then I was able to sleep a couple of hours before I was jolted wide awake with projectile vomiting. For you non-medical folks, that is the kind of vomiting that is so forceful it travels across the room as in the movie “The Exorcist.”

This meant I had to get in my car and drive to the local ER because the last time this happened it threw my heart into a “tizzy.” I was immediately wheeled into the ER where they started giving me  IV fluids. For most, this is a somewhat simple procedure, but for someone with “poor veins” who is dehydrated this is sometimes next to impossible. Oh yes, bloods were drawn. Again. And Again. When one is dehydrated, this almost becomes a form of torture. What these medical folks were calling “a Rainbow” suddenly gave a whole new meaning to what had, until then, been my almost magical concept of “rainbow.”

When IVs were finally started and all bloods drawn,  I was rolled on my gurney to x-ray for abdominal x-rays and chest x-ray and returned to my cubicle.  After a few hours and several trips in to check my IV—–the IV fluids were moving R..E…A…L…L…Y  slowly—–it became clear I would remain on my back in my own little cubicle of life-saving grace until the IV bag was empty. Thankfully, my priest came and  stayed with me during part of this ER experience, and her presence, prayer, and support were very comforting. She helped make everything “endurable.”

Finally, the doctor came in to discuss my x-rays with me. If I hadn’t felt so bad, I would have laughed. This had to be one of the most comical x-ray result discussions on record.

In the past,  when I have experienced this type of vomiting and dehydration it was due to a partial obstruction of my gastro-intestinal system that, in turn, usually sent me via  ambulance to an advanced metropolitan medical center in St. Louis where I would stay for at least a week under the always looming threat of emergency abdominal surgery. My x-rays, thank God, did not show a partial bowel obstruction this time.

I was so relieved to hear I  did not have a partial obstruction this time that it took me a while to realize the doctor was telling me my x-rays revealed I was absolutely, totally, “full of a LOT of shit.” Evidently, I have a “redundant colon.” I was told a redundant colon means that back in my size 5X days my colon expanded to a super large size—–and when I finally lost weight my colon had lost its elasticity and stayed stretched out. Now, because of that and numerous surgeries I lack nerve stimulation and intestinal elasticity/peristalsis to “move my feces” along and out of my body in a timely fashion. Of course, a bit keeps moving through, and since “daily evacuation” occurs, I have no clue things are “building up.” Evidently, my body only knows it is “filled to capacity” when there is “no room in the inn” —-at which time it reverts to projectile vomiting to remove fluids out the other end of my body.

Due to this x-ray finding  I was then treated to a VERY hot old-fashioned 1000 cc soap suds enema. And yes, it worked. I completely filled a portable bedside commode. My recommended discharge prescription was daily use of multiple laxatives accompanied by the use of rectal suppositories three-four times per week. Then, to top it off, I was told to give myself a couple of enemas every week whether I think I needed them or not.

The whiny kid in me wanted to complain, but being alive and living with all this anal fixation is better than dying or having to have surgery and having a colostomy to tend. To be honest, this is not the way I wanted to spend my post-holiday wind-down or even the rest of my life, but I am grateful for medical intervention and thankful God continues to let me live one day at a time in spite of the damage I have inflicted upon my body through the years due to “self-will run riot.”