Archives for category: recovery

 

February 8 2014 001

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

Reality Bite

Well, today is turning out to be a bit different than the routine Monday I expected. First, I paid mid-month bills, and read, yet again, the reminder that my car’s license tags needed to be renewed. So, I decided to be different this year and get all that “stuff” done early rather than at the last minute. For a change, I was able to find proof of having paid county property tax for the past two years. That meant all I had to do was get a vehicle inspection done. So, off I went to get the inspection. As inspections go, it was relatively quick and painless.

So, I found myself standing in line and get my license plate renewed. While I am waiting, I decided I’d better check my driver’s license while I was there. Sure enough, in a couple of months it was due to expire. I decided to get my driver’s license renewed while I was there.  That meant I got to stand in another line. I am “vision challenged” so I always try to listen to those standing in front of me “reading the letters” for the eye exam. I don’t think of it as cheating. I rationalize that I am “studying for my exam.”

I have another trick I always use when having my eyes tested by the state. Since my eyes do not like to work together and my right eye is my “good eye” I always shut my left eye and take the test with my right eye. To my dismay, that didn’t work this time. I read the line I saw, and was asked to read the letters in the column on the far left. I said there was a column at the far left with numbers in it, and the person testing me said, “No, the column to the right of that.” I said that column was blank. She said, “No, it is not blank.” So I said a quick prayer and  opened my left eye. Magically, letters appeared in the column that had been blank,  and I had no trouble reading them with both eyes open.  Thankfully, they decided I could see well enough to drive .

Next,  I got to have my photo taken. I had not planned on having my photo taken when I left the house, so I was dressed in jeans and a tee-shirt—-and I hadn’t combed my hair since I got up.  I had washed my face, but I had done nothing to enhance my appearance makeup wise.

I posed for my “photo, ”  and the camera  flash “went off” early—at the count of two rather than three. Consequently,  I knew this photo would be one I would not like because I would look a bit startled. But that expectation did not prepare me for the shock I got when I looked at the copy of the photo that would be on my new driver’s license. They had handed me a picture of my mother. I wanted to give it back to them and tell them they’d made a mistake.

I am trying to consider this morning as an excursion into “reality therapy.” My program of recovery tells me acceptance is the answer. I need to accept I look exactly like my mother looked at this age, and, yes, I am “that age.”  I need to be grateful that I am alive. My ego needs to get over itself. I always think of myself as an evolving elder——and today I realized my mind has emphasized the word evolving and neglected to acknowledge and accept the “elder” part. Hopefully, today I have made progress in combating my character defect of “procrastination” and in acknowledging my character defect  of false pride. God bless and keep you.

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

 

I’m doing it again. Crying. I read somewhere this week that grief is like a spiral—-you think it has gotten better, and then it suddenly and unexpectedly  washes  over  you again. It hits your soul like an arrow. I want something to make the pain go away. I know it can’t be alcohol, food, drugs, gambling, buying, sex—–no one thing can make it go away. I am stuck with it. I know God is with me in my suffering, but I still get angry from time to time at him/her for letting it happen. And, yes, I am grateful for all the happy moments, all the hugs, all the “I love you” messages exchanged, and all the shared prayers that God gifted me with when he gave me my relationship with my father. I am grateful for what my father taught me and what my father has given me.  Of course I know the stages of grief and that all I am going though is “normal”—–but that doesn’t make it any less painful. There is this big hole, this big void, in my life. My father is no longer there. I cannot pick up the phone and call him. I cannot get in my car, drive seven hours, and walk into the house I grew up in and be engulfed in his loving, welcoming embrace.

My program tells me to focus on creating an attitude of gratitude when I am feeling down. So, today, I will share with you what I am grateful for. Doing so seems appropriate on the eve of Thanksgiving. I am grateful for my faith and for my spiritual journey. I am grateful for my dogs who constantly share their love with me. I am grateful for all of the wonderful friends I have who accept me as I am and are always there to give a helping hand, to offer their support, and to share their thoughts, observations, and beliefs. I am grateful I have a warm home to live in with food in the refrigerator. I am grateful that I have an adequate retirement income. I am grateful that I have appliances in my home that make my life easier and more enjoyable.  I am grateful I found a program of recovery because without it I would not be here.

When you weigh the pain of grief against all the things I have to be grateful for, it becomes apparent there is much more in my life to be grateful for than there is to be sad about. But  this grief is not a matter of  quantity or even quality. This grief is not comparable to things, and what I find most effective in dealing with the waves of grief I experience is not tangible. It is not measurable;  it cannot be named, described, or defined. It is grounded in the realm of spirit and truth. When all else in my life is gone; it will be with me wherever I am and in whatever form I exist. I cannot tell you what this mysterious “it” is. Perhaps naming it is not important; what matters is the absolute truth and strength of its existence now and through eternity.

 

Holy Cross July 25, 2013

 

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

This morning we had something different in our church service. Something I hadn’t seen done in over 20 years. It was a “children’s sermon”—-and instead of being a simple five minute show-and-tell type thing it was a real lesson. Surprisingly,  I was somewhat shocked and dismayed to find myself resenting this intrusion into my “grown up” world. I had, for a few moments in my head anyway, become the old lady who doesn’t like or relate to children.  Then, something happened—–something that should have happened from the very beginning. I found myself thinking, “Okay, self. What does this mean to you personally?”

The lesson was about the good shepherd tending his flock, and it illustrated how the good shepherd leads  and protects his sheep as well as how he goes looking for them when they are lost. So I started answering the question I posed to myself. First, I reminded myself that when I was a child I grew up in cattle country where sheep were not thought of favorably. Quite literally, I have always resented being represented as a sheep in this parable. And, of course, my people would have called the sheep pen a corral. Then I let my intellect delve a bit deeper, and I realized it didn’t matter what represented me in the parable—-the truth that has mattered in my life is that Creator has always been there to protect me in spite of myself and my bad decisions. Creator has indeed been there to protect me from evil—-and found me when I was almost overcome by evil and the consequences of my own choices.

In addition, during the children’s sermon, if I heard correctly, one little girl wanted to know what that white thing was that the good shepherd had wrapped around his neck. This question immediately reminded me of how I have spent a life time wondering why Christ had to die on the cross—–kind of like, why does his body, mind, and soul have to go through that torture and die that painful way just for mankind to believe in him.  In a way, the cross that is so prominent in our faith is like the white sheep wrapped around the good shepherd’s neck.  I realize now that there are times when the “good shepherd” has carried me completely—————otherwise, I would not be here today. Perhaps that smelly old sheep wrapped around Jesus’ neck is symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion on the cross—-there would be no resurrection or an unquestionable belief in eternal life in, of, and with Creator, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

The rebellious child in me, however, still has moments when it wants to remove that smelly, hot old sheep—-and that painful cross—–so that there is no tremendous sacrifice, pain, or discomfort. While I’m playing God, I’d like all of life to be like that too. Then I have to laugh, because I know it has been pain and perceived suffering in my life that has provided a firm foundation for my relationship with Creator.  I also must admit I believe Christ dying the way he did allowed God to have more empathy for our human condition. Without pain and suffering I am often not willing to let God lead or carry me. My false self thinks it should handle everything independently. I have heard many say “I am a grateful recovering alcoholic.” I am able to say that, and  I have come to realize I am also a grateful survivor of pain and suffering—–because regardless of the form each crisis took, they all made me “Let go and let God.” They all helped me know that God is there for me and is actually all that matters when the going gets rough. Thankfully,  I am making progress, and I am learning to let Creator be there for me, with me, and be the Higher Power that guides my actions when I am not in crisis.

So I want to “shout out” a big “thank you” to our new Rector for presenting this parable in a children’s sermon; it made me take stock of just where that good shepherd had been in my life and all that we have been able to do together working in partnership. God bless and keep you.

 

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Photo of “small pebble” courtesy of K. Farwell

 

I think it is time to write again. My emotions have been dashed about by forceful waves of fate these days. There have been almost constant reminders of suicide and the importance of reaching out with compassion to each other. Yet, at the same time there have been acts of violence, fear, and frustration erupting in my own state and all over the world. My spiritual studies have told me to hang on—-to “rejoice” in the moment , to go within to reach God’s peace and sanctuary so that I can, hopefully, share that with those who inhabit the world around me near and far.  Wisdom through the ages has taught “as it is within, so it is without.” It makes sense, then, that I must focus on creating a “within” that is worth sharing and then find ways to share it so that it can influence my outer world.

I must admit at times, this seems like an impossible task. At others, it feels like a “pacifist cop out”—-it seems too easy to “hide within” when part of me wants to actively fight for what is right and good. But, you see, that is what most people spreading violence and hatred among one another believe they are doing—-fighting for what is good and right. At times like this I find solace in words of wisdom I find in the Psalms and in the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Both focus on harboring and reverencing a “God within”—-and using that “Higher Power” to direct one’s efforts in working on improving one’s own character defects and bad habits so that one can be aware of, willing,  and able to carry out God’s will. There are strong messages of reconciliation in both books—-an emphasis on the need change our own behavior and to make amends for our own wrongs before we judge others or lash out against others.

So, today I must remember that I am a small pebble in a big ocean and that my mission, today and always, is to focus on improving my relationship with God and so I can radiate love, compassion, and peace to help build God’s kingdom on earth one molecule at a time. May God bless and keep you.

Our Food Bank Truck

Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

 

This is hard to write. Re-entering harsh reality after being on vacation, both mentally and physically, has been challenging. There are refugees all over the world desperately needing help; there are children fleeing live-threatening conditions  at our own borders who also desperately need help but are not getting it because they cannot technically be classified as refugees—————and we, as a people, cannot seem to view these human beings, these children,  as anything more than representations of our own political beliefs.  There are fears they will bring untreatable life-threatening illnesses into the United States; just as we did to the Native Americans when we immigrated into what was to become our nation rather than theirs mostly due to our own greed. I suppose we could send them all back home, protect our borders, and try to live with ourselves knowing we sent them back to violence, rape, and death.

I have been participating in several groups who are wrestling with the topics of suffering and love. Both are viewed by some as doors to spiritual transformation. I agree with that. There are some who believe the majority of our suffering is caused by our own need to control everything to combat our own feelings of being overwhelmed and afraid that we can’t control things. Twelve-steppers believe you have to hit bottom, get sick and tired of being sick and tired before you are willing to change your life by entering a spiritual transformation process.  I acknowledge that the suffering in my own life has, for the most part, been caused by my need to control things. I also believe that need for control was caused by being hurt as a child and learning to do whatever I could to avoid additional pain and hurt. Some of my avoidance behaviors were not healthy, and they did, indeed, create suffering.

However, I do not believe the children stuck at our borders hoping to be allowed to live in what for them is a safer, less violent environment are suffering because of their own control issues and consequent poor choices. I think they are suffering because they have left their families and loved ones and are trying to escape being hurt or killed. If I think their suffering is their own spiritual path and that I need to let them experience it without my interference, then I am not being loving or compassionate as my own spiritual transformation process is teaching me to be. Nor can I help myself or others by deliberately seeking   or causing suffering so they or I can be “more spiritual” or “closer to God.”

So, I see pain, sickness, war, jealousy, greed—–all the evils of mankind being manifested all around me. I have to wonder what can I personally do in response to this overwhelming cloud that hangs over us. The answer is, for me, I cannot control or solve these overwhelming problems myself. I must ask God to help me and all of mankind to love one another and  to be compassionate. I must ask God to show us how we can share his love rather than contributing to the evil that is alive and well in our world. To borrow one of recovery’s key phrases, I have to “let go and let God.” That does not mean I do not have the responsibility to do what I can to understand God’s will, to help carry out God’s will, and to treat others with love and compassion. We are taught to love one another as ourselves and to do unto others as we would do unto ourselves.  That is part of God’s will I already know about. I will continue to ask for knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out.

I am reminded of the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” we sang so often in Sunday School as children. Marching off to battle seemed to be the main message. Now as an adult I cringe at the image of promoting battles and wars. So this morning, I looked up the lyrics to that hymn. Thankfully, God called my attention to the verse that says we are united in hope and charity. Perhaps that is a clue as to how we can begin to carry out God’s will.  God bless and keep you.

Clearing Up

Photo entitled “Clearing Up” compliments of Joshua Burgard

It has been a week of drinking lots of fluids and taking antibiotics religiously every 12 hours—-but last night I finally woke up in the middle of the night and “coughed” the gunk out of my lungs. I know now I am going to be alive and well again.

The sun just came out —-and it is not raining, thundering, blowing, or too hot or too cold. I literally have no complaints, and I welcome the feelings of gratitude that are seeping into my awareness. They are so much better than feeling bored, tired, out of breath and questioning whether you feel tired all the time because  you are sick or if depression is rearing its ugly head again.

Last night, I read the scripture I am supposed to read in church Sunday, and although I did not have the breath to read it all out loud, the words brought comfort to my heart and tears to my eyes. The words reminded me that the presence of our creator is in the midst of all this wonderful and sometimes painful  mess we call life. The bible verses I was reading was about creation…..you know, the one about   “in the beginning was God.” As my breathy, croaky recovering voice read the beginning of these words out loud, hearing them and feeling them brought tears. It was as if God hugged me and said, “See, I am still here. I am still in charge. I still love you.” Sounds a bit childish, I know, but I needed to feel loved—-and although I know God and his love are always there sometimes I do not let myself be receptive to that love. I am letting myself be on the receiving end again and the love is flowing. Soon I will have “recharged” my love reservoir and be able to more actively share that love with others.

Well, that’s it. I simply wanted to try to explain how comforting knowing God is surrounding you with love can be when you set aside your intellect, your self-absorption, your worries, etc. for a moment and let yourself  really feel the love in every fiber of your being.  My experience cannot really be put into words, but seeing  blue sky and sunshine after days of storms provides a metaphor for where my soul has been this past week. It has been trudging through cloudy, gray, gloomy places feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired. Now things are clearing up,  and  my soul is basking in the sunlight of God’s love. It feels good to be back.

 

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Photo courtesy of K. Farwell

I awoke this morning from a very insightful dream.  In this dream I was once again married and being ignored by my husband. As in life, he was very self-absorbed. However, in my dream he had asked me if I “minded” something. I started to answer with a truly co-dependent response, “only about what it might do to you.” I caught myself mid-sentence in this scene and instead had the courage to tell him what I really thought without holding back so he “wouldn’t get upset.”  Of course, in this dream scene as I was talking my husband stomped off totally ignoring my answer to his question. In the dream I got angry enough to follow him around as he tried to evade me and  forcibly communicated my feelings and thoughts. Not surprisingly, they poured out of me——a veritable flood of emotions centered on abandonment issues and my anger and hurt over always be ignored.

You see, my life used to be like that. And this dream showed me, after all these years, the part I played in contributing to the sad state of affairs our marriage was in. I grew up in a family that taught me at an early age not to communicate feelings and to expect those around me to intuitively know what I wanted without me having to tell them because it was wrong to “want anything for yourself.”  This was the perfect upbringing to create a nurse who married a Viet Nam veteran with PTSD, depression, and a vast array of other “take care of me” issues.  I thought I was careful to avoid the role of care taker, but indirectly, and some times directly, I did so any way. I bought property in the middle of of the woods—-a cottage that was secluded and would feel more safe to him than a home in town would.

I started a pattern of living my life centered around meeting his emotional needs and neglecting my own. I got to the place where I wasn’t even able to acknowledge what I was feeling—-denial worked. I learned early into our marriage that I had to walk on egg shells and that the slightest comment or action that insinuated challenging what he said or wanted could trigger his anger. I was very afraid of his temper although he never struck me.

I am ashamed it has taken almost a decade for me to realize, thanks to this dream, that in never telling him what I was feeling or what I wanted I was setting myself up to be a doormat.  I did tell him sometimes, and fights usually resulted.  My childhood taught behavior of silent martyrdom was further reinforced. I have to take responsibility for contributing to and maintaining the dysfunctional communication patterns in our marriage.  Before this morning, I tended to blame him for all the problems we had, but now I can see I set the stage for what happened, and then I played my part well.

Where was God in all this? Definitely not at the center of my heart and being as He currently is but, instead, more on the “fringes of my soul” where I went to pray  automatically and superficially most of the time. At times, I viewed God as just another male authority figure that intimidated me. I am very grateful that as my life has unfolded I have discoverd that perception of God was totally wrong.

God is now with me every moment. God is a part of my being so interwoven into my essence that all I have to do is think the word “consent” and I know his love is engulfing me, guiding me, and is always there to help  me handle life’s challenges.

Those who knew me then and now know I am now much more assertive about saying what I think, feel, and need—–sometimes abrasively so (I’m working on my sarcasm). They also know the part my faith plays in my life now because I write, talk, and hopefully act in a way that reflects that.

So, the lesson I learned from this dream is no one can know what I’m feeling, needing, or wanting unless I tell them. God can, of course, but my fellow human beings cannot. If I want my relationships with other humans to be healthy, then I need to communicate my feelings and thoughts directly—-implying them or communicating them non-verbally with my facial expressions or tone of voice is not an effective means of communication.  Putting the needs of others first over my own is also a threat to building and maintaining  healthy relationships. When Jesus told us to love one another as we love ourselves I believe he was also telling us that we need to love ourselves. There is a lot of wisdom in the recovery slogan “to thy own self be true.” God bless and keep you.