Archives for posts with tag: recovery

IMG_0014

 

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.

Advertisements

eye

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was just doing my early morning “first pass” of Facebook postings, and I ran across one that a friend had posted concerning the fact that a sponsor had commented her Big Book looked a bit dusty. So, naturally, I started thinking about dust.  Now I, for one, would be in “deep doo-doo” if accumulated dust was used to determine the quality of my life.  I get in enough trouble with what accumulating dust does to my allergies; and I must admit I never before considered what it might be doing to my soul. I hardly ever dust, and my time proven rationale that saves me from doing so is dusting stirs up the dust and makes me start sneezing and wheezing.

I digress. Back to the topic at hand, a Big Book with dust on it. Here is my take on the situation and the comment I made regarding this specific dust, ” If it is imprinted in your heart it does not matter if the book it came from is dusty!” I have never been one to memorize the content of any book, not even the Bible or the Big Book, verbatim, word for word. What matters to me is my understanding of what I read and what it means to me and how can I apply it in my life today. I am impressed when people can quote large passages of scripture from memory, but I am more impressed when I can see the intent of the scripture expressed in how that person is living his or her life.

Looking back on that paragraph clues me into the fact that I spend more time than I want to admit judging others and how they are living their lives. Around the recovery tables we call that “taking someone else’s inventory.” It is a pastime we are discouraged from pursuing. The Gospel of Matthew does the same thing when it asks why we focus on a speck we notice in someone else’s eye when we have an entire “beam” in our own eye.

Somehow I have made the journey from dust to wooden beams. But the common theme is this, it is the eye of the beholder that determines whether something is a problem or not, and the best advice I can give myself or anyone else is focus on changing what needs to be changed in yourself rather than what you think should be changed or fixed in others.

Stay warm and dry. May God bless and keep you.

Acceptance2

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just heard a commercial  on television for a movie where the narrator announces “moderation is for cowards.” Finally, I have it on good authority I am not a coward! Somehow that still doesn’t make my “nothing in moderation” memories any easier to bear. Now, I am watching a re-run of a Law and Order Special Victims Unit episode about alcoholism and blackouts. The attorney who was an alcoholic basher has to face her own alcoholism in this episode, and the defendant who got off on a miss-trial has to live with the knowledge he’ll never know if he killed a stranger during a blackout or not. An expert during the trial testified about evidence supporting the fact that alcoholism is a neurological disease.

As for my other “main addiction,” compulsive eating, not being a coward doesn’t make it any easier to live with trigger foods, food cravings, and binge eating or addictive dieting/exercise. There is probably a neuro-biological justification for that “condition” also. With alcohol, you can stop drinking. With food, you have to eat to stay alive.

I am not going to make any New Year’s resolutions about any of this because the only reprieve I have is a daily gift from my Higher Power. My addictions are what they are. Thank heaven the solution is what it is for both of them. God does do for me what I cannot do for myself. Even with these gifts those of us in recovery have to live in reality; we don’t automatically live happily ever after—-nor does anyone, for that matter.  Those of us in recovery are often well acquainted with depression. Many times we have residual physical problems left over to remind us of previous excesses. Sometimes we cross-addict to something else that eventually kills us; many in recovery die from problems associated with smoking——an addiction that, compared to alcoholism, can seem relatively safe.

Where am I going with this? I am not sure. I am presently “recovering” and recuperating from my drive back home after spending Christmas with family. What used to be an enjoyable experience I looked forward to, driving to and from my father’s house,  is now a major challenge. The trip back took two hours more than it should have. Seven hours became nine hours. Emergent GI problems which necessitated multiple stops along the way and painful arthritic wrists added to the challenge. I am grateful to have arrived home, and I am working on accepting my mind, body, and eyesight (after dark driving with beginning level cataracts  is the pits!) are all altering as I age.

I am grateful for God giving me almost an entire year without having to be hospitalized.  Even though medical experts cannot explain my reoccurring partial small bowel blockages, this year has taught me stress plays a big role in contributing to them. I have consciously tried to avoid as much stress as I can since my last hospitalization, and I think limiting my driving trips to my father’s and back to only two trips this year has probably helped me do so along with all the other changes I have instituted in my life such as deep breathing, centering prayer, meditation, lavender-based aroma therapy, and just “saying no” to being over-extended .

The time spent with my almost 92 year old father was a true gift from God, and I thank Creator for giving me the special time I was able to share with him.  I would not have missed it for the world. I think  I am starting to realize I am becoming a coward. I am learning moderation in some things. Sometimes I do so kicking and screaming, sometimes I am a bit more receptive.

As we approach the New Year I ask Creator to continue to help me accept moderation on an as-needed basis, and for all my friends who can still celebrate seeing the New Year in with the help of alcoholic beverages, I pray that Creator also gives you the gift of moderation or a designated driver to see you safely home. God bless and keep you.

winter wonderland

Photo, courtesy of Joshua Burgard

Today’s quote:

“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

—-Paul Tillich (1987)

               Days of Healing, Days of Joy, meditation for March 12, San Francisco, Harper & Row.

Somehow, it seemed appropriate to approach this topic on this the sixth day of my self-imposed solitude. I’m not sure I am counting correctly since a friend drove me to and from a meeting last night where I got to spend some quality time with “my people” talking about a spiritual approach to recovery.

Being around people who were smiling and laughing as well as sharing profound and serious insights integral to  their recovery was a well appreciated break from being with just my four dogs. And, thankfully, I have not been totally isolated.  After all, I have had my mobile phone and the Internet to keep me in touch with friends and family. Plus, I was lucky enough to have friends drop by two or three times.

My biggest reason for my self-imposed solitude was to avoid venturing out into the ice and snow. Some might call my reasons just plain fear; others might even go so far as to call them a phobia. I just remember driving down hill on ice in Kansas City and sliding off the road—-finally stopping only inches from a telephone pole. That was back in the seventies, and I’ve had several successful “snow and ice” driving escapades since then, but I prefer to remain at home if possible when ice is involved. This is especially true since I have been diagnosed with osteopenia, which means  I have bone density lower than normal but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. I am naturally a klutz with little or no balance and have intermittent vertigo, so when I throw those things into the equation,  I do tend to be overly careful about avoiding ice.

Enough about why I have experienced self-imposed solitude voluntarily for so many days. I really want to focus on what, for  me, is the difference between solitude and loneliness. When I experience solitude, it means that I am happy in my own skin doing what I am doing and am totally comfortable in my surroundings. I can experience loneliness in the exact same environment, doing the exact same activities—-the only thing that has changed  when I am lonely is my emotional status and/or attitude. When I am lonely, it is like there is this big void deep within myself that needs filled, and no matter how busy I stay or how much or often I eat, or how many video Internet games I win, I still feel restless and driven. In the old days I would have lit up a cigarette and poured a drink, but those behaviors are long gone from my repertoire,  by the grace of God.

So, how do I alter my attitude when I am aware I have shifted into loneliness? Prayer helps, both the speaking and listening kind. Listening to calming music helps. Talking to friends helps. Mostly, for me, it takes realizing the enemy is “desire”—-especially since it is a free-floating non-specific, restless desire. At those times I have to talk to God and to listen to God. I need to realize all that really matters is being in relationship with God. Then everything else falls into place. I can live life on life’s terms in solitude as long as I realize God’s love and compassion are always present. Some would say that is not solitude because I am in relationship with God. I won’t argue that, but I know when I don’t allow God to be there with me to fill the “restless void” I get stuck in being lonely and restless.

I will close with a quote from the same source and page as the one this evening’s blog began with: “It may be said the road that runs between loneliness and solitude is the highway of recovery.”  I think I agree with that, and I am grateful my recovery has gifted me with solitude and the ability to  return to it whenever I choose to do so.

Please comment and share your thoughts about being the difference between being lonely and being comfortable in solitude. May God bless and keep you.