Right, I was going to post more pics of Tweetybird. Well, I got sidetracked by preparing to write my novel, Where is Faith?, for Camp NaNoWriMo, starting tomorrow. I promise I’ll post pics tomorrow. Pinky promise.
Today I want to talk about a book I’m currently reading and about how a certain passage resonated within me. It’s a YA novel called Clean by Amy Reed, about a group of teens in a rehab together. They are asked to write essays about themselves, what got them in their situations and so forth.
One of the teens, Eva, writes so beautifully, she breaks my heart. Here is an excerpt: Do you remember? Do you remember being solid? Do you remember life before the hole? Before you were empty and needed to be filled? There was a time when everything was enough. There was a time you didn’t try to get out of your own skin. Remember.
I cried when I read that, because I do remember that time. It was when I was three years old riding my tricycle and when I was five years and my mom gave me a huge birthday party with all my friends over. I can see everything, smell the grass outside, see the trees in our neighborhood, all my friends smiling, I can remember playing red light green light, red rover (memories get mixed up, so I may have been older here).
Then there was the hole. Really it was a void. That’s why I picked that picture. It was a void so huge nothing could fill it. I tried to fill it with food, with fixing people, with trying so hard to be perfect, with trying to please other people, with anticipating every need. . . I even tried to fill it with screwing up in college when the other stuff didn’t work. I tried to fill it up with self harm and suicide attempts and dark, dark thoughts that would never go away.
Then two wonderful things happened. First, I became a born-again believer. That was a very good day. March 5, 1997. I don’t push my beliefs on anyone, but I’m not ashamed of them either. Then, I keep thinking it was longer, but it was only around September of last year, I found Al-Anon.
Now, I have that W- in front of the Hole again. I know and feel what it means to be whole. Not all the time, because sometimes I forget and slip back, but most of the time. And it feels . . . FANTASTIC.
Remember way back when in April or maybe the end of March some time when I talked about cleaning my car, Tweetybird? Yeah, I never did.
Not until yesterday and the day before, until I was backed against the wall and we were going to take my sister to her court date. But I did it! She’s beautiful again. And I am SO SORE, from bending over and picking up empty iced tea bottles and cans, Coke cans, etc, and putting them in trash bags (no, when I’m in full-on clean mode like this, I do NOT recycle, sorry).
The only thing I have left to do is vacuum and get my baby washed. THEN you are in for a treat, because I’m going to post pictures. I would’ve taken before/after pictures, but I was just too embarrassed to let you see my baby before. She was sooooo sad.
Yes, courage to change is also about little things like this, and how much better they can make us feel. I may be sore in body today, but I am soaring in spirit.
Well, today turned out to be the pre-sentencing hearing. My sister pleaded guilty, and between the judge, the prosecuter and her attorney I guess they worked out that she could get from o-60 days in jail (it’s not 30 days anymore).
Between now and then she will see her probation officer. She has to put her best foot forward with him, because he will influence the sentencing.
That’s about all I have to say, except she’s feeling pretty sorry for herself. The attorney strongly suggested she attend as many AA meetings as she could between now and July 3rd, which is when she’ll be sentenced, and all she could do was say she didn’t have transportation.
I had already told her AA people would love to pick her up and take her to meetings. Her attorney told her she’d have to start dealing with that because that wasn’t likely to change.
I don’t know what else to say. I’m tired and slightly … I don’t know.
In it I put things like…peace of mind, acceptance, courage, certain weird prayers.
Today I finally put my sister in the God box and I closed it.
I generally don’t revisit the God box unless a prayer has been answered, and then I open it to write a thank you to God.
Tomorrow is court date.
We leave at 12:00, have to be there at 1:30 p.m.
Do you have a God Box? What kinds of things do you add to your box? Is it hard for you to leave it closed?
My prayers have been fervent and many of late.
At the Al-Anon meeting this morning, I asked for a table on Hope, because I thought that’s what I needed to talk about. The thing about the fellowship, I learn so much more from them than they could ever learn from me.
I ended up learning what I need to sustain me during these next difficult days with my sister is faith. I listened to stories around the table about faith, and I wrote things down, but mostly I remembered what God had said to me when I got on my knees and prayed before. “It’s ALREADY okay.”
So I opened my Bible, which has not gotten much attention over the past couple of weeks, I’m sorry to say. I found one of my favorite Scripture passages about faith: “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 NIV
I looked at that picture of mustard seeds on Wikipedia. Taken by themselves, they are almost impossible to see. I think I can muster up the faith of a mustard seed.
It really IS already okay.
I need a gratitude list this morning. I just need it. Really, truly, seriously in a big way. So bear with me, and I hope it helps you in some way as well.
- God loves me, and He loves my sister
- my health
- sunny days
- the love of writing
- Lucy (the dog)
- Dori (my sponsor)
- my family (in no particular order, so that none should be jealous should they ever read this )
- bubble baths
- hot showers
- good dreams
- that moment in writing when you pass into like a state of mind where you can’t really hear or sense anything else going on around you
- learning new things
- my Kindle
- FaceBook, because it keeps me connected to people
- my job at the Book Nook
- all my friends
- unconditional love
Okay, so I can totally relate to this picture here. When it comes to the Third Step, Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him, I’m a total control freak with the big things.
And what exactly ARE the big things? I mean, I can turn over parking spaces, book ideas, my dog’s ear infection and different things like that.
But when it comes to people I love it’s an entirely different story. I have a pretty big deal coming up on the 29th, next Tuesday, and I’ve been talking around it, and in vague terms. Today I’m just going to come right out and say it, because I could use your prayers or comments of support, whatever you can offer me. Even just your “likes” on this post will send my heart soaring. Honestly.
My sister was arrested for her 4th drunk driving and I’m driving her to court on Tuesday. She faces from 1-5 YEARS in prison. There is a possibility of treatment instead, so we’re praying about that. Fortunately, she didn’t hurt anyone else while she was driving (or herself), so she’s not dealing with manslaughter charges.
I’ve been doubling up on my Al-Anon meetings, and talking to my sponsor a lot, because my sister calls me often to speak to me, looking for reassurance, or just to talk. She speculates much about the future, and I try to help her take it one day at a time, and one hour at a time if she needs to. We just DON’T KNOW what will happen. Only God knows.
That’s where I get hung up. I get all twisted up inside when I think about Tuesday. As much as I’m reassuring her, I think of how much I will miss my sister. No matter what happens, she will go away for quite a while. If it’s treatment, it will be long term somewhere. I talk to her every day without fail except for when she is drinking. Then I miss her the most.
The only time I have peace with this is when I’m sleeping. I try so hard to turn her over. I pray to my higher power, which is God, and I say, “I know she belongs to You. She was Yours way before I ever even knew her. You can take such good care of her if I just let go. Help me to let go. Please.” *laughing* Praying a prayer for help to turn someone over doesn’t even seem to make a lick of sense, does it?
But it’s the best I can do for now.
Okay, so I spoke with Mary, my temporary OA (Overeaters Anonymous) sponsor yesterday evening, and she told me she would like me do several things that she did for her sponsor and that had worked for her.
1. To call her every day, and tell her what I’ve eaten the day before, if I’m on track with my meal plan for that day.
2. To read three pages in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, find something on each page that means something or touches me in some way, and write about each thing in a notebook . . . every day.
3. Go to more OA meetings. I only go to one OA meeting a week so far.
I guess that’s all she said for now. But it feels totally overwhelming, and I’ll tell you why. These are all my reasons:
1 I’ve put Undertow on the back burner and have started a novel, the beginning of a series, called Where is Faith? , to be followed by Faith in Prison, and finally Faith Forever.
2. I’m working on putting together a book proposal for Where is Faith? which is not exactly an easy process. They are generally quite a bit longer than synopses, and more involved.
3. I love to write, but I’d rather be journaling my feelings regarding my cravings when it comes to food. Like, when I get hungry, is it emotional or physical hunger, and if emotional then what the hell is going on?
4. The reason I only go to one OA meeting a week is because I usually attend four Al-Anon meetings a week, and I told her that, but it didn’t put her off mentioning other OA meetings I might like.
Well, Mary did say at the end that we could try this for two weeks and see how it goes. We might be incompatible, and that’s okay. But when I talk to her today I’m going to ask her about the journaling thing. What is the point of the pages? Why that particular assignment? Is it just to make sure I read the big book? Because I’m reading it.
I don’t know. I’m just so overwhelmed. It’s making me tired and pissed off.
Met with my boss at the Book Nook. We went over some procedures, that I hadn’t known and apparently a few others hadn’t known either. She gave me a bag of yarn. I was so touched. It reminded me of my love for knitting, and made me want to go ahead and begin my Einstein Coat project. People can be so wonderful. I’m amazingly touched.
Sponsorship is one of the tools of recovery in Twelve Step programs. I, however, would call it more than a tool. I would call it absolutely necessary for honest recovery. Whereas I can fool myself pretty much all of the time, I can never fool my sponsor for very long. Nor would I want to.
This morning, I went to an OA meeting. I admitted that I’m still in deep denial about the whole process. I didn’t even admit that I’m a compulsive overeater. I merely said “Hi, I’m Chris” and began my sharing.
The miracle though, the one I’m referring to with the picture I’ve inserted here, is what I did even before the meeting started. I approached a woman I’d been thinking about whom I listened to at my very first meeting. Her name is Mary, and she has a strong program, I can tell. Plus, she seems like she would know what to do if you called her in a panic. You know what I mean?
I already have a strong Al-Anon sponsor. But Dori would not know what to do about compulsive overeating because she does not struggle with that addiction.
So I saw Mary getting out of her car, and even before the meeting starting I walked up to her and asked her. “I’m still in deep denial about the whole thing. I just thought you should know.” I told her. “But I’m willing to do whatever you ask me to do. Absolutely anything.” She never hesitated. She wrote her phone number on the inside of my Big Book of AA (our basic text for OA).
I’m calling her at 6:00 tonight. I’m SO looking forward to it.
The original serenity prayer is stated as follows: “God, give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” This serenity prayer was written by Reinhold Niebuhr.
Over time, Alcoholics Anonymous adopted the prayer as part of the Twelve Step program. The prayer was modified and is said as: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.” While the serenity prayer’s origin may be sketchy, the prayer has been used extensively in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) since 1942.
One of AA”s founders, Bill W., says the prayer was introduced to the program by Jack, an AA member in New York. According to “A.A. Comes of Age,” Bill W. writes how Jack found the prayer in A New York Tribune obituary. Soon after, the prayer was printed on small cards and carried everywhere by AA members.
The rest is history: the serenity prayer is known worldwide as a prayer of strength and hope for AA and Al-Anon, and other myriad Twelve step members. I know it has helped me many a time, to the point where I’m praying it without even being aware of it at first.
A couple months ago I wrote a post about gratitude, and today seemed a fitting day to revisit the subject. So here we are.
At the meeting this morning we chose three readings, and they all seemed related to changing our attitudes, whether it had to do with a state of needless worry, or communication with the alcoholic in our lives, or whatever.
It made me realize how much there is in my life – right now, this minute – to be grateful for. My mother will by 85 years old this year and is in very good health, still quite active and social (often more than me!).
I still keep the gratitude book my sponsor asked me to keep, and it is not hard to think of five things every day to be thankful for. Sometimes they are small, simple things . . . and other times they feel like huge, miraculous achievements.
My sister is safe in her own home right now. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and that’s just fine, because we don’t live in tomorrow. We live one day at a time, right? We live in the moment. God’s taking care of her, and she couldn’t be in better hands than that as far as I’m concerned.
My mind is not as clear as it once was, because of the CFS, but I have a wise, compassionate doctor.
More and more friends every day, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2Tim 1:7)
For those things and so much more, I am forever indebted. What are you thankful for today?
The tenth step of Al-Anon says: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.” It’s one of those steps I take on a daily basis, or try to, before I hit the sheets at night, during my prayer time. I ask God to point out to me any areas where I might need to make amends. I also acknowledge any successes or achievements throughout the day, and am grateful for those. It’s a time for me to make any adjustments in my life.
The adjustments aren’t always easy, and sometimes take much longer than the recognition comes. You know?
So this morning I was aware when I spoke with my sister that I had been stepping over boundaries left and right into her program. Worried, I had been speaking out of that and telling her what I think would happen or what I think she should be doing.
When I look at my hands and my arms, I see the scars still there from self-harm (cutting and burning). The ways I coped in the past with my codependency were so varied, convoluted and harmful. I still mess up, as witnessed by stepping on boundaries. I took the picture to remind myself I’m so very human. I’m no better than anyone else.
So I spoke with her, I apologized, told her I overstepped my bounds. This time I said, “I only know what I can do. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing I know for a fact is that I love you.”
I’m exhausted; tired down to my bones; dog tired. I have not been sleeping well the last couple of nights. I know why, and it’s because I haven’t been praying enough, and haven’t been “letting go and letting God” when I am afraid. I shouldn’t even be afraid, if I’m working my program right.
Well no, I take that back. Feelings are feelings. They come and go, like thoughts. There’s not much we can do about them.
In other news, I finished reading “Eat, Pray, Love” finally. I loved this book. It’s not a book I would have picked up on my own, you know? I mean I didn’t even see the movie. But Paula Balzer, in her book Writing & Selling Your Memoir suggests several different memoirs to read if you’re writing your own. I’ve read this one now, and Drinking: A Love Story, which I also loved, for different reasons.
They are about different subjects, for one thing. “Eat, Pray, Love” is about a woman who, after her divorce goes on a pilgrimage to discover what she wants for herself and spends a year divided equally between Italy, India, and Indonesia. She eats her way through Italy, prays her way through India, and loves her way through Indonesia. It’s a funny, serious, charming, and informative book.
Liz Gilbert also has a totally different voice than Caroline Knapp, of “Drinking: A Love Story,” which I had finished just before I started Liz’s book, so that took a lot of getting used to. Caroline’s story is starkly honest, and is exactly what the title says. It’s about the love story between a woman and wine and other alcoholic beverages, but her first love is a crisp, white wine.
Caroline takes us on her journey with candor and also wit, but pulls no punches, and we are led all the way through to her struggles in rehab and through that to living life sober, to making friends soberly, shopping for groceries stone-cold sober, going to a party sober, etc. Highly recommend both.
Now I’m reading Lighting Up: How I Quit Smoking, Drinking, and Everything Else I Loved In Life Except Sex. It’s another memoir, not recommended by Paula Balzer, but I’m reading it because I read it once a long time ago, and with chronic fatigue syndrome I can read things a second time and it’s like reading it all over again for the first time.
Susan Shapiro is seeing a psychoanalyst to quit smoking. Her voice is wry and emotional, and the book is hard to put down.
I pray I sleep well tonight, and that you do too. What do you do when you don’t sleep well? How do you help yourself sleep?
The world is an amazing place, I’m convinced of this more and more each day. Not only in the nature of its glory around me, but in the people I come in contact with every moment.
Yesterday morning, I went to my (previously) usual Blueprint For Progress 4th Step meeting, which started out much larger than it now consists of, which is myself and three other women. I brought the key to the church building I’d been given in case the group leader couldn’t be there, and nothing else.
My intention was to explain to them why I had missed four weeks in a row – because of the severe depression I initially went through, and then an inability to catch up. Our group started on January 2nd of this year and has continued every Monday morning at 8:30 EST, just before the usual Al-Anon meeting at said church.
Anyway, I intended to quit the 4th step group that morning.
Instead of accepting my intention, they told me how glad they were I was feeling better, and told me I was not very far behind. Apparently, they got distracted during the “Commitment” section, and spent three weeks on it instead of the customary one week. How wonderful for me! They so WANT me back! Weird, huh? I mean, for me. To be wanted like that.
Also, I lost my job at the library, and was granted a second chance, when I got honest about the depression and how severe it was. I had not shown up three times, and as there is no phone at the Book Nook desk, there is no one for me to call to say I won’t be there. As chance would have it, the coordinator of the Book Nook needed to speak with me the third time I no-showed, and e-mailed me to say they wouldn’t be needing me anymore.
Hence, my reply back, pleading my case, and her gracious and compassionate reply.
People truly blow my mind. They astound me in their capacity to love.
Have you been given a second chance, or have you given someone else a second chance? Please share (people love love stories).
At Saturday’s meeting there was another double winner, like me, a friend of mine (at least, she signed my sheet, so I count her among my friends now ) who is in both AA and Al-Anon. She mentioned when it was her time to share that she was celebrating that very day 27 YEARS of sobriety. Whoo hoo!!!
All meetings have a different sort of “flavor,” and this meeting is much looser, and allows crosstalk. We allow questions and direct statements back and forth to each other because we are a very small and close-knit group. It’s just how we are. Most groups don’t allow that, because it tends to put people off and they then don’t feel very willing to share their story.
Anyway, what I did was, I asked her “How’d you do it?”, which is a question oft-asked of people who get a token for achievements such as this. People want to know how one made it through even a month of such an achievement, let alone 27 years.
Well, “J”, my dear friend, simply said, “It was love. A whole lot of love.” And then she couldn’t talk anymore about it because she got pretty choked up.
Love pretty nearly does make the world go ’round. God’s love, through Him, and through His people.
P.S. Got three more phone numbers of potential friends Monday morning. Yay me!!
Often, around the tables, we will hear the acronym F*E*A*R defined as “F*ck Everything And Run.”
I’m sorry if that offended anyone, but lately it is more my intention to be honest and as upfront as I can . . . I try also to be kind, but sometimes they do not go hand-in-hand, when the truth is so very important.
Yesterday, just before I left for my meeting, I received heartbreaking, devastating family news. My heart literally broke into pieces at the same time I could feel my pulse begin to race and mouth dried up like the desert.
I had two choices. I could stay home and wait by the phone for further news, or I could go ahead to the meeting where I knew I would get help.
I had my phone with me. I told my mom it was turned on, that I would take it into the meeting with me (normally a strict “no-no”, but this was a looser meeting) and duck out to answer it if she called. I prayed so hard for my family member that day on the way to the meeting, for a future forever changed by one choice. I prayed for protection, for guidance, for comfort against fear . . . all the things that people pray when they are concerned.
My biggest fear, one that I need to turn over many times a day to God, because I keep doubting, and having to grab onto faith again, is that my loved one will forever hate me. Because I am changed today, because I make different choices due in much gratitude to the Al-Anon program, there is one big thing I did not do yesterday . . . to rescue.
I am in constant prayer. I keep a candle lit. They have no idea how much we love them and how difficult these choices are. It’s not just a flip I switched in my mind and was like “Oh, I think I’ll torment someone today. I think I’ll make them spend the night in hell. See how that feels.” It’s not like that at all.
Faith doesn’t pull any punches, though. Faith knows what it knows and it still believes . . . and acts.
After being in Al-Anon a while, I learned about the acronym H.A.L.T., which teaches us never to get too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.
I’ve been rolling along all right, I guess, with the hungry and tired part . . . you know, eating enough (while not correctly) and sleeping enough. But I’ve been slipping in the anger department lately.
And I’m devastatingly lonely. There, I said it. I don’t have any real/life friends other than my sponsor, and– Oh God, that sounds absolutely pathetic. But it’s really not. Because for the most part I enjoy my own company and have been perfectly fine spending time alone, which is different by far than being lonely.
The difference has spiked I think because many of my close circle of online friends are experiencing personal stressors of their own, or are extremely busy, or are in general freaking out. sigh It’s a sign of the times, you know? Life is precarious at best and a thin, delicate thread at worst. Striking a balance within that is like trying to draw polka dots on a King Cobra. A bit scary and breathtaking.
So, after I prayed, and cried, and prayed some more, then cried as I drove to the meeting, I did something quite uncharacteristic for me. I asked for help.
I shared that I’d been ignoring the L. part especially of H.A.L.T., and talked about how that was SO not working for me. Then – before my hands could shake too much – I passed around the sheet of paper and asked if, you know, they wanted to be friends and, if that was they case could they write down their number for me so I could call them and ask them out for coffee or something? lol
I DID. That’s exactly how I said it too. There were five women at my table, and I got four numbers.
I’m so proud of myself. I’m going to do it at tomorrow’s meeting too.
Is it hard for you to ask for help? When was the last time you did, and were the results surprising?
It’s fairly easy to talk the talk. It’s much easier to tell people what to do, to give people advice, than to take that advice for oneself. What I’m trying to say is, I’ve been in some denial about something pretty big.
I’ve said here on my blog that I’m a “double winner,” and by that I mean I am a member of two anonymous groups: Al-Anon, and Overeaters Anonymous. Well, I’m in a rather large amount of denial about OA, and I intend to change that in this blog post.
I’ve still been attending the meetings. I just haven’t been reading any of the literature that I’ve purchased. Whenever we go around and say our names before sharing, most people say “Hi, I’m so-and-so, and I’m a compulsive overeater.” I say, “Hi, I’m Chris, I’m a sugar addict, and I’m in huge denial about it.” Then I continue my sharing.
I suppose I could just say I’m a compulsive overeater like everyone else. Why the need to be unique? Well, it’s not so much a need to be unique, as a need to be specific. I don’t struggle with other carbs. I struggle with sugar specifically. Once I eat something sweet, specifically chocolate or a cake-y thing, I’m a goner.
If I don’t buy it, or it’s not in the house, I’m okay. But I’ve been known to eat sugar just by the spoonful if I’m desperate for that “feeling.” And if you’re a sugar addict, you’ll know what I mean. It’s a euphoria, a calmness that overtakes one, followed by numbness and a quite sleepy feeling. There’s nothing like it.
When I think about it, I’ve used sugar to comfort myself since childhood days. Sugar and I go way back. It’s probably why my weight has gone up and down so much during my lifetime. When I was particularly scared, and didn’t know what to do, I would take a box of cake mix down from the cupboard and pour a bit out int a cup, mix that with some water and eat it with a spoon. Weird, eh? But it comforted me, went straight to those neurotransmitters that told my brain, “Mmm, this means something good.” I was probably all of eight or nine at the time.
But now, with something like chronic fatigue syndrome, I know I’m playing with fire. It’s a stupid, dangerous thing to keep turning to sugar when I know I’ll only crash and burn. It makes me feel worse than I would had I not gone to it in the first place. I need to take care of myself, because there’s only one me, like it or not. And I do love Lucy . She’s supposed to live to about 14 yrs. old.
It feels good to get through this. Denial is tough. It’s not easy to cut through; takes a machete.