love

A is for Acceptance

Acceptance is a difficult concept to deal with, even if we’re not talking about alcoholism. None of us wants to be unacceptable, or excluded from a group, whether we’re small children, adolescents, or older adults. The synonyms for acceptance are many, among them approval and recognition.

I know a young woman who is gay. She has found a woman she loves, is very happy, and engaged to be married. Most people she knows are very happy for her happiness, but not all are as accepting. Some are even judgmental, saying she and her partner would always be welcome in their home, but they would never attend her wedding. This makes no sense to me, and seems more than a little hypocritical. If you accept the fact that someone is gay, you recognize it, you approve of the lifestyle she/he has chosen.

With my sister, it’s different, but somewhat the same. She’s been sober for a while now, and attended several family gatherings as a sober alcoholic. I don’t drink often, mostly at major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, my mom laughs at me, because I will see a drink recipe shown on The Chew or something, get all excited about it, buy all the ingredients, bring them home, and then the liquor sits in our cupboards, because I’ve immediately lost interest. :P)

Back to my sister. I never used to drink around her. I thought it was a sign of solidarity if I joined her in not drinking. Recently, I’ve realized it was actually codependency, and I was not allowing her a sense of self-esteem, and achievement all her own. She’s very capable, and strong in her own right. But I’m sure she feels that exclusion, that non-acceptance among non-alcoholics, even though she’s accepted by her recovering alcoholic friends. I still laugh when I remember going with her to an open talk AA meeting at Sacred Heart in downtown Detroit. I was so nervous I wouldn’t even smoke, even though I badly wanted a cigarette. One of her friends finally leaned over to me and said, “So, do you have any vices?”

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417)

How I Survived A Life-Threatening Illness


I lie awake at night, wondering what fresh hell tomorrow will bring me.

“Change is inevitable We can depend on that. By letting go of our efforts to influence the future, we become freer to experience the present, to feel all of our feelings while they are happening, and to more fully enjoy those precious moments of joy.” –Courage to Change, One Day at a Time in Al-Anon

So, you might think, as you read this, that bringing humor to the situation is insanity. But you know me and my sarcastic wit. Would you recognize me any other way? 😉 Besides, the alternative is too stupid to consider, and useless. Plus really, who doesn’t love a little Tina Fey?

But seriously, I have had such a hard time writing this (it’s been on my mind for a while), because I honestly don’t want to come off sounding pitiful, or elicit sorrowful responses, most of all. What has happened to me could happen to anyone–could happen to you. So please–don’t feel sorry for me. I’m here, I’m alive, and that’s a good thing.

It has not been the greatest year so far. Lol. First, I had to go back into a psychiatric partial day treatment program to get my bipolar meds adjusted. But what I learned shortly after I was admitted was that this therapist had noticed my hypomanic episode building since before Christmas. Why she didn’t say something earlier is still a mystery to me, but hey–at least she copped to it when my mom finally told me my agitation and irritability were getting hard to deal with. All of this explains why I  had such a hard time decorating for the holidays last year. Seriously, I was like a slug, and even when I’m depressed it’s like my favorite time of year. I barely put up lights on the ceiling and yanked out the tree (with lights already on), no ornaments—voila. There. Be happy. Ha ha.

Psych partial started on January 25th. My psychiatrist there (it’s like you no longer have the shrink you had on the “outside;” this shrink, the one in the hospital, calls the shots) tried several different meds, at different levels, and suddenly—instead of hypomania, I started feeling incredibly depressed. Yeah, I know–I should have my own channel on Youtube, because my life is just that fascinating.

Then, I went home early from the program on February 13th, because my back and left leg were just killing me. All I missed was relaxation therapy, but you’d think it was chemical engineering, for all the tap dancing I had to do to get out of it. So I went home.

That night, I woke up in the wee hours freezing cold with my teeth chattering. Yikes. I can’t remember the last time my teeth chattered. So I got up, took my temp, and it was elevated; something like 101. (I’m not totally sure at this point; my baseline temp is 97. I just know I had a fever) I also noticed like a big cyst or something high up on my inner left thigh. I wasn’t too worried at this point. I took a couple aspirin, ran some hot water on a washcloth to lay on the cyst and went back to sleep under like 5 blankets.

The next I knew it was morning and I was in a sweat. Good. So my temp was down and the cyst had also diminished. But then, my fever spiked back up again at around eight. I told my mom I thought I needed to go to the ER, and she agreed.

Long story short, what started out as a simple cyst turned out to be necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating bacteria. Yep. My WBC, which is supposed to be 10 or under, was 21, so I was admitted—instead of let go from the ER—on Valentine’s Day. I had three surgeries in four days in that most private of areas–whether you are a woman or a man–and spent eight days inpatient. Granted, I was on morphine, and much of the pain is now a blur, but still. My fever was up and down, up and down. They had me on I.V. antibiotics, three at a time (once I read a label, and it said 2,000 units!!)–like throwing paint on the wall–trying to see what would work. Finally the WBC came down enough that they could let me go with Amoxicillin for one week.

I had to have the surgical sites packed (with gauze) by home care nurses for at least two months, my surgeon said. So yes, I’m positive 2,000 people have seen my va-jay-jay at this point. I kept forgetting to charge an admission fee. I always meant to, though. At least I still had some self-respect. Just kidding. The nurses were so kind and gentle with my body and my heart. I couldn’t have asked for nicer people to care for me.

Now here’s the best part. I saw my surgeon yesterday for our weekly checkup of the surgical wound sites, right? She was SO pleased with how well everything is healing. Everything has closed (from the inside out, to prevent future infection) at least halfway, in some cases more. In fact, I’m doing so well that she said I can say goodbye to the daily nurse care and she doesn’t want to see me again for a month. After that, who knows? That’s exactly five weeks from the day I was admitted, right?

What an incredible journey!! I wonder what the rest of the year has in store? Bring it on.

Love Yourself Through the Process

exercise-cartoon1When I saw this cartoon it made me laugh so hard, and I was drinking coffee at the time. 😀 Then I realized it’s all about expectations and how what we think about things make them difficult. I hope that makes some sense. We dive into recovery and expect so damn much from ourselves from day one. God forbid we don’t meet those expectations. So when we can learn to laugh at ourselves it’s f***ing fantastic!!

When I told the brilliant Dr. Walker this morning (therapist) that it wasn’t fun making paper cranes anymore, and I told him the whole story about how everyone on Facebook (yes I have that much power) knows about my promise to make 1,001 paper cranes in the memory of an old cherished professor. So now it felt like a crushing burden, and it wasn’t a joy any longer. I kept putting it off each day until I was too sleepy. So he said “Why does it have to be 1,001? Why can’t you just make as many paper cranes as you want, keeping the fun in it, thinking of your old prof while you’re making them? The gift is not in the quantity of the cranes, it’s in the gifting of them, it’s in the meaning of them.”

forgiveHow’s your mood lately? Me, I’m ever working on irritability. 😦 I’m a work in progress. Mania is still at an all-time high, so it would be better if I could be in a rubber room right now, but it’s not an option. LOL  

Not so happily, I got in an argument with my sister again on the telephone this morning. Two bipolar people trying to both be right at the same time is so not good. We made up a safe word for when either of us feels things are getting out of hand: orange. Yes, orange. As in: “Orange you glad I asked you to stop talking?” 😉

After that conversation I got off the phone and just wept. But post-therapy, I decided the conversation belonged right here, along with my bad feelings, because I was being way too hard on myself: crapThen I walked away from the crap, literally turned my body away, wiped the stupid tears from my face, walked outside and looked into this:

beauty (That’s me ecstatic about the sunshine and higher temps of an impending spring day.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: no matter what you are recovering or healing from, it’s a tough process. To borrow a phrase, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We didn’t get damaged in a day, and we’re not going to get stronger, healthier, more empowered in a day either.

The biggest take-away I want for you to keep in your head with this post that took me forever because I kept nodding off (It’s so not you or the subject matter! Lack of sleep and problems adjusting meds is all. It’ll pass.) is this:

beautiful1

Be careful who you give your power to. Peace out. xx

We Don’t Live In A Vacuum

“Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love.” –Reinhold Niebuhr

Today’s reading in Courage to Change absolutely blew me away. It was ostensibly about sponsorship and how important a sponsor was to this sponsee. But really it was about love. She learned about her worthiness as a person through her sponsor.

I was at an Al-Anon meeting (stop me if I’ve told you this story before 😉 ), where there was a double winner (a person from AA who also had Al-Anon issues). She was celebrating 26 years of AA. She told us that at the meeting, in passing, and we all asked, as we do in meetings, “How’d you do it?”

“With a whole lot of love,” she replied.

Maybe it’s a cliche that love makes the world go ’round, and maybe it’s not even true. But love sure as hell helps. Ask babies who are never touched or held. Ask the homeless person who gets brushed by on the street without a second glance or a “How d’you do?” Ask the little girl who’s mom is too depressed to get out of bed, so she has to get her own breakfast, cheerios (if she’s lucky) without milk.

Without love, without someone in our corner supporting us, helping us to come up in the world, putting a hand around our shoulder, clapping us on the back to acknowledge our presence, we will wither on the vine.

We are ALL put here for a reason. Have you discovered yours?

Peace out.

 

Turning People Over To The Care Of A Higher Power

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.

Peace out.

Dog-Tired

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?

Peace out.

 

Second Chances

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).

Peace out.

A Whole Lot of Love

Love

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.

Peace out.

P.S. Got three more phone numbers of potential friends Monday morning. Yay me!! 🙂

Fear and its Antidote: Faith

Fear

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.

Peace out.

 

Undertow

When I was a kid, out attending my sister’s wedding in Miami, when my nieces and nephew were still just a future twinkle, we all went down to the ocean.

I loved to swim. I mean LOVED it. Had been swimming since around three, and if there was water, it was nearly impossible to get me out of it. Every time we went on a family trip that involved an overnight stay, my parents tried to find a motel with a pool, because they knew I would make good use of it. And our neighbors, the Warrens, who still lived on Faust in Detroit, had a pool that we took full advantage of.

I was twelve years old this time, I think, and we were warned to stay close to the shore. To stay where we could feel the sand beneath our feet, was the warning I remember. But something  terrifying happened that day, something I remember with startling clarity.

I don’t recall exactly how it happened. I do remember that I couldn’t feel the sand under my feet anymore, and when I looked at the shore it seemed much further away than it had been just moments before. I was caught in an undertow, and it sucked me down, hard and fast. I managed to pull up enough to cough out a yell for help before being pulled under again. My sister, who was probably only feet away but seemed miles away, did what in retrospect was a very stupid thing to do and swam out to me.

Then she too got caught in the undertow. But she is 13 years my senior, and her first instinct was to save me. The lifeguard came out and rescued us both. I coughed up a lot of water that day, and could have killed my sister for coming out to get me. But I love her to death, and would have switched places with her had the shoe been on the other foot.

There are many things in life that draw parallels to “undertows” in life. Alcoholism is one such thing. It can drag us under if we are not careful. Finances, love, among other things.

Have you had an “undertow” experience? A real undertow or a metaphoric one? Care to share?

Chris’s Recovery Manifesto

I wrote this for myself, but feel free to take and leave whatever works for you. We’re all in this thing called recovery together, right? We need to help each other as much as we can. 😉 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CHRIS’S RECOVERY MANIFESTO

Boundaries are good. They’re important.

There is no such thing as too many meetings.

It’s okay to need people.

“No” does not require an explanation.

If you don’t mean it, don’t say it. If it comes out anyway, be prepared to make amends.

Always follow through.

It’s okay to be human; mistakes happen. What’s important is the getting back up part.

Call your sponsor.

Stop worrying about what other people think of you. It’s none of your business what they think of you.

Do the best you can; at the end of the day that’s all you can do.

Pray always. Pray about everything, the little things and the big things. Say thank you, regardless of what happens.

Never take the steps out of order. They were written that way for a reason.

Let go and let God.

Breathe. Breathe again.

Remember that you can’t save anyone, not even yourself. That’s God’s job.

Stop trying to control the moon and the stars. They were here long before you, and they function quite fine without your help.

People are who they are. Accept that and avoid much heartache.

Love them anyway.

Live big. Dream big. Laugh long and hard.

Have goals. Change them as necessary.

Always love and know that someone loves you.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Note: I reserve the right to add to and edit this manifesto as I grow and learn more about myself and this thing called life. 


Peace out.

Dear Lucy

Linus and Lucy Dear Lucy,

I remember April 2, 2009, like it was yesterday. Mom and I drove all the way out to Shelby Township to rescue you, which was very far for us. What we didn’t take into account was how scared you might be, so we didn’t bring a crate or anything. Mom just held you in her lap while I drove, and you shook, quaked, and trembled all the way home.

I fell in love with you on a website, a PetFinder website. I immediately locked onto your eyes and I couldn’t let go. Your coloring helped, too. All gray with butterscotch underbelly, paws and head. Just gorgeous. Since I’d been a Snoopy fan from way back, in fact he is my muse (sometimes fickle but always good for a laugh and dances like wild when he’s happy and fed), if you had been a boy I would have named you after him. But you were a girl, and I was overjoyed to christen you the oh-so-clever Lucy, Linus’s older brother, and Charlie Brown’s pain in the neck.

Since it is gratitude Wednesday, I want to take this time (yes, writer friends, I have just switched tenses in the middle of a letter  :P), to let you know how much you mean to me. Even when I threaten to trade you in for a different model, one with perhaps a bigger bladder, you know I’m only teasing, right? When I say I’ll drive all the way back to Shelby Twp.? Yeah, that’s just a bluff. I’m only holding a pair of two’s. 😉 You’re holding all the cards, and you’ll always have my heart.

When I’m feeling down, you seem to sense it, and you nudge me with your nose. You bring me one of your toys and plop it right down in front of me, which is really and truly a gift. Usually, when you want to play, when you know I’m feeling well and good, you’ll start to act as though you’re offering the toy, you make a quick pass around my hand and then – oh no – you zing safely out of reach! You’d make a good runner in football. Go for the touchdown, Lucy!

And Mom just loves you, and you sure do love your grandma, don’t you? As soon as you hear her moving around upstairs in the morning and you can hear that she’s making a move to come down, you start to head for the stairs, sit and wait for her. Then comes the wiggling, licking, petting. Oh, I was talking about you, wasn’t I? 😉

Lucy, little schnorkie o’ mine, you have made my life full, and I love you deeply. Since having you, I have not had to be hospitalized even once in-house. I wouldn’t want to leave you, that’s a huge reason. The second reason is you help me cope. You help me to see life is never as bad as I think it is. You make me smile and laugh. You give me a reason to stick around, someone to care about, someone who needs me. 

Live long, little one. Lots of happy chasing dreams. And let Charlie kick the ball once in a while, why don’tcha? 😉

your loving owner and friend

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