Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bona Fide Coping Mechanisms

It's Saturday night and the house is quiet. Dearest one is working a night shift and youngest son is off with his brother doing stuff I'd rather not know about. Both boys like to tease me about their shenanigans. I'd rather be blissfully unaware. There's a fireworks display in town tonight and I'm sure one or two beer will be in the mix. I'm glad I'm on a need to know basis and that I don't need to know the rest.

Sometimes I look at them and think "Okay, when I was your age I was married and when I was your age I was a mother." Often I feel all smug about that as if marriage and motherhood were a mark of maturity. The rest of the time I remember that I'm still waiting to be a bona fide grown up. I thought when I began sprouting white mustache hairs I would qualify, you know? Except I didn't anticipate sprouting mustache hairs of any kind. Never mind chin hairs. Yikes. It ain't a pretty sight.

All of the above is really a side trip. Reality is it's Saturday night and I'm alone and I don't do alone very well anymore. Seven and a half months of abstinence from sexual addiction tonight and 17 days of no bingeing. The gaping hole left in the wake of no coping mechanisms feels like a chasm of gigantic proportions tonight.

I typed that sentence several hours ago. As I typed it I realized I do have coping mechanisms. I stopped typing and phoned my sponsor. We live 50 kms apart yet she decided instead of having a gab fest on the phone she would come over for coffee. What a blessing. I can do this. I can. I just can't do it alone.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Adequate Faith

"If I, as a Christian, believe that my first duty is to love and respect my fellow in his personal frailty and perplexity, in his own unique hazard and need for trust, then I think that the refusal to let him alone, to entrust him to God and his conscience, and the insistence on rejecting them as persons until they agree with me, is simply a sign that my own faith is inadequate.

My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between believer and unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbeliever more or less."
~ From "Apologies to an Unbeliever" by Thomas Merton

I printed this out from someone's blog and have had it up on my wall of quotes for a while now. I read it at least once a day. I want to love and respect my fellow human being as much as I want to receive it. I fall short yet I know my heart desires to be changed so that I can live it instead of simply reading it. One of the biggest gifts I've received since becoming Catholic is knowing that living it out is what matters. And also the hope that it can be.

I trust that God, who has brought me this far, will continue to do his good work in me. My prayer life these days seems to be one of almost total silence. Other than praying, "I can't do this on my own strength." In the silence I'm finding an underlying peace which is helping me simply rest in where I am. A gift from a God who loves and respects us in our personal frailty and perplexity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Everything Belongs

I headed out for town early Saturday morning, hoping to get the grocery buying done before my AA meeting. I was about 50 kms from home when I heard this funny beeping. I was listening to the radio at the time and thought to myself that the beeping didn't fit in with the song. Duh. It took a bit before I turned off the radio only to still hear the beeping. I looked down at my dashboard and saw the van's temperature gauge was as high as it could go. I brought the van to a stop at the side of the road and phoned dearest one. I really don't like carrying a cell phone, so much so that I couldn't tell you my cell phone number. [a few months ago I was reviewing caller ID's on the phone before I deleted them all when I saw an unknown cell phone number on my phone with dearest one's name attached to it. In short order I thought to myself, that man has gone and got youngest son a cell phone in his name without consulting me. Instantly I was having an imaginary fight in my head, ready to defend my opinion of that. Thankfully I realized it was my cell phone number on the screen before I opened my big mouth. I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took to recognize it!]

I was pretty thankful for the cell phone as I sat at the side of the road. I was also glad for my purse that youngest son affectionately calls the black hole. I carry a lot of stuff in that bag and to pass the time while I waited for the tow truck I read my favourite Anthony DeMello little book and some of a pocket Thomas Merton. Some women carry makeup in their bags, I carry books. [Once when I went to a retreat I left my bible at home. In the midst of a discussion at the retreat we needed a bible and I said I usually carried one but had left it at home. One of the women looked at me and said, "Yep, you're going to need your bible when you go to the grocery store but not at a retreat." We laughed.]

Despite reading Anthony DeMello I get attached to lots of things - like my van. By many people's standards it's old. It's got over 300,000 kms on it yet I'm hoping it's a fixable head gasket rather than a totally shot motor. We don't make vehicle purchases very often and I'd rather keep this one going a few more years than invest in another one. When dearest one gets some time off he'll be able to see if it's salvageable.

Today I had an appointment with Fr. Charlie and I braved the road with our 1979 Ford half ton. Dearest one was in the midst of getting it road worthy again when the van crapped out so I was thankful to have a vehicle to drive. No muffler though. I kept expecting the cops to pull me over and give me a ticket. I kept my foot off the gas as I drove past the police station, sure that if I gunned it I'd make enough noise that they'd be able to hear me inside the building. With my imagination I pictured a cop making a dash to the cruiser and coming after me. Yes, I know, I don't have enough to occupy my mind with.

Here's a quote that's totally unrelated to this post but is one of my recent favourites:
"Have you been loved well by someone? So well that you feel confident that person will receive you and will forgive your worst fault? That's the kind of security the soul receives from God. When the soul lives in that kind of security, it is no longer occupied with technique. We can go back and do the rituals, the spiritual disciplines, but we longer follow them idolatrously. We don't condemn people who don't do it our way. All techniques, rituals, and spiritual disciplines are just fingers pointing to the moon.

But the moon is the important thing, not the pointing fingers. We stand in adoration before the moon. We sing, Holy, Holy, Holy. We say, "Yes, yes, it is good." We are energized by what we see. And our private darkness is no great surprise. Who cares? Who cares where I am on the ladder of perfection? That's an egocentric question. "Where am I?" "How holy am I?" become silly questions. If God can receive me, who am I not to receive myself -- warts and all?" ~ Richard Rohr in Everything Belongs

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Peaceful Chaos

Today the church celebrated the birth of John the Baptist and the Sacrament of Baptism was celebrated in each of the three communities within our parish. A month ago when Fr. Charlie announced he was being transferred, he reassured a young mom that her soon to be born baby would get baptized before he left. The very next week she delivered a premature baby boy. Today we got to see the little guy for the first time. Tiny and precious in the white baptismal gown that his own mother wore when she was baptized.

On a regular Sunday we may have 10 people present for Mass. Today we had many more, including more young children than normal. Add a baptism in the midst of the Mass and well, there you have it. A peaceful kind of chaos. The parents and God parents were standing up front and several of their children were going back and forth. At one point two of them were sitting/laying on the steps leading up to the altar when Fr. Charlie looked at them and said he hoped they would always be that relaxed in church. And he meant it. The next moment the 2 year old brother of the baby being baptized figured out how to get the kneeler unhinged and it came crashing down. His parents looked anxiously in his direction at the noise while Fr. Charlie said, "He's not crying, so don't worry." And the celebration continued.

The relaxed atmosphere allowed the holiness of the celebration to seep through the cracks of our humanity. The children's inability to remain seated and silent was accepted as part of the process. Their behaviour was not frowned upon. It simply was. More than once I noticed the mom of the new baby looking concerned, torn between remaining present in the Sacrament and scolding her children. Letting go of perfection, letting go of her children seemed so fitting for what we were celebrating.

Several moments stood out for me. One was when Fr. Charlie carried the baby to each person in the church and invited them to make the sign of the cross on the baby's forehead. Everyone from the elderly to the two old were invited to bless this child. When his turn came, the two year old gently brought his cheek down to rest it on his baby brother's forehead. His cheek stayed there a few moments longer than expected, long enough for the beauty of the moment to touch us all.

Then, at the end of the baptism Fr. Charlie laid the baby on the altar and had the parents stand behind it as we prayed a blessing on each of them. The sight of this precious baby, asleep on the altar, arms splayed out in total trust will stay with me a long time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Getting Clear

"Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime's work, but it's worth the effort.
~from The World According to Mister Rogers

Trusting women in recovery is difficult for me. They make my spidy senses go into overdrive. I disclosed that bit of info voluntarily, near the end of my intake assessment interview yesterday, at the rehab centre. To a woman counselor.

As I was locking up my vehicle before I went into the center I had prayed for help to simply be honest. I reminded myself that this interview wasn't about trying to get the counselor to like me or any of the other things my mind can get wrapped up in when meeting someone for the first time(or second or third or every time, for that matter.) I just wanted the courage to be honest.

Then I walked into the waiting room and found a handful of women rehab employees standing there having a chat. As I told the secretary who I was there to see, my counselor stepped forward, introduced herself and off we went down that long hallway into never never land.

I felt scared. And vulnerable. Yesterday reminded me how much I dislike situations where I'm not in control. Where I'm not the one running the show. Where I don't know what is coming next. Yet it also reminded me that no matter what happens (and some awful things have happened in those circumstances) I will survive.

When I first went to the rehab center to inquire about treatment I was given a form to take home and fill in for this intake interview. I had to smile at the little amount of room given to answer such questions as "How have your actions/addictions affected your family, work, health, social life, etc?" Three tiny lines to answer that? One of my recovery friends laughed and told me to put, everyone, everywhere, all the time. I wanted to write a book for each answer.

Harder still was the questionnaire the counselor and I filled in together. She asked the questions and as I answered she filled in the forms. Questions about flashbacks and nightmares that prompted flashbacks all on their own. Having to list the specifics that prompted those. Questions about my sexual addiction. Questions about my food/body image issues and having to answer affirmative when she then asked if I would say I had an eating disorder.

The worst was at the end when she was sharing with me what she had written down as the issues she felt I needed to address while in treatment. I could handle all she listed and even added a few of my own. What nearly did me in though was when she said that because of the sexual abuse issues I had disclosed she was adding a session with the grief/loss counselor. In an instant I felt grief rising in my throat, up to my eyes and my whole body felt sad. She told me in that class I would work on a collage. In my mind I saw myself laying down my head on top of a half finished collage and sobbing. The best I could do yesterday was look her in the eyes as she spoke and let her see the sadness there.

Today I was planning to go with a recovery friend to a grad ceremony at the rehab center. She knew someone who was graduating and thought I'd like to see what happened. Last night I told my sponsor that my only reason for going to the grad ceremony was so that I would have one situation where I had a heads up. Then I told her what I really wanted to do was take a notebook and quiz the new grad about every minute of her last 20 days so that I would know what to expect. She replied with this "Ohhhhh..." that said so much. Then she graciously told me about her stay there many years ago. That her bags were searched upon check in, how that felt and a few other tidbits of information. It wasn't a play by play of the whole shebang but enough of a taste to reassure me that I would be okay. She reminded me several times that every person there was just like me and her.

This week I read a book by Anne Wilson Schaef called Living in Process. I found it very much a "take what you like and leave the rest" kind of book and the bits I took with me are gems. This one resonated with me:
"Sometimes, all we need is the willingness and our inner process will do the rest. Yet, willingness is not just an act of the will. It is much deeper than that. By willingness, I mean an openness to face courageously whatever we need to face to take the next step in our journey.Often, our fear is so overwhelming that we're afraid that we won't be able to handle the information we learn about ourselves. Yet, in the end, all of this information is inside of us and it's our information. Getting clear about it, whatever it is, and working through the healing is what life is about. I find that it is often our mind and our thinking about horrible illusions that make our healing difficult, not our reality. Ironically, as we truly probe deep within ourselves and face our learnings, we find that our connection with our spirituality gets stronger and stronger, and we find we have the immeasurable support and caring to do whatever we need to heal."(emphasis added)
I'm not much of a risk taker. I much prefer the predictable. Yet even though I feel scared and vulnerable about going into treatment, I also have a willingness to take this next step. I thank God for that.

After my intake interview I went to the doctor to get more injections in my shoulders. At one excruciating point in the process I said outloud, "Breathe Hope, breathe." My doctor smiled and told me if I didn't remember to, my body would eventually.
Prophetic words those ones.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I can't seem to put together a coherent post.
I'm not without things to write about.
But, is it worth the energy to write?
My sister tells me my best posts

look flawless.
I tell her it's a 2 to 3 hour

time investment
to make it look that way.
If it ever does.

Here is the short version:

Dearest one resigned from his
answer to prayer job.
Too much stress.
Too many politics.
Too little time.
He is back working night shifts and
hating every minute

of the long drive home afterwards.
Especially after he nearly tangled with a semi
one morning last week driving home.
He's looking at his options.
I hate change.
Well, change I'm not in control of.
It gets complicated because I often

think I'm in control of all change.

Youngest son broke up with
his girlfriend
almost a month ago.
I feel relieved.

I believe that those who
push our buttons
are our greatest teachers.
His girlfriend was one such person to me.
I don't think I learned
what I might have.
But I did learn some.

Fr. Charlie is being transferred
to another parish
many hours away.
I was blissfully unaware, and
absent from church
when this was announced
to our small church community.
Everyone in church ended up in tears,
including Fr. Charlie.
I don't do tears very well in public.
Let me rephrase that.
I don't do tears very well in front of anyone.

The day I last had
I also had freezing at the dentist.
It was too much of a good thing.
I ended up in ER the following day.
The pain was wretched.
All is well.
But it didn't feel that way at the time.

Dearest one threatened to call the ambulance.
The thought of the EMS people

trying to make their way
to my bedroom,

through the mess my house is in,
motivated me last week to use all
my spoons and then some
cleaning it up.
Well, the parts you can see.
I'm not talking about the closet, or bedroom,
the office
or porch
or anything like that.
Living room, kitchen, dining room only.
It's very nice to see clean spaces again.
I just remembered
the parts EMS would have to navigate
are more messy than ever now.
I mean, where do you think all the
I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-it stuff

My intake assessment interview
for rehab
happens this week.
I'm more scared than anything
although I do have moments
of overwhelming gratitude
But they pass.

I suspect that

*hating change I'm not in control of;
*believing those who push our buttons
are our greatest teachers;
*not doing tears well in front of anyone;
*experiencing wretched pain

*cleaning up the mess no one sees
will all be addressed
when I'm in rehab.

Lucky me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Belly Button Birthday

45 years ago today my mom nearly gave birth to me in a bedpan. At 2lbs. 11oz. it's really a miracle that I lived. At one point in my 3 month stay in the incubator, I lost 9 of those precious ounces.

My best birthday present of all time was an orange banana seat bike when I turned nine. My grandma watched me ride around and around the yard until I finally found my balance and rode off into the sunset my bike until bed time.

It's been a quiet, but good day. For so many years I wanted the hoopla to come and surround me and I was always disappointed when it didn't. This year, the hoopla is in my heart. This quiet knowing that I count. It's the first year I've ever experienced that. On my birthday, I mean. The pressure I've put on others over the years to reassure me that I matter, especially on this day, must have felt like I was trying to suck the very life out of them. How do you satisfy a soul whose hunger is never ending? Who is trying to get life from another life instead of from the Source? Very difficult. Impossible. Ack. This quiet knowing that I count is a gift all of its own.

I do have 100 birthday buckaroos wearing a hole in my pocket though. If you only knew how difficult it is for me to spend money on me. There's a mulitude of different places I could spend it. Indecision and hand wringing will most likely occur before I part ways with it. I am a hoarder by nature. It's hard for me to trust that I won't lack. I've spent so much energy convinced it was up to me to arrange life so that I wouldn't. Kind of like, OMG if I spend this $100 on me, the well will dry up and we will starve to death. That's me and money. Including birthday gift money. Sigh.

Maybe I need to go for a bike ride until I find my balance again.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Attached.....Or Not

I was sitting in my van at the library, passing the time until I could go sign on the dotted line, people watching. An elderly couple came out to their car, which was parked directly across from me. She was carrying a bag of books and he had the key fob in his hand. With a slight flourish he pointed it in the direction of the car's trunk, pressed down on it, only to have nothing happen. The same flourish, evoking a your wish is my command my dear sentiment, was repeated several times. He did it with such grace that I swear there was this invisible, wordless little bow within his gesture.

I sat there and watched this, enjoying his flourish. When nothing happened he eventually walked over and opened the trunk the old fashioned way, with a key. She clunked her bag of books inside it and he closed the trunk for her. As he turned towards the driver's door my first thought was, oh, he has man boobs. My next thought was that really doesn't matter in the whole scope of life. How has he maintained, or learned, when flourishes fall flat, to take it in his stride and do the next right thing? There was no look of discouragement on his face, in fact, there was still a hint of the flourish in the very way he walked. I sat there and hoped I would be like that when I was his age. Better late than never, right?


Yesterday I went to town for my home group AA meeting only to get there and find the meeting had been cancelled. As we pulled up, a woman from my group was just getting off her bike. We talked for a moment before deciding to have our own little meeting a few blocks away at Dairy Queen. It was a beautiful sunny day and we agreed to meet outside at one of the tables. Dearest one dropped me off and I had an hour to gab and listen, gab and listen. A coupon for a free ice cream cone got me a nice cold treat. I momentarily wondered if it was safe to eat it, seeing how dairy is one of my allergies and I had no medication along to quell the intestinal drama that might follow. Oh what the hell I thought and thoroughly enjoyed both the company of my friend and the soothing coolness of the cone.

I have a really hard time trusting women in recovery. I tend to think they're the enemy. I'm hoping to get that sorted out when I go to rehab. I think it must have something to do with my mom being the alcoholic parent in my life. This woman from my group is one of 2 women in recovery so far who I feel comfortable with. She is honest and vulnerable in a non threatening way. We were sharing our journeys with one another, talking about our issues when she couched hers in this way,"I'm attached to my shit", meaning she doesn't share her issues easily and she only lets go of them when she's ready.

God has a huge sense of humour. Trust me. I sat there listening to her share her journey, when my soon-to-unfold intestinal drama nudged me. Before I had a chance to say anything - like how unattached I was going to be to my own shit if I didn't run for the can - I crapped myself right then and there. Oh vey.

Today I can laugh about it. Yesterday I couldn't. It's rather humiliating to crap yourself in public. A mile away from the bathroom. Eventually I got cleaned up with a little help from her, dearest one and Walmart. I'll spare you the details.

Tomorrow I will call my AA friend and ask her if she thinks I'm as attached to my shit as she is to hers and we will laugh. I wonder if that old man at the library has let go of his own issues a time or two. If that's what has to happen in order to handle life with grace and an invisible bow.

Let's just say it's a bit of a bitch to walk with a flourish when you're attached to your shit.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Next Right Thing

The first of June already. This time last year I took the month of June off blogging. I also went to my first AA meeting in over 8 years. I still remember rolling to a stop at an intersection in town and having the thought flash through my mind that I could go and buy some beer, go home to an empty house and drink it, and no one would be the wiser. Shame was my overwhelming feeling those days due to my out of control sexual addiction. Somewhere deep down I knew I was going to have that first sip if I didn't do something different.

A year later I'm no longer covered in shame but find a thin cloak of it surrounding me sometimes. Having some abstinence (six and a half months today) from sexual addiction helps. Having a home group and a sponsor does too. I think the thing I've learned the most in the past year of going to AA meetings is that it's very hard for me to be honest, to know how I'm feeling and to own those feelings. It's much easier to try and find a way to numb the feelings and talk my way around honesty instead. I still feel like I'm somewhat tenuous in my recovery. When I talked to my doctor 2 weeks ago about pain management and was emphatic on no narcotics because I was scared I'd start abusing them, I felt fragile.

When I sobered up in March of 1988 I lived in a small town on the prairies that had a rehab center. How bizzare. A town in the midst of nowhere with a busy rehab. I don't remember ever considering going there when I stopped drinking. I don't know if it was because I had a newborn, a toddler and a preschooler and the logistics seemed impossible. Most likely I thought rehab was for other people.

I've wished for a long time that I had gone to rehab. In the past year I've come to realize that 19 years of not drinking does not equal walking the talk, working the program, or being in recovery. It just means that (by the grace of God) I haven't picked up a drink.

I think it took less than a handful of meetings for me to realize that telling people I'd been sober for 18 years meant diddly squat to them. A person can have an 18 year dry drunk too. Which is mostly what I had up til then. Which is what I still have some of the time these days.

On Wednesday dearest one, through the course of his work, found out that rehab was still a possibility for me. We had thought it was expensive and out of reach. He phoned and dropped the new, doable information in my lap and then listened as I came up with one excuse after another why I couldn't go until winter time. He wisely told me he was just delivering the information, what I did with it was my baby. Shit. So much of my life I've had a stance of "Don't you dare try and tell me what to do." Then there's my other favourite stance of "I don't want to own my own decisions, please will you make them for me?" Dearest one is a saint.

I didn't sleep well Wednesday night. Fear and panic were my bedfellows. It's one thing to want a thing and talk, talk, talk about it when you think it's out of your reach. It's another to have it right before you and purposefully turn away. I had a running conversation with myself most of the night. Turn one way, Yes, I'm going. Toss the other, Not a chance in hell. You can always tell how much I toss and turn in the night by how my hair looks in the morning. I have a whole range of bed head styles. The next morning, courtesy of a restless night, found me sporting a mini mohawk all of my own. A two inch high strip right down the center of my head.

After a glance in the mirror I decided to confess my panic to someone else so I phoned my dear friend, bobbie. What a reminder that there's more than one perspective to hold. That we need other perspectives. No wonder recovery work doesn't work well in isolation. Her encouragement and excitement for me to have this opportunity blew me away. It was like, Oh, I could be excited and happy instead of afraid and panicked. That wouldn't have occured to me had I not talked to her. I hung up from our conversation with much to think about.

Yesterday I signed on the dotted line and my rehab intake date is August 5th.