Saturday, July 28, 2007

Merciful Compassion

This will be my last post before I go for treatment at the local Alcohol and Drug Abuse center August 4th to 24th. This morning I attended my AA home group. I realize many enter rehab without a supportive group of people behind them. I am blessed to have support from several different communities, inlcuding online.
Thank you.

I am also asking prayer for my mom, the alcoholic of my childhood,who is still actively drinking. I had a long chat with her yesterday. It took me most of the conversation to clue in that she'd been drinking. She has congestive heart failure with permanent damage to 50% of her heart. Drinking can hasten her death.
For many years all I had towards her was intense anger. There was a time, right before I sobered up, that I swore if I heard her voice all that would come out of me was a never ending scream. The more I do recovery work, the less anger I have towards her. Facing my own demons and shortcomings has helped me look at her with compassion, knowing she judges herself harshly for making a lifetime of choices that have damaged every relationship she's had. My prayer is that I don't add to her condemnation. There is a part in the Big Book of AA that talks about an alcoholic pointing out every flaw in every situation and person because they want perfection and think everyone else does, too. That sums up part of my mom's story and certainly my own as well.
I also know that there will be a chunk of time devoted to working through my childhood issues concerning my mom while I am in treatment.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fragile Surrender

When I started writing this blog I had no intent on turning it into a recovery blog. Could be that because back then I was still in denial about being a sex addict and a compulsive overeater. The sobriety I had when it came to alcohol seemed to be a non issue. How wrong I was on all counts. How far I've come. Pure gift and grace.

I'm turning a corner in my recovery and I feel fragile. Fragile in new behaviour and thinking. Feeling more alone, not less. It's taking every bit of energy I have to do those things on a daily basis that support my recovery. I often feel more selfish, not less for doing them. There are moments when it would be easier to relapse. I read last night a quote [from Patrick Carnes book on recovery from sexual addiction called Don't Call It Love] that resonated with me:
"Preserving a hard-won sense of self is not an easy task. A coaddict name Juilee spoke of the difficulties of "having to stay focused on recovery when every fiber in my body wanted to say, 'Okay, you win! I'll stop my meetings. I'll go back to who I was. I'll be me again. I'll be who you want me to be: a people pleasing codependent.'"

I'm in the home stretch now as I prepare to go to rehab August 4th. The first thing on the list of things I'm supposed to bring is a bathing suit. Are they nuts? This 240 pound woman is not bringing a bathing suit. It's enough to go into a situation where I will be bearing my heart, never mind my body. Gah.

I can't receive phone calls when I'm there, neither will I have any access to computers. I need support throughout those weeks from people who have journeyed with me to this point. Some of you out there are such people. I'm asking if you could drop me a note of encouragement to my email sometime between the 4th and 24th of August. I'll get dearest one to bring them to me if he can come visit. My counselor told me last week that sometimes the homework is to ask your spouse to come visit to hash through issues. Sometimes they recommend that no family come visit. I'll have to wait and see what they think for my own situation. If you'd like a snail mail address instead just email me and I'll send it to you. Thank you in advance.

Today is 8+ months of abstinence from sexual addiction, and 6 weeks of no binge eating. My primary addiction is alcohol and today is 19 years and nearly 4 months of sobriety. I cannot do this on my own strength.
Father, I abandon myself in to your hands,
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Only let your will be done in me
as in all your creatures;
I ask no more than this.
Into your hands I commend my soul.
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve, and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

~the Abandonment Prayer of Charles de Foucauld

Being Held

I wrote the following this week for an online friend who is struggling with many adversities in her life. Scary uncertainty keeps cropping up for me.

Wanting to escape is so human.
I've been in almost all those scenarios
you are now in.
I desperately wanted an escape.
A fix.
Something to numb how scared I felt
about accepting life on life's terms.
I had my methods.
They never really fixed anything
for more than a moment.
But I wanted them and
went after them
all the same.

To name a few.

Without the
there is
a gaping hole
that I humbly acknowledge
and beg for the grace
not to fill it
with those things
that will not satisfy in the end.

Even though some days
the gaping hole feels
like a bottomless pit
and my desire to escape
a screaming
that never ends.

But I am held
and so are you
by something
much bigger than
a gaping
empty hole.

If that wasn't true
I'd return to
every one of
my addictions.

It's easy for me to
write this
that I'm no longer
in that place
of scary uncertainty.

I pray
that you will
let yourself
be held.

For strength
to do
the next right thing.

To know that the
are temporary
even if
they last
a lifetime.

And that
being held

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Waiting To Give

This post on resisting sexual temptation is well worth going to read.
Here is an excerpt:
Lord, thank You for the beauty of this person.
Thank You for the gift of my own sexual desires.
Lord, I recognize this twisted, lustful desire in my heart,
and I ask You please Jesus,
by the power of Your death and resurrection,
to untwist in me what sin has twisted,
so that I might come to experience sexual desire
as you created it to be,
as the desire to love in Your image.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This Path

I took those words, "It is not what you are nor what you have been that God sees with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be." with me to Mass this afternoon. I felt a quiet joy within me as I went.

It was one of those Sundays where tears just kept welling up within me. Good tears. The kind of tears, had I been in solitude, would have become a torrent. It's been a long time since I felt so weepy at Mass. Every time I turned around [what, you didn't know we turned around at Mass?! :)] hearing God's word proclaimed reduced me to tears. It's been a long while since I felt pierced by God's word. Or had pictures come into my head in response to prayer.

One picture that came into my mind was that of being carried into rehab in the arms of Christ. And after it came into my head I thought to myself, wait, that doesn't make sense because where is he carrying me? Shouldn't I be getting carried towards him not by him? I mean is he carrying me to the counselors? They aren't going to heal me. Or are they? I had quite the little arguement in my mind about it all. Eventually I let it go and kept with me the picture of being carried by him into rehab.

Then, after receiving the Eucharist I felt like I was being held and rocked within safe arms. I turned, lifted my head and told Jesus, with one finger, you could heal all of me....the physical, the emotional, the addictions. And as soon as I said that I got a picture of myself with bleeding knees and a rocky path ahead of me. And he seemed to say, this is your path. Tonight I trust that this path I'm on is right where I'm supposed to be and that healing will come. It just might not look like what I'm expecting. But I do trust that I'm being carried, being held as I go.

Desire To Be

I feel like I'm in a holding pattern mode, waiting for something to happen. That's how I functioned throughout childhood. Never living in today, but waiting for something to happen. Two weeks from today I will be starting my first full day in rehab. I am still as scared as I've ever been about going.
It feels like the first day of grade one except they keep you there for 20 days straight.
But I am going.
I'm not giving myself any other option.
It's getting harder to live in today while waiting for these next two weeks to pass.

My addictions counselor tod me this week to be prepared that other clients in the program may give me some flack for being in rehab 19 years after my last drink. Maybe I can tell them I'm a slow learner.
She said it was going to be a good opportunity for me not to apologize for being there. I told her I had read just that morning on page 82 of the Big Book that "...a (person) is unthinking when (they) say that sobriety is enough." I have those words underlined and highlighted in my book because I am a poster child for that sentence. I don't feel any shame about it. Knowing that I need help and am reaching out for it feels like a gift today. It doesn't always, but today it does. The rest of the time I feel like I am screaming in silence and saying to myself WTF did I sign up for?

A week ago at my AA meeting I felt like I got a kick in the pants simply by listening to others share. It had been a rough week and I was feeling it. During the meeting I recognized that I wasn't doing the daily things that can set a person in the right direction at the beginning of the day. No reading the Big Book and other daily readings. No prayer. No surrender. If I want what others have in the program then I need to do what they do. When I got home I moved my books and journal to my bedside table and this week I have been doing those things before I even get out of bed. I know if I leave it until after I am out of bed that I can easily get distracted by anything on the way from my bedroom to the rest of the house. Like taking a detour when I come to the computer room only to emerge several hours later without any memory of what I wandered down the hallway for in the first place. So to sit with my journal and Big Book and other helpful reading material first thing in the morning feels good. Even on the days when I feel like I am simply going through the motions.

There is something about praying Thy will be done that puts life in perspective.

Yesterday I arrived at my meeting to find the door locked and no one with a key. Enough of us arrived though that we simply moved the meeting to a park that was a few blocks away. Someone had a Big Book in their van and we were set. Nine of us recovering alcholics sharing our experience, strength and hope with one another on a beautiful sunny summer day. What a privilege.

There is so much I haven't let go of. Today it's enough to know that I desire to let go of it. That letting go of it is possible. That by some mysterious combination of my willingness and God's grace, change can happen.

I found this gem this morning as I was reading:
"It is not what you are nor what you have been that God see with his all-merciful eyes, but what you desire to be."
~from the Cloud of Unknowing quoted by Sister Jeremy Hall in Silence, Solitude Simplicity.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Lightening Up

I need a little break. People have often said I'm intense. My dad told me after I became a Christian that I should lighten up a little. He said I was much more fun before all this Jesus fuss. I wanted to remind him that I had been a very fun drunk (most of the time) but I didn't. Drinking is the only way I know to really relax and cut loose. I hope rehab will help me discover fun without the hang over.

All this to say that I got tagged to list 8 random facts about myself and I'm choosing ones that are devoid of seriousness and intensity.

1. When I was growing up a neighbour lady had an out of proportion fear of barn swallows dive bombing her. So much so that one day she came to our house until her husband could come home and get rid of the swallow nest that was above their front door. Her kids ended up with the same fears. I determined not to do that. So the whole time my kids were growing up I pretended to like spiders, bugs, mice and all those things. "Oh, isn't that a cute spider, sure, let it crawl all over my hand." Yes, a person can be screaming inside and calm outside. I did it for years. The end result was that my kids have less freak attacks about those things than they might have had I been left to my own devices. I do think only daughter felt a bit betrayed though when I finally decided, when she was an older teen, I had accomplished what I set out to do and told her that no, I really didn't want to hold her hamster and no it was not cute. This whole story is only funny if you know just how much control it takes not to scream and fuss about those things that really scare the crap out of you. I wonder who the patron saint of phobias is. Last week a big honking spider crawled across the livingroom floor. I did let out a squawk and took a coffee cup and covered it. Then I was too scared to do anything else with it so I left it there for the whole day until dearest one could deal with it. See, I'm no different than my neighbour lady. Although I'd rather have a barn swallow dive bomb me than a spider crawl across my path any day.

2. I did sing that "Itsy, bitsy spider song" to my kids despite my fear of the suckers (the spiders, not the kids). I cannot carry a tune to save my soul. I wonder what age kids are when they figure out their mother cannot sing in tune? This random fact about my not being able to carry a tune is only funny (or sad, depending on your point of view) if you've heard me sing. Sorry kids.

3. Jann Arden, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, The Bare Naked Ladies and k.d. lang are some of my favourite Canadian Artists who can sing in tune. I'm listening to Dido while I type but I don't think she's Canadian.

4. The farthest east I've travelled in Canada is to Quebec. I went on a student exchange the summers I was 16 and 17. Once to southern Ontario and once to Montreal. My father worked for Beaver Lumber then, which was owned by Molson's. Every summer Molson's sponsored the teenage children of their employees to go on an exchange to another part of the country. It was a privilege to be a part of this. Being a guest in a francophone household really stretched my high school french. Of course, like many teenage girls, the words for boyfriends and important stuff like that was the content of our first foray in speaking one another's language.

5. I am not bilingual much to only daughter's chagrin. When she was younger and tallying up the various heritage between her parents she was so disappointed that not one of the languages that could have been her ticket to bilingualism was in our portfolio of skills. She learned Latin instead.

6. I am a mixture of English, Italian, Danish and Norwegian. My great aunt tried to teach me Norwegian but gave up when I couldn't rrrroll my rrrrr's.

7. I can't roll my tongue either.

8. Or wiggle my ears.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wallowing Close To The Cesspool

Some days it's frightening how much I can wallow in stinking thinking. Like today. I was still chewing on my session with Fr. Charlie yesterday when I woke up. Chewing hard enough that I gave out stay back and no one will get hurt mega vibes to dearest one and youngest son as soon as I saw them this morning. I can have quite the intense conversations in my head, and play either side, given enough room to think. Actually that's a lie. It was a one sided conversation full of anger and resentments and all out war. Not good at all. Not that that stopped me. Oh no. I went my merry (okay, not so merry) way thinking nasty thoughts all the day long. Dearest one was smarter than last time this happened (which was the last time we were in town together...hmmm there seems to be a pattern). Last time he wanted me to cheer up lickety split. Not a good thing to say to a woman who is acting for all the world like she has PMS times ten.

Today he let me be.

It's such good and blessed thing that it was me thinking nasty thoughts and not him. Because today our family doctor taught dearest one how to inject the long acting freezing into my shoulders so that my pain can be managed at home instead of making the 150 km round trip for relief. I suspended nasty thoughts during the needles. There's nothing like an inch and a half needle shoved in between bone to make one have a little clarity.

The clarity, however, was not long acting.

I stewed through lunch and grocery shopping and all the way home for that matter. Part of me wanted to blow a gasket (which my van did several weeks ago, literally.) and part of me wanted to state my thoughts calmly. In the end I did neither. I'm pretty good at being a valiant crusader and a chicken shit simultaneously.

I came home and called my sponsor. I got her answering machine. So then I called my mom. And the conversation we had gave me other things to think about. When I hung up I prefered thinking about them rather than resuming my nasty thinking. I find it a bit funny and a bit sad that getting sidetracked by someone else was all it took to short circuit my internal war. There's got to be a lesson in there somewhere.

I'm hopeful that one day I'll write that I recognized my stinking thinking and did something about it before wallowing for 12 hours first. That indulging in it is like taking three steps backwards towards a cesspool I no longer want to wallow in and so I let go of what wasn't mine to carry and got the courage to say what I was thinking without trying to destroy another in the process. I'm not there yet, obviously.

Tonight rehab can't come fast enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Walking The Path

"When in doubt, tell the truth"
~Mark Twain

I wish I could write that I am happy to be home after a week of holidays but I'm not. I'd rather still be at the cabin. Still be in a place where life was less complicated and I didn't have to deal with another human being if I didn't want to. Father Charlie keeps reminding me that relationships are messy and they take work. Including my relationship with myself.

The cabin was wonderful. Nestled in a forest of evergreen trees with privacy and quiet, it was a good place to be. We went on day trips when we felt like it and stayed put when we didn't. Dearest one disappeared over the bank one trip and reappeared with a handful of stones for my would be writer's cabin path. He had this wonderful smile on his face as he came up over the bank towards me. Three stones that weighed 50 pounds in total and he was grinning because he knew how much I like those stones. Knows how I dream of a stone pathway leading to my own yet to be built cabin. We came home with 100 pounds of stones in all; I would have been happy to fill the whole car with them.

The highlight of the trip for us both was the time we spent walking a path in the bush, on the edge of a deep river canyon. Or whatever the word for that steep cliff that seemed bottomless is. There were times when dearest one, who normally is not scared of heights, said outloud to himself, don't look down, don't look down, as we walked so close to the edge that a slip could have seen us disappear over the edge. At times the path took us farther in the bush, complete with tall trees and beautiful wild flowers. We were both amazed that my spoon supply saw us walk more than a mile up and down the hilly trail and back. A few stops every so often for me to catch my breath and then on we went.

I am scared of heights. Very scared. I panic when other people get close to the edge of things far more shallow than a river canyon. When we travel in the mountains I lean towards dearest one and away from the steep drop offs on my side of the car. So it really is a little miracle that I walked the path.

I may be braver than I think I am.

Which is something I need to remember. Back home, in less than an hour 5 minutes, I ran smack up against my lack of ability to control those around me, my ability to give away my power and my distaste for the hard work that recovery demands of me.

Today, in my session with Fr. Charlie, we hashed out what being a truth teller involves. How hard it is for me to do that. How necessary it is to learn in my recovery. How disrespectful it is of myself and others when I willingly give away my power so that they still like me. Except, when I'm not being honest and up front, they're not really liking me anyway. Just the mirage of who I set out there for them to like. Today I was convinced that to really be me meant that others wouldn't like me. Fr. Charlie simply said that my search for self would rock the boat for those around me. It was what he didn't add that was the kicker. I told him I felt like I was at a cross roads. Either be the way I am now, giving away my power, being dishonest in my relationships, all for the sake of being liked, or speak my truth and be at peace with myself; risking rejection by those I rub shoulders with in my day to day life.

I'm not a risk taker.

But recovery work is demanding that I become one. Or accept my choice to stay stuck and resentful.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Traveling Mercies

Dearest one and I are headed out tomorrow for a week of holidays. We've rented a little cabin in the foothills of the Rockies for several nights. Then we'll head over to see only daughter in her show and after that I'll have a check up with one of the specialists I see for my chronic illness. Several thousand kilometers after we begin we'll be home again.

Traveling with dearest one in a vehicle is one of my favouritest things to do. Just the two of us. We prefer rainy weather for travel but will take the sunny, hot days that are in the forecast.

I won't be online until we get back. Talk to you then.

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We would like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unkown, something new.
And yet, it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability -
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually - let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time,
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

~by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

Monday, July 02, 2007

Care To Dance?

I've had a great stack of library books to read lately. Thought provoking, challenging reads. The latest has been by Sara Miles called Take This Bread. These past few months I feel like my view of God has grown in such a way that it's like a feather pillow has burst its seams and there's no way to gather the pieces up again. The thought alternately thrills me and freaks me out. Reading this book saw even more feathers float through the air. I can either run around and try to gather them up or I can dance with joy in my new surroundings.

The older I get the less desire I have to quibble over matters of faith. If you only knew the energy I've expended in defending right thinking. I don't want to dismiss where I've been on this journey, because it's brought me to today, and I have no desire to use my energy that way anymore. Some days I feel like I'm copping out to say that. Other days I know just how capable I am of being petty about things that, in the end, don't matter.

I write that as if I know, with certainty, what matters and what doesn't. I sometimes fret that not having it in me to squabble and defend means I'm letting Jesus down. Not in an "Oh, sorry, I've dropped You on Your head" way but in the "Am I denying you if I don't want to scrap about You anymore?" sort.

Being active in blog land these past two and half years has stretched me and continues to do so. I don't know if my lack of interest in debating matters of faith is because I don't think I can do it well enough to convince anyone of anything or if it's because I struggle so much to live it out and am unable to convince anyone by my actions. Oh, that smacks of so much navel gazing I'm getting dizzy. [You didn't know gravity could make a belly button that low to the ground now, did you?]

Being active online has helped me embrace Christians I would have written off as unbelievers at one time. People like Sara Miles. Years ago I had a neighbour share with me about her faith. She told me she believed in being inclusive. She said that to me as I sat there with head covering and dress on, not knowing her words would reverberate in my head ever after. Sometimes I worry I'm becoming so inclusive that I shudder.

In the second last chapter of her book, Take This Bread Sara Miles writes about her friends who saw her as someone so different from other Christians they knew they thought she couldn't be a real Christian. Here is what she wrote:
"I knew what they thought: Christians were corny, sentimental, vulgar, embarrassing, intolerant, superstitious, dogmatic, self-righteous, do-goody, obtuse, smug, unsophisticated, and dumb. They thought I wasn't like that, so I couldn't be a 'real' Christian.

But I was like that. I wasn't more enlightened or less enamoured of my own piety or purer. Christianity, if it was all I'd come to believe, demanded that I understand exactly how like everyone else I was. And it was this realization that would not go away, even as I battled with the costs of faith."
The irony is that, as I typed that out, I recognized how enlightened I often think I am because of where I am on the journey. How capable I am of inwardly sneering at the next person because they're exclusive and I'm not. (How exclusive is that?! Lord have mercy.)

I need reminding that I'm like everyone else. Not better than. Nor less than. Just the same. If I could truly grasp what was important and what wasn't I'd most likely be content to embrace our shared likeness.

Whether I'm running around trying to gather up the pieces of who God used to be to me or learning to dance with joy in my new surroundings I need reminding that either way, this journey is never a solo act.