“You cannot have feelings of superiority and not an enemy make. The same occurs when you would make yourself inferior, and you are always making for yourself a place at one of these extremes. And all this effort and conflict arises simply from your insistence upon being separate.” (ACOL, C:14.3)
Most of us have been caught in the trap of feeling inferior or superior to others, and we suffered as a result. Our feelings of inferiority gave us many moments of sadness and dejection. Our feelings of superiority were often compensation for the inferior feelings—when our ego had had enough of feeling dejected.
Was there any truth to any of this? Absolutely none. We are neither inferior nor superior to any other human being. All of us are, truly, created equal.
It is a particular desire on the part of those on the spiritual path to feel better than others…
I told my counselor today that this summer I allowed myself “permission” to just sit quietly (a lot!) and rest, reflect and heal. When I decided to get sober this past June, I had no idea that I would feel emotionally drained for so long – the exact opposite of what I was expecting.
Ironically, for me, the clearer my mind becomes, the less I seek the chaos that was once my life – am I now addicted to peace?
Talk to anybody who has been in recovery for more than a couple of years and they will nod in complete agreement and understanding and say, “the longer you are sober, the more you will enjoy a quiet life.” The trick is learning how to quiet the things that once stressed me emotionally without alcohol. This must explain my present state of fatigue, I am like a child learning to ride a bike without training wheels.
Thus, the subject of today’s blog: How does one successfully “recover in community,” with normal deadlines, stresses, demands and all sorts of other messy obstacles life presents? I began my sobriety without any kind of in-patient treatment, so I have been “hanging out there” in community trying to stay sober and keep my life going for five months. It is tiring. I wish I could say it is thrillingly exhilarating – the gratitude I feel each morning for a new day, a healthy and loving family, and my sobriety is comforting. But maintaining it all makes me well – TIRED.
Doing what is best for my 2 very different children without the influence of alcohol is certainly much easier and more enjoyable! However, some days it feels like I don’t have as much to give as I’d like. My body, mind and soul feel tapped out because all I can do is just “be” and “love.” Is this enough??? I see other parents (whose sobriety status I am not aware of) really “managing” their kids’ lives and this clearly is not what is happening under my roof. And the gnawing question I have, now that I am sober is, “what’s the difference between the way I loved drunk and the way I am loving sober?”. Or anything for that matter. And I think the answer is caring and feeling versus numb and complacent. I think my body hurts and my spirit feels tired because it hurts to feel and process one’s thoughts in healthy ways all day long, especially when you are responsible for young adults.
When I talk about these fears and feelings to my non-sober friends, I kind of get blank stares. Other addicts know exactly what I mean. It’s what makes us all different and interesting, right? So I continue to make room in my life for AA meetings, conversations with others who are focused on their recovery, and living a day to day life that is healthy, balanced and aimed at giving my family the right kind of love – without cheating myself. That’s enough for one person to handle. And that, my friends, is how I am attempting to “recover in community.”
Lately I have been on an inner journey. I won’t say I have “neglected” housework, but let’s just state for the record that I am blissfully tuned out of my immediate visual surroundings. Nobody in my family seems to mind. Clothes get washed, dinners get served and eaten, pets are not neglected, Fall decorations are properly appointed. Outwardly, everything seems “normal.”
What started out feeling like a mid-life boycott of mundane chores has now become – well, more of a daily meditation on the essential. Gratitude for all that we have been given tops my list of essentials. When my eyelids pop open in the morning and the awareness of feeling whole and not broken by alcohol, ugly words spewed to a loved one the night before – I breathe deeply and thank God for the blessing of one more day. Whatever I choose to do with that day, my underlying goal is LOVE.
Is a clean house essential to love? No. Right now, at 49 and managing a life with 2 teenagers, a husband intent on planning the sunset of his career, and a boatload of aging siblings and Mother whom I love – I give myself permission to LOVE FIRST, clean second. I used to think I was getting lazy because I did notice the slowing down. This coincided with my sobriety, which began almost 5 months ago.
The whole point of sobriety is to NOTICE, EXPERIENCE and CHERISH the good. This requires slowing down (at least for me) and focusing on NOW. As much as I love and enjoy these new feelings, it is true my standards of tidiness which were low to begin with – have gotten a little lower.
In less than 6 months, I will be turning 50. For the first time in 30 years, I will celebrate sober. A little over halfway through the journey, sometimes I feel regret that I waited so long to discover inner peace but also many days I feel upset that I can’t party like a rock star anymore! Maybe that feeling will fade as 120 days rolls into 200, 365 and more. More time of living in the present and fully engaged.
In many ways, my newfound sobriety has brought me back full circle to the things I have always loved, especially COMFORT. I am a homebody (though this is surprising to many) who loves my couch, family, warmth of the sun or a roaring fire, homemade meals and simple pleasures.
I think the bare-boned honesty it takes to admit one is powerless over a person, place or thing brings with it comfort and liberation – so really, I have just come “home.”
I realized I had accepted my “lot” as a “recovering alcoholic” when I found myself daydreaming about having a pair of Birkenstocks and a good tea kettle. Chuckle and snort, though I may about this, the darned truth of the matter is: I AM HAPPY WITH MYSELF!
There are messes our family must deal with left behind from my years of selfish self-medicating, at the top of which, of course, is my habit of overspending. But, my God! 4 months ago I could not have stayed clear-headed long enough to even research where our money was going much less devise a plan to resolve it.
A good friend is helping me re-vamp my resume, too. THIS would never have happened when I was drinking. She cannot believe I don’t have any “professional” self-esteem. I can’t believe there is someone out there that sees something I can’t see, but I am willing to dig further, to consider some truths about myself and put myself in the ring of competition for whatever rewarding career awaits me next. I must do this, not only for myself and my family, but because things are going too well to just sit on my couch (as much as I love it!) for the rest of my life.
Push Push Push. I think I can until I know I can – the Little Engine that Could. This is me at 49, a little war-torn and rough but loving the journey and thanking God every day I wake up sober.
Just going through some old photos this morning and found this gem and HAD to write a quick blog post. This is 2008, our daughter Isa was 9 and her brother, Mario was 7. Those were our pets, Tango the boxer and Boris the cat. We lived in a beautiful 5,000-sq ft home on 34 acres. At bedtime we might as well have had a studio apartment! For at least 2 years, this is what the “family bed” looked like. Mike (my husband) would sigh when the lights went out and quietly say, “There are ALOT of beating hearts in this room.” I loved it!
As Dad got “grumblier” about the situation, Isa would type “contracts” for him to sign designating a specific future date when the “family bed” situation would cease – but she always “filed” for an extension!
Fast forward to 2015: both children are normal (okay, that’s debatable!) and sleeping in their own beds. But they have memories of many nights in our “shared sleeping quarters” watching movies, talking, laughing, playing with the pets. Some people think this is nuts and I do sort of get their point. But I am SO GLAD we did it. It gave the children comfort when they needed it and we have lots of fun memories to look back on….especially after they flee the nest, which I am dreading, of course.
So, my advice to parents of young children struggling with the bedtime routine: give up! Enjoy being together now. I know there are all sorts of studies now encouraging “the family bed” but I don’t know where they are or what they are saying about the benefits. I know my 1950’s-era parents thought I was the WORST POSSIBLE type of wishy-washy parent while this was going on. The 7 of us were sent marching up the stairs at bedtime with 1 “regulation size” cup of water and ordered to SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP! Anyone who dared get out of bed and tiptoe downstairs again had better be ready for the WRATH of my DAD!!!
At one point, tired of the “charade” of pretending to resist my children’s nightly pleas to sleep on my floor, I just gave in and bought 2 air mattresses at Wal-Mart for the Master Bedroom floor. In my opinion, this was one of the best investments I ever made.
After months of vicious attacks involving videotaped conversations portraying Planned Parenthood employees selling “baby parts” on the black market for profit, our country’s budget is nearly stalled out as right-wing Republicans call for “investigations” and threaten to shut down the government. This is not the first time women’s rights have been under attack, nor will it be the last, because we live in a misogynistic culture. Even though I live in a mostly upper middle class white neighborhood, I see signs of it each and every day among affluent women – grown women who choose to dress, speak and live according to “norms” and standards that a male-dominated culture has established for them – and they don’t even seem to notice or mind. Well I do.
To be clear, I think abortion is a tragically sad thing and I assure you, nobody that has one is thrilled about it. I have seen many women experience gut-wrenching self-examination and heartache as they consider their alternatives when they find themselves pregnant before they are ready to raise a family.
For them, abortion should be a legal, accessible, safe procedure.
Cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood clinics only restricts access to many important and life-saving services that women, mostly poor, desperately need: cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease screenings and treatment, and birth control, to begin with.
Engaging in campaigns to change women’s minds once they have decided to have an abortion is both ineffective (even though the Pro-Life movement can always drudge up examples of a select few unborn they have “saved” outside an abortion clinic) and harassing. It is also deeply egregious to assume that a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy has neither the will nor the capability to consider all her alternatives.
This quote by Madeleine Albright really pertains to the workplace. I don’t even know if she is pro-choice. Nonetheless, I feel moved to share it in this context because it is shameful that any woman would presume to bully a sister rather than support her in her time of deepest need and possibly shame. To those women (and men) I say this: It does not matter whether you believe life begins at conception or not: are you going to raise the unwanted child?
“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”. — Sister Joan Chittister, Catholic Nun
Even though adoption exists, even adoption experts report that there are barriers to a pregnant woman choosing this option that go beyond just the accessibility of the choice: shame, fear, lack of financial and social support, psychological inability to cope with carrying a baby to term and then losing it. It takes a very strong person to carry a pregnancy to term knowing that at the end there will only be heartache and loss. Those women that choose this option/path are to be praised. But we cannot all emulate them. That’s the fact.
So, today, I join millions of men and women across the country in simply asserting that Planned Parenthood is an important organization – especially for women – that provides many critical services to the poorest among us and that, dismantling it by restricting access through funding or any other means is just wrong. Abortions will continue regardless of whether they are legal and safe. Shouldn’t women live in a culture that supports choice and promotes safe, affordable, legal access to reproductive services? I think so.
My world is full of those if then statements. If only I did this then I’d be better at this. And so often motherhood is linked in that if then equation and most of the time it’s with me sitting on the falling short side of the scale. So then when others tell me words about me being a good mom, well, I just don’t even know how to deal with them. In fact, oftentimes if someone tells me that I’m a good mom tears will pool in those very exhausted eyes of mine.
When the last of my parents’ generation is gone, there will be a huge void in the world. The last known Americans raised by parents that endured The Great Depression and World War II. People who put manners before self-gratification. People who taught their children that respect and character are worthwhile and noble values.
Their word was their anchor to a life dedicated to honesty and commitment to whatever their choices and fate set before them.
My parents and grandparents were not perfect. Just genuine. And a lot less needy and dissatisfied than the generations that followed. They were better at accepting what is than the rest of us.
I know these reflections make me sound like a sentimental old person. I just hope that, somehow, there is a glimmer of the beauty and truth of my parents and their generation’s approach to life that passes through me to my children….so that Dick (my Dad) and Rhetta (my Mom) will never be gone forever.
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Harmon lists To Autumn as the most anthologized poem in the English language. It was written on September 19, 1819, and published the following year. To Autumn can be found in:
Keats, John. Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. London: Talor and Hessey, 1820. (as found in the Noel Douglas replica edition printed by London: Percy Lund, Humphries & Co. Ltd., 1927.)
Harmon, William, ed. The Classic Hundred Poems (Second Edition). New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
A dear friend sent me this article yesterday – At the time Robin Williams ended his life, I was deeply involved in my own addiction and missed the connection between his alcoholism and overwhelming fear and anxiety. Great, thoughtful read. Today I will carry with me Louisa P.’s reminder that sobriety is, indeed, a spiritual gift:AA