“I’m so grateful I found a way out of sadness, a way to take care of myself each day, and a relationship with the God of my understanding, who will never abandon me. The pain I’ve felt in the past is equal to the measure of joy I feel now.”
That’s quite a mouthful. Whoever wrote those words in “The Forum” is saying that somewhere between despair and happiness she or he did some work, and found some answers. For me, anyway, I entered into a state of grace. I quite deliberately let go of my precious wounds, which served no further purpose in my life. The lessons they taught me have been learned. I’ve put my sadness in a back drawer—and replaced it with positive thoughts that keep me motivated to reclaim my life, my remaining loved ones, and keep my heart ticking.
Grief is not a badge I wear anymore. Joyfulness is.
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen Casey, January 1:
“Acceptance of our past, acceptance of the conditions presently in our lives that we cannot change, brings relief. It brings the peacefulness we so often, so frantically, seek.”
The drama that filled my life when my daughter, Angie, first got sick was overwhelming. Eventually, it broke me. And I needed to step back and take a look at my behavior. The first thing I did was remove “frantically” from my vocabulary. Next, because I realized that my guilt and inflated sense of responsibility were actually harming her and preventing her from learning, I needed to step way back and detach, but always with love. Loving detachment need not be a slap in the face to our loved one, but rather it gives him/her the freedom and opportunity to be accountable for choices they made, often under the influence. If I continually step in and try to fix everything for my daughter, she will have little or no opportunity to accept life on life’s terms. And isn’t that, without resorting to substance use disorder, what we all need to do?
Life on life’s terms. Substance use disorder around the world is a deeply disturbing reflection of how people respond to loneliness and alienation. When emotional longing collides with the easy availability of substances—dangerous drugs, too much food, alcohol sold at gas stations—that’s a recipe for problems which might end with physical illness, but they didn’t begin that way. Emotional pain, Dr. Edwin Shneidman calls it “psychache,” came first.
There isn’t a nation on earth that doesn’t have people with some form of emotional pain that he writes about, and their solutions vary. In America, though, there has been a growing epidemic of substance use disorder for many years. The experts can figure out what this means, but as a substance user myself, I’m observing my world, and the world of all my friends in recovery, from that perspective. Only time will tell how the pandemic will affect those of us who used various substances to lessen our “psychache.” But I’m grateful, one day at a time, to continue the work on my emotional sobriety and enjoy the positive effect it has on those closest to me. My world may be turning slower than it used to, but it’s still turning!
“There’s always going to be someone out there with far less than I have who is happy.”
It’s so important to keep things in perspective. Even though the compounding tragedies that bring us together in the rooms consume us, they needn’t. When I take a fully inventory of my life and recognize that my blessings far outnumber my losses, I know how much worse things could be.
And, for me, that makes all the difference.
Keeping things in perspective is a daily balancing act for me. Especially now, when everyone’s life is out of whack, it’s easy to get overly emotional and overreact to small things that we used to ignore. In a way, with all of our worlds reduced to the inside of our homes, we are living under a microscope. Families that used to send three kids off to school every day with husbands and wives sharing the car with public transportation are having to remain inside their home, constantly bumping into each other.
This is not something I’m experiencing, but millions of other families are, and results from this new normal will start pouring in. All anyone can do is try to make the best of a new situation. Hopefully many families will be stronger on the other side of this. My recovery demands that I remain grateful for my blessings because “there’s always going to be someone out there with far less than I have who is happy.” I’ll take a page from his/her book.
attitude is crucial. It determines our experiences. A trying situation can be
tolerated with relative ease when we have a positive, trusting attitude. We
forget, generally, that we have an inner source of strength to meet every
situation…I can turn my day around. I can
change the flavor of today’s experiences. I can lift my spirits and know all is
well. To firmly believe that, when our lives are roiling with chaos and
heartache, requires a certain amount of faith. And that’s something that can’t
to me when I was on my knees, broken. When I finally realized that, despite all
my efforts to help her, my daughter Angie was going to do as she pleased, and I
needed to let go of my desperate attempt to save her. It was then that I
started to understand the concept of accepting things I could not change.
acceptance came with heartache, and I wanted some relief from that. So I turned
my eyes upward, and prayed for release from my unremitting pain. The harder I
prayed, the more faith I was given. The less I relied on myself and the more I
relied on (my concept of) God, the more I believed with certainty that all was
completely understand why people all over the world gather together to worship.
It breaks our spiritual isolation. It’s hard now, in the time of coronavirus,
to physically come together. So creative churchgoers are meeting in drive-in
movie theaters, and what a wonderful idea! The point is that faith is a gift
that must be regularly nurtured, either in a church or elsewhere. God has
graced me with faith that my life is unfolding as it was meant to. And when I
remember that, especially in times of trouble, I feel the peace and serenity
that is promised to me. A faith-based attitude of acceptance, gratitude and
love carries me through every day.
remember to adjust my attitude, I know that all is well.
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen
Casey, April 12:
yourself a blessing to someone. Your kind smile or a pat on the back just might
pull someone back from the edge.’ ~Carmelia Elliott
We are healed
in our healing of others. God speaks to us through our words to others. Our own
well-being is enhanced each time we put someone else’s well-being first…We are
all on a trip, following different road maps, but to the same destination. I
will be ready to lend a helping hand to a troubled traveler today. It will
breathe new life into my own trip.”
Easter, 2020, seems to be ushering in a brave new world to us all. I remember hearing the term “globalization” about twenty years ago, and I wasn’t sure what it meant because I wasn’t experiencing it personally. Now, in the throes of a worldwide pandemic that I’m gratified I saw in my lifetime, I am experiencing what it means.
I’m living through this crisis because it is unveiling so many unsung heroes.
My confidence in the human race is soaring. My grandchildren getting
home-schooled by two loving parents tirelessly stepping up to the plate in a
game they never planned for. Health care workers risking their lives so that we
might live another day. Postal workers, baggers at the grocery stores; the list
is endless. But what I’m seeing as a result of all this courage is what Ann
Frank saw in that attic in Holland before she died: “In spite of everything, I
still believe people are really good at heart.”
every day that our lives, and how we live them, are brought into such sharp
focus, from frequent hand washing to thinking twice before we hug someone. How
life has changed for us all! Now it is abundantly more clear to us how what we
do in our individual spaces has an impact on the community we live in, and in
neighboring communities and so on. I’ve learned a great deal about what happens
in a petri dish.
But of much
more interest to me now is how the health crisis has brought out the best in
millions of people around the world. There are also sad, angry stories of
corruption popping up like weeds in my garden. But I don’t focus on them any
more than I focus on anything else I can’t control. I am heartened by this
Easter’s celebration of humanity and hope in a time of fear and uncertainty.
And how creative we are! Drive-in movie theaters have become venues for church
services. And long after Easter Sunday this year there may be a revival of
drive-in movie watching!
My Latin tells me that word means “live again.” Is that what we’re all doing
now? Learning how to live again?
From Each Day A New Beginning, by Karen Casey, December 1:
“’And it isn’t the thing you do,
dear, it’s the thing you leave undone which gives you a bit of a heartache at
the setting of the sun.’ ~Margaret Sangster”
A quality many of us share, a very
human quality, is to expect near perfection
from ourselves, to expect the impossible in all tasks done. I must rejoice for
the good I do. Each time I pat myself on the back for a job well done, my
confidence grows a little bit more. Recovery is best measured by my emotional
and spiritual health, expressed in my apparent confidence and trust in “the
process.” This is especially true now, in the middle of our national health
crisis, as we learn to put aside our egos, sometimes staying at home, in the
interest of protecting others.
Creeping perfectionism is a strange
form of self-sabotage. At first it seems like such a good and healthy attitude.
But setting realistic goals and doing my best to achieve them is very different
from placing unyielding demands on myself and feeling “less-than” if I fail to
It all boils down to being honest
and knowing myself as I am, not as I think I should be. Knowing myself and
coming away liking myself—well, for many of us that’s a process that takes a
long time. Holding onto realistic aspirations can be a healthy thing. But
demanding perfection of myself and worse, punishing myself when I fall short,
is not healthy. It’s a bitter tyrant holding a whip at my back.
Strong language, yes. But not as strong as the sting of that whip on my back. I’m happy to be free of it. I love my recovery fellowship where I’m just one in a community of equals, where I can mess up and they love me anyway. I’ve grown up in the rooms all these years and I’ve learned to love myself, warts and all. This is where I found my humanity. I am truly blessed and happy to be alive, now more than ever as we join elbows 🙂 to strengthen our communities. Thank you, HP!
road to my spiritual life began when I was a young child growing up in an
alcoholic family. But I didn’t start to walk down this road until halfway
through my life when my daughter fell ill with substance use disorder.
was very unhappy growing up. It’s a classic story of family dysfunction that
many of us have experienced as children. But back then I didn’t have Alateen to
go to. My father was never treated and died prematurely because of his illness.
I, too, was untreated for the effects of alcoholism, and grew into an adult
many of us know how rocky that road is: low self-esteem, intense self-judgment,
inflated sense of responsibility, people pleasing and loss of integrity, and
above all, the need to control. I carried all of these defects and more into my
role as a mother to my sick daughter, and predictably the situation only got
was a very hard sell on the first three steps of Al-Anon, and my stubbornness
cost me my health and my career. But once I did let go of my self-reliance, my
whole life changed for the better. The
Serenity Prayer has been my mantra every day. I’ve learned to let go of what I
can’t change. I don’t have the power to free Angie of her disease, but I can
work hard to be healed from my own. This
is where I’ve focused my work in the program.
daughter has gone up and down on this roller coaster for nearly eighteen years,
and right now she’s in a very bad place. But that has only tested me more. My
faith grows stronger every day when I release my daughter with love to her
higher power, and I am able to firmly trust in mine.
of mine ask me, “How do you do that? You make it sound so simple!” I tell them, “First of all, getting here
hasn’t been simple. It’s the result of years of poisoning my most important
relationships with the defects I talked about earlier. I knew I had to change
in order to be happy. Secondly, I fill my heart with faith-based unconditional
acceptance of whatever happens in my life. It’s my choice.
in the readings, someone wrote ‘Pain is not in acceptance or surrender; it’s in
resistance.’ It’s much more painless to just let go and have faith that things
are unfolding as they are meant to. There’s a reason that HP is running the
show the way he is. I just have to get out of the way; I’m not in charge. I
also read somewhere the difference between submission and surrender: submission
is: I’ll do this if I get XYZ; surrender, on the other hand, is unconditional
acceptance of what I get. Well, the
latter is easier because I’m not holding my breath waiting for the outcome. I
just let go—and have faith. Again, it’s a very conscious choice.
all have different stories. What has blessed me about a spiritual life is that
I can always look within myself and find peace regardless of the storms raging
around me. I’m learning how to dance in the rain.
cannot be discovered by a journey of miles…only by a spiritual journey…by which
we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.” ~Wendell Berry
Without the gift of spirit in my life, I would be drifting on an island in the middle of the ocean. Spirit can be anything we want it to be: some people say God, or Higher Power; others focus on a statue or a tree in the garden. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it’s not US. “My best thinking got me here.” (into the rooms of recovery)
another acronym: EGO=Easing God Out.
floating island in the middle of the ocean can be a dangerous vessel without a
steering wheel. Maybe not dangerous; just completely self-reliant and without
was something I learned as a child because I had to. The adults in my life were often distracted with their own
problems, so I learned to do things by myself. This was a vital survival
strategy when I was a child. But as an adult, it became a huge defect.
adult, I’ve too often carried that survival tool into situations in my life
that required outside guidance. Too proud sometimes, or afraid, to ask for help
or advice, I steered my ship into some dangerous waters. Like everyone else,
I’ve made mistakes, and some of them were preventable if I’d had the humility
to ask for help.
like everyone else, I’m just a child of (God, a tree, the stars), and I’m
growing every day, learning (hopefully) from my mistakes and trying to do
better. Humility is a great leveler, and it has brought me closer to the one
thing I’ve missed all my life: being part of a community of equals. When I’m in
touch with the spirit within me, I’m no longer alone or isolated. I’m at one
within my fellowship—and it feels good to be alive.
shell collection is extensive and surprisingly sturdy. I’ve dragged them around
with me from all my travels over the years. But I’ve run out of space to
display them. And I wonder why I’ve collected so many. What have they
represented to me? Maybe the assurance that something of me will be left
Such a fundamental part of the human condition, the very thing that makes us
human, and separates us from God. It’s ego that keeps us struggling in our
relationships, ego that keeps us from accepting things as they are and feeling
content with what we have. Ego and our willfulness beneath it that traps us in
our restless search to outdo ourselves and others.
it’s ego that makes us want to leave an imprint in the sand.
human beings wrestle with ego, but substance users have found a solution that
elevates them from their soul sickness: losing themselves in substances and
behaviors that provide oblivion for a time. “We want what we want when we want
it.” That tired old phrase smacking of egocentricity and immaturity.
Substance users in their disease are all about themselves. In Alcoholic’s Anonymous, one definition of an alcoholic is an “egomaniac with low self-esteem.”
be “relieved of the bondage of self,” as the Third Step Prayer states in the
Big Book, I’m learning how to nurture a relationship with God and remember my
place in relation to him.
importance is next to nothing in the scheme of things. This keeps me
right-sized and humble.
knuckling it through life is exhausting. Different methods to relax work for
different people. Yoga, prayer, knitting, running, reading, listening to
music—the list is endless. The best thing for me to relax is the Serenity
Prayer. It has become my mantra:
grant me the serenity
the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
wisdom to know the difference.”
this prayer in big and little ways every day. Its wisdom keeps me right-sized
and humble, while at the same time encouraging me to make changes in my life
that are within my reach.
We are all
challenged, of course, by the last line. That’s why I keep going back to