stoking the flame within

One thing I really love about and what drew me to AA are the steps. I’ve done them before through Alanon and see them as a structure upon which to rebuild a life. For me they’re about looking closely at myself, letting go of control over that which I have no control , and developing a relationship and faith in a higher power to take the reigns of my life. They also encourage self-reflection and a willingness to take responsibility for my part in my circumstances and relationships. They conclude with developing a regular practice of connecting with my higher power, self-reflection and truthfulness, and reaching out in support of others.

Step 2 asks me to examine my ideas about what higher power means to me. What do I know for sure? I’ve never had a problem with believing in a power greater than myself, although I resist the word God. To me that implies it’s a person, and  I don’t believe it’s any kind of  being. I believe it’s an energy that no one can name or describe. I think the fewer words said about it, the closer I am to what it is. But I will try anyway.

I believe there is an omnipotent energy that is unconditionally accepting and non-judging, loving, compassionate, powerful, and wise. This energy will always be aligned toward happiness, love, and the relief of suffering. It ‘wants’ us to have and do the same. This energy is everywhere including inside of us. We each contain a spark of this- what can I call it…energy? the light? the Force?   If we are aligned with it, stoke it, our spark glows, ignites, flames up. When we are aligned with this energy and in the flow, we are happy, we are able to spread that happiness, and magic and miracles abound. Eventually we become one with the energy and have the omniscience and power to really be of benefit to all beings. All we have to do is  stop doing things that put out the flame, and do things that stoke the flame. The energy is like the sun, it shines everywhere, but it’s our job to put ourselves in its rays, and we can even do things that work like a magnifying glass to condense its rays like a laser beam.

So these days I’m asking myself, what do I do to put out my inner, or higher, self and power? What is it that makes me want to do this? How do I recognize if what I’m doing is aligned with the light or if it’s tamping it out? How do I stop tamping it out, and what can I do to stoke the flame?

Lovers Point

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I had a rough week, feeling generally disconnected from friends, from family, from motivation, from life. My drinking gremlin has been asking, again, why I’m doing this. I call her Alexis. She hangs out in dive bars during the day,  wears too  much perfume, has shoulder pads and a voice that sounds like gravel. “Do you really want to do this forever? It wasn’t even that bad! Drinking is sexy!”

I’ve heard that relapse (Relapse!? I’m still resisting with these words.) begins way before the first drink. It can begin with lack of self-care and lead to questioning the decision. So I’m trying to dive more deeply into my “program”, but then I don’t know what my program is. I didn’t go into this planning to take it this seriously, I was just ‘taking a break’!  But it’s become important to me and I want it to remain that way. I realize I need tools and a support system in order to stay focused. I do my reading and prayers and journal daily. I reach out to my sponsor. With work, school, and two teenaged daughters I find it hard to fit in more than 1-2 meetings a week. But this morning rather than just reciting my prayers, I went through them slowly and felt them. I  asked for help from deep inside my heart, asked my higher power to remove my doubts and questioning. To give me signs. I said, “I really do want this, my life is better now and I’d like to keep it that way, please help me out here!”

Then I drove my daughter and her boyfriend to the aquarium for their joint birthday outing. I was going to sit in my car and read. I didn’t want to be the third wheel and I didn’t want to wander around the aquarium alone – I don’t have much practice doing things by myself. I resist leaving my house, and when I’m out, my car. I drove around a bit looking for a place to park with a view of the ocean. It was such a beautiful day I decided to get out of my car to find a place outside to read. I didn’t feel the  awkwardness I usually feel when I’m  alone in public. I didn’t feel alone. Something told me to just keep walking. I found a trail, and it led to a tiny little cove. I put my feet in the water and let my pants get wet. When I laid down I couldn’t see any sign of civilization; not one person walked by me or climbed on the rocks above me. It was exactly as it’s been for thousands of years. I watched 2 otters body surfing and breathed deeply. Time stood still for nearly two hours, with just the waves and my breath.

I can’t fully explain the connection between these paragraphs, except to say that where I ended up is called Lovers Point. I felt sad at first going there, without a lover. But now I see that it was appropriate, and in the end entirely untrue.

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thoughts on 60 days

“We didn’t wait to hit bottom because, thank God, we could see the bottom.”

Big Book pg. 278

I tell people I haven’t been writing because I’ve been busy with school, but that probably isn’t the whole truth. I’m processing so much internally and each day is so different that I wouldn’t know where to begin and I may be different tomorrow. School is taking up a large part of my energy, but the truth is focusing on recovery is taking a larger part. I ask myself, ‘Recovery from what?’.  I still have the voice that says ‘It wasn’t even that bad!’ But the further I get from my sobriety date, the quieter that voice becomes. I don’t really have a topic so I’ll just check in and babble a bit.

Memories from the 20 years of marriage in which I barely drank have been coming. I didn’t drink that one or two beers with my husband, ever. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want just one. I never saw the point in just one drink! The handful of times I drank in that 20 years, I noticed I drank faster than anyone else, always wanted more, and ended up passing out and/or throwing up. I always blamed it on my teenage years, thinking that’s just the way I learned how to drink. There is some truth to that.

I spoke at a women’s meeting for the first time the other night. I said what got me to stop drinking was ending my fourth relationship in five years with a man who I thought drank too much, so I decided to take my beer goggles off for 30 days. It took that 30 days to realize the problem wasn’t them, it was me. A lot of women laughed, knowingly. I think back to the beginning of each of those relationships, remember consciously trying to stay one drink behind them, and being relieved to find that they drank more than me. Well this is a good match, I would think.

I got a sponsor this month, and started the steps. We flew through 1-3, and were going to begin step 4, which is the hardest. As I wrote in my last post, my 30th day was emotional. I had 2 months this week, and once again found myself unsteady. Grieving. Wondering if it really is going to be forever. Being critical of AA and the word ‘alcoholic’. She said we should stay on step 3 a bit longer, and I felt like a step-failure, but she’s right.

I don’t wonder if I’ll ever be able to drink like a normal person again because I never did drink like a normal person, and I never wanted to. I don’t think I will ever experiment to see if I can have just one or two drinks, now that I took a break, now that I proved I can quit. At this point if I decided to drink again I would want at least a bottle of wine. And that’s what is keeping me sober.

I realize that even though I didn’t get a dui, go to jail, lose my job, drink every day, drink in the morning, get the shakes, or any of the other stories I hear in meetings or read about in the memoirs and blogs I’m immersed in… doesn’t mean I don’t have alcohol use disorder (that’s the clinical term for alcoholism, which I prefer). I was/ am definitely in early to mid-stage alcohol use disorder. And I’m grateful I decided to get off the elevator before it got to the basement.

Last night I went to a beautiful women’s group, only 12 of us and led by one of my oldest, dearest friends. I went with my mom, and we both got chips: mine a 2 month chip, hers a 3 month. She spoke about her relapse in December which landed her in the ICU on a ventilator and then in a Behavioral Health unit. We went to dinner after, and talked about my maternal family line: my aunt, my grandma, 3 out of my 4 great uncles, my great grandfather and most likely my great grandmother, all suffered from alcoholism.

I feel like this post sounds negative and depressing but it is not meant to. It is not easy to face all this, it is serious, but above all hopeful. I’m doing good in school, my mind is becoming clear for the first time in years, and my life is no longer on pause. I can see the future, and a whole world of possibility opening up in front of me. This can be scary at times after so many years of denial and the option of numbing my fears and anxieties. It’s scary to know there is no turning back. But it’s also an incredible relief.