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Finding God In Nature and finding peace in the process.

( Guest Blogger:  Andrew C.)

I came into recovery brimming with anger, fear, resentment, and being totally broken. I hated myself and I hated God. God was to blame for the problems in my life and the things that didn’t work out according to my plan. After working on Step 4, during Step 5 my sponsor let me know that God wasn’t to blame. “God didn’t cause these things, but God allowed them to happen.” After Step 5, my anger towards God (and many things) melted away.

After a two-year relapse, my general attitude towards God was veering back towards, “I hate God.” Or more simply “I hate…” This was the chatter in my head, along with hurling insults (mentally) towards others. My former sponsor called that stuff “mental masturbation,” but he told me that thoughts can’t harm others. The only way they can harm others is if I turn them into actions.

My current sponsor encourages me to meditate and practice awareness and to try staying present and mindful. I do yoga a few times a week, along with my gym and walking routine, and the other day it was warm and sunny outside, so I put my mat down on the deck. I did a basic yoga session on upper back tension. At the end of the session, the teacher had me on my knees with palms face to face over my heart. I had quiet meditation. My thoughts of “I hate” things or “I hate God” were there in that inner space.

Then, suddenly, a thought that I didn’t create, came to mind.

A voice.

“Do you hate nature?” No.

“Don’t you realize Nature is a form of God?”

“If you can love the birds, the wind, and the trees and sky, can’t you also love God and yourself?”

Now, when tempted to let negative thoughts take over, I go towards my inner quiet place, outside with nature, and love myself and God.

Andrew C.

PatriotinRecovery.com

The Three Deadly D’s

Delusion=Denial=Deception

Delusion:      A false belief or impression.

Denial:         The refusal to accept something unpleasant.

Deception:  Deceiving.  A trick, or a ruse

Most of us alcoholics and addicts, at one time or another in our bourgeoning desire to appear ok, have practiced all three of these self-destructive, sleight of hand ruses.  It’s how we coped with a life, out of control.  Like a chameleon, at the drop of a hat, we could change our personas by slipping in and out of a variety of roles, as well as beliefs, that we thought would make us acceptable.  I, personally, had delusion down to a fine art.

Four years into recovery, I fell in love with a Viet Nam Vet who was plagued by combat-related Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and was hauling around plenty of other baggage.   I had witnessed, time and time again, the manifestation of that P.T.S.D.  The off-the-chart anger that could skyrocket from zero to ten in a heartbeat:  The trigger could be anything from a loud noise to an inconsiderate driver, to a humid rainy day that catapulted him back to the Jungles of Viet Nam. 

But it was the periodic, unannounced, dashes cross country that rattled me the most.  They were erratic and unpredictable.  The first time it happened, I received a call from one of the salesmen at the Buick dealership where he was the manager.  It was 8:00am.

“No, Randall’s not here.”  He cupped his hand over the receiver, but I distinctly heard the remark made to another employee.  “What do you mean he’s on the run again?”

“Sorry, ma’am.”  His tone was conciliatory.  “I just meant this isn’t the first time Randall has left us in the lurch.  When we came in this morning his keys were hanging on the rack but not a trace of him anywhere.  The last time this happened he ended up in North Dakota.”

That was his response to overload.  Pack up Old Blue, (the fifteen- year old station wagon) and disappear for weeks at a time, often to wherever his daughter and ex-wife resided. His nickname at the dealership was Ramblin Randall.

As the relationship deepened, I sought all of the information I could garner about P.T.S.D.  I joined Vet support groups,  spent hours online researching, and prayed for understanding.  But the behaviors continued.  Then one evening, fraught with confusion, as I  wrestled with the decision of whether or not to jump in with both feet and tie the knot, I took the dilemma to an AA meeting and shared what was ballooning into a gnawing fear, with the group.  An older member, a preacher who I admired very much, and in fact, I was going to ask him to officiate, approached me after the meeting.

“Dallas, his voice was brimming with concern, “You’re not assuming that you can fix him, are you?”

I flinched at the mere suggestion.  Surely, my friend realized that I had four years of sobriety and therapy under my belt.  How could he suggest such a thing?  Wasn’t I exhibiting the very essence of emotional maturity and recovery by sharing my concerns?

Years later, when I reflected back on what transpired that night, and my bizarre response to that question, I’m not trying to fix him, I’m just going to provide an atmosphere where he can feel safe,  I came to understand the power of denial, delusion, and deception.

In the first place, I minimized the situation by avoiding some of the major issues and inserting all of those tricky little words intended to downplay and excuse his behavior.  Words like: if, only, but, and because drove my narrative that evening.

And yes,  you guessed it.  I married him anyhow, just as I had intended to do all along.  Our marriage lasted a total of two and a half years.  A true testament to my not having paid attention to the three D’s.

I need to change WHAT?

bare feet boy child couch

Yet another year, running neck and neck with my mortality, crosses the finish line and here I am, left scrambling in its’ dust, trying to get back up on the horse so I can enter the next race.

Where in the hell did the time go?

When I contemplate that unforgiving image in the mirror, the one that mocks me every morning, I feel compelled to try and piece it all together. It’s not that I expect to have some kind of an epiphany that will allow me to extend whatever time left has been granted me. I need to figure out a way to eliminate that gnawing habit of weighing what’s gone, against what remains, and feeling as if I could have achieved more. I would like to view my remaining years through the lens of anticipation instead of remorse and apprehension.

 I realize the fear of aging is paramount and is the driving force beneath this blanket of discontent. But in talking with others my age, I know that there is nothing abnormal about being emotionally unprepared to let go of my attachment to this life and all that it encompasses. So, I ask myself, what do I need to change in order to obtain my objective?

As a recovering alcoholic who has gained a new perspective through the working of the twelve steps of A.A., I am now reminded of another great tool that shares the initials A.A. In 1984 I adopted Hank William’s song “Attitude Adjustment” as a weapon to correct my kids’ behavior.

But I’ve always found that reconstructing my attitude is damned near impossible when I am in the middle of a dilemma. Especially if that dilemma is of my own making. Scraping the bottom of the barrel to reveal the blemishes that tend to ruin one’s complexion requires a certain amount of detachment and self-honesty. Not an easy job.

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Now that I’ve discovered the solution, it’s time to unearth those things that are standing in the way of my serenity:  The portions of my life that I repeatedly try to sweep under the rug; perceived failures, broken promises to myself, unrealistic expectations of myself and others, and those episodic forays into self-pity. All linked to my fear that time is running out and how will life go on without me? Oh, and did I mention ego? That is the element that suggests I am the center of the Universe and when I am gone my family’s world will literally spin off its axis.  It is also the task-master responsible for my obsession with searching for new skin tags, counting wrinkles, studying my reflection in my make-up mirror for nasal hairs, and wondering if everyone else is putting me under that same microscope.

I suppose I have a big job ahead of me. And I realize that by recognizing the solution before I successfully obliterate the problem is putting the horse before the cart, I am definitely heading in the right direction. Won’t be the first thing I ever did something ass-backward. Rounding the turn now, gaining on the front-runner, Attitude Adjustment.

Loss of Spirit

August 19th,1987.  Day one of a seven-day voluntary (well, kind of voluntary) stay at Chit Chat Rehab in Reading, Pa.  I wasn’t there, mind you, because I was addicted to anything:  I was there at my sister’s persuasion, whose monetary generosity made it possible.  The program was geared to those affected by a relative’s or loved one’s addiction.  That included spouses, significant others, children, parents, and everyone ese in between.

I qualified on at least two levels.  My oldest son had graduated three months before my arrival at Chit Chat from their thirty-day drug and alcohol program.  And, I had been attending, reluctantly, at my sister’s insistence again, support meetings for adult children of alcoholics.  Oh, and did I mention the fact that she herself had attended the thirty-day drug and alcohol program in 1984? 

I was feeling akin to the three river tributaries in Pittsburgh, all emptying into the same ocean of addiction and dysfunction.

The newbies were arranged in groups of ten and herded into a classroom.  We were seated facing a large chalkboard. I didn’t know about the others, but I was edgy as hell.  I could feel the corners of my mouth turn down succumbing to the familiar nervous twitch beyond my control.  A photographer was sandwiched in between two female counselors, serving as bookends.  The counselors flashed us a conciliatory smile and proceeded to introduce themselves.  We later learned that the function of the photographer was to capture and compare our morale before and after our shared experience at Chit Chat.

After the photo shoot, our attention was directed to a large white banner draped over the chalkboard.  Beneath the heading Alcoholic vs Co-dependent were two columns with words in bold black letters that literally mirrored each other. The counselor who introduced herself as the Flying Nun, used a long pointer for emphasis.  “These are losses attributed to both the addicted, and the co-dependents in their lives.” 

She paused, allowing enough time for what she had just said to sink in.   I scanned the expressions on the faces of those around me, unable to read what was going through their minds.  So, I focused on my own response to the list.

Loss of Trust.                          ‘Hm, trust in what or who?’

Loss of honesty.                     ‘I wasn’t dishonest, never stole anything.  My lies were just little white ones.’

Loss of faith.                           ‘Not sure about that since I had so little to begin with.’

Loss of integrity.                    ‘Don’t think so.’

Loss of self- respect.              ‘Maybe.’

Loss of hope.                          ‘Not sure.’

And so, it went. Until the flying nun, targeted her pointer on the final most egregious

deprivation, I wasn’t convinced that any of them applied to me.  Then thud.

Loss of Spirt

The impact was like a flashing neon sign, surging before it shortens out.  Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe.  The anxiety that so often drove me to drink gripped me.  I felt like someone had just plunged a serrated knife into my ribcage and was slowly twisting it, gutting my insides.

The lens through which I viewed the following seven days was drastically altered by a lingering ache produced by that revelation.  Had I lost my spirit to some kind of dysfunction I wasn’t even aware of?  Or did I ever possess one to begin with?   Did alcohol, manifesting a strong presence in our family dynamics, play a part?  I had a million questions.  The curtain had been parted and I needed to see what lurked behind it.

The program was intense. And by the time I left, I was willing to take a look at my own drinking patterns and incorporate AA meetings into my A.C.O.A schedule.  But As I progressed in recovery, I was continually haunted by that nagging need to quantify loss of spirit

The longer I grappled with the dilemma the more confused I became.  What I didn’t realize was that while I was busy spinning my wheels, my Higher Power was reconstructing what alcohol had impelled me to misplace.  He sent me a sponsor who stoked the dying embers of self-love, self- respect, and trust.  AA gave me a design for living.  Through working the twelve steps with that sponsor I was able to shed the cloak of shame that blocked the sunshine and fed the storms that defined me.   I began taking responsibility and accrued smatterings of hope. I made amends to people I had harmed and developed faith in the process of recovery.  In tiny increments I began to relax and become comfortable in my own skin.

By the time I celebrated three years sober, I realized that my spirit had been reconstructed.  It had developed from a tiny seed that was fed by the love, acceptance, and disciplines of the AA program.  And, like a giant sunflower, my spirit towered high above the many imperfections in the fabric of my alcoholic past.  Loss of spirit, though it no longer applied, was the impetus that began this phenomenal journey called recovery.

And Then One Day.

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And Then One Day.

In order to acquire a new perspective, I’ve come to the conclusion, that for me, it is only possible through retrospect.  That priceless lens that enables me to weigh and slowly absorb new truths.  Especially when it applies to my addiction and how it emerged, why I failed to recognize it, what I did to conceal it, and why I battled so hard to deny it.

I don’t believe I made a conscious decision to pull the curtain down on the truth.  Early on, I just wasn’t capable of looking at it honestly.  I doubt that anyone just entering recovery is able to penetrate that heavy blanket of fog that shrouds us from an ugly reality that we aren’t yet prepared to deal with.  The fog is a smoke screen, it conceals a world of pain and shame that we tried to suppress and couldn’t face alone. 

Like so many of us, when I walked through the doors of AA, I was clueless about every aspect of my disease, as well as recovery. I was told that recovery was a process, and as the physical effects of the drug or alcohol left my system, that the fog would slowly begin to lift, and the process could begin, if I chose to stay. 

Can’t say that I was convinced.  But I did stick around until little miracles began to happen and I was ultimately convinced that I wanted to stay.  Every day, and every effort made, to seek a patch of sun beyond the fog, revealed startling truths.  And many of those scenarios that flashed across the screen of my past were not only uncomfortable, but painful.  They often materialized out of the blue, and without warning.  I certainly did not voluntarily summon them.    And thank God, they weren’t revealed all at once.  That would have been too overwhelming.  A few are so vivid that they have stuck with me for over 30 years.

For instance.  Whenever I would hear about mothers abusing their children, I would assume my mantle of righteousness and be the first to judge and condemn them.  And then one day, early in sobriety, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor and feeling fairly good, when I was suddenly hurtled back to another day when I was doing the same thing, but not feeling so good.  I had a headache that nearly blinded me, and I was shaking inside.  As I waited for the clock to mark that pivotal moment when 12:pm separates morning from noon, and I could, in good conscious, pop the lid on a beer to alleviate my hangover, my son decided he wanted lunch and stepped on spot that I had just waxed.  The ugly, cacophonous expletives that spewed from my tongue that day were nothing short of abuse. 

My sister and I lived together for a short while after her divorce.  We both were working two jobs.  Our evening routine, after we finished up our second job, was to pick up a half of gallon of Chablis at the local drive thru and drain it dry before retiring for the evening.  For the longest time I was under the impression that she out drank me. Because she drank out of the largest wine goblet I had. And then one day, both of us in recovery, were discussing those days and I brought that little fact up.

“So,” she said. “You thought I was pulling one over on you by drinking from the larger glass, huh?  Were you keeping track of how many small glasses you were belting down to my one?”  And yet another truth revealed.

My youngest son was the only one left at home during my heaviest drinking days.  And my awareness of how it affected him was soaked in a bottle of amber colored denial.  There were, even during my addiction, opportunities to face the truth, but because I was so steeped in denial they evaporated as Suddenly as they appeared, allowing me to seemingly go unscathed.  And then one day, it was a few years into my sobriety, I was slammed with an ugly truth that I had been suppressing for years.  Randy, my son, was sixteen.  I was at one of my favorite drinking events, the Italian Festival, with a friend from my office.  The Italian Festival was an outdoor yearly occurrence.  It was a three- day drunk fest, at least for those of us who on rare occasions liked to drink with complete abandon.  I was well on my way to dropping all inhibitions when I spotted the man I was seeing, prancing down the street with my son’s teacher hanging on his arm.  And fast approaching from the opposite direction was my son and a group of his friends.  The timing couldn’t have been worse.  I was shooting darts and spewing some colorful language at the couple when my son and his group spotted my friend trying to calm me down. 

“HI Mrs. B.  How are you doing?  Anything wrong?”  Not exactly sure of what was going on, but sensing the situation, they formed a circle around me and my friend, and I immediately settled down.  But it was too late.  Randy, trying to divert their attention, shot his friends this stupid laugh, sluffing it off.  He eyed me with concern. 

“You okay, Mom?  I could hear the anxiety in his voice as his eyes darted nervously back and forth, from me, to the teacher and my secret lover, who by that time were on their merry way.  And If I had recognized that inappropriate laugh at the time, for what it really was; a mask to hide his embarrassment and shame, I ignored it.  Another layer of fog lifted.

After about eight months into my Twelve step program, I was still identifying myself in the meetings as an adult child of an alcoholic. I had an impressive list of arguments, rambling around in my head, that would prove I wasn’t an alcoholic. And then one day, I decided to share that list with my sponsor.  We met at Howard Johnson’s, a favorite hang- out for recovering souls where we gathered for coffee and ice cream following meetings.  I was confident that she would no doubt concur. 

Committed to paper the night before, I proceeded to share it.  In the left-hand column, I gave examples of what might appear to be a problem, and opposite that, my rationale that disputed that perception.

Yes, I did drink every day.  But during the week it was only two or three beers, just to unwind.

Yes.  The weekends were all -nighters and I Ieft my teenage son home alone.   But my mom and dad lived right next door, and, I would usually call Randy at home to check on him.  I was, after all, only a ten- minute drive away.

I would pause periodically to allow my sponsor for a response, but nothing was forthcoming.  Her silence was deafening.  My confidence was being peeled way by the cacophony of my own assertions.  If there was chatter going on around us, I couldn’t hear it.  The only voice in the place seemed to belong to me.

Rather timidly, I continued with the did nots.  I was never arrested.  Maybe, because that night when I revved up my car on a chunk of ice and slammed It into downspout on the school gym, the priest didn’t press charges. 

I never blacked out.  I just couldn’t remember driving my friend’s car home to check on my son, or how I got back to the bar. 

And of course, I never had withdrawals.  They were just really bad hangovers.  Doesn’t shaking on the inside, headaches, and agitation define a hangover?

And still, Jean Anne, my sponsor, said nothing.  She just looked at me with an undecipherable expression and allowed the lunacy of what I just said penetrate my denial.   I dared not ask her for a response at that point.  We parted, and at the following Thursday night meeting, when it came round to me, I said, with conviction, “I am Alice, and I am an alcoholic.”

And then on that day,my recovery began in earnest.