Thursday, June 28, 2007

Attitude Adjustment

A Young monk asked the Master:
“How can I ever get emancipated?”
The Master replied:
“Who has ever put you in bondage?”
Advaita Teachings

Sometimes I feel like I am a slave to my character defects. A frustrated, unruly slave, tugging at my leg irons. Our character defects can do that to us; hold us hostage and prevent us from feeling happy, joyous and least of all, free. False pride, egotism, anger, fear, anxiety, they rear their ugly heads and before you know it I’m locked in the bondage of self.

Since this is the month of June, in meetings all over the globe step studies have been looking at the 6th Step. "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." When I first got sober I thought this was some kind of miracle “eraser” step. I was going to identify and admit my character defects, humbly take them to God, and soon after I would be transformed. Sure enough, some were lifted as I began to work my program, but a good many remained. The character defects that remain are what I call the “divine ordinary” they are emotions and characteristics that are common to all of us. They will probably be with me always at some level. My challenge is to work a program, practice the principles to the best of my ability and not let them imprison me, or others.

I now understand that the 6th Step is not an Eraser Step, it is an Attitude Adjustment Step. I need to accept my own humanity, defects and all, and tell God I am ready to work towards perfection, surrendering the notion that I will ever come even close to it.

During the years we were drinking and using we were bent on self destruction, in one insidious way after another. Our minds, our behaviors and our responses to life were programmed in that one direction. Our character defects were learned responses to our way of life; often they were even our survival skills. When we get clean and sober we chose a new way of life. No longer a life of self destruction, we are choosing to live, and hoping to live happy, joyous and free. We do a complete turn of direction. But what about those learned behaviors, those survival skills? Those ingrained responses that don’t serve us any more? (Those character defects) They don’t just go away, and they won’t just dissapear no matter how many times we humbly ask God to remove them. My point is, that it is a process. It may take a lifetime but what a great journey we’re on. We strive for progress, not perfection. We practice patience, and ask God for guidance.

So what do I do about a particularly troublesome character defect when it takes me hostage? I observe it. To the best of my ability I don’t fight it (that which I resist always causes me more pain). I recognize that is a part of me and I observe myself. When I admitted my drug abuse, I didn’t just “confess” to it. I had to “admit” it. Admit it into my heart and soul. I am an addict. That is the only way I could ever move forward in recovery. That is how I try to handle my character defects. I “admit” them. I take ownership of them. They are a part of me. If I rage against them they own me. If I lovingly observe how they are hurting me, or preventing my spiritual growth they seem to lose their power, sometimes they even become comical. Some of the best laughter I’ve shared is with friends in recovery honestly talking about our character defects. Go figure.

So Step Six--"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character"--is A.A.'s way of stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement. from the 12 and 12

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thirteenth Step

We brought home toys for the pups. Since Charlie is still recovering from his coyote attack he got the best one: this rubber (pirate) chicken. Of course he loves it; it has a great howly squeaker. And, of course, Lucy keeps stealing it.

Why do we sometimes crave something that isn’t ours, something forbidden, something we aren’t entitled to, and shouldn’t even be thinking about? Apparently this is somewhat of a natural instinct. Sometimes this instinct, left unchecked, goes out of control and all hell breaks loose. In the case of my dogs, there’s a lot of growling and tugging over a rubber chicken. But when it happens with people, the behavior is usually more devious, more complex, and more destructive. It talks about this in the 12 and 12, 4th Step Chapter.
Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man's natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles.

Practically all the trouble there is” Yep. There’s trouble brewing in my neck of the woods. A couple of people in my home group are involved in a little “flirtation,” a “fling”, a “romance”? No, a “lust-mance” (You taste like honey, honey, Tell me can I be your honey.) She is young, lovely, sweet, vulnerable, and relatively new to sobriety. He is, well how can I describe him? Only one word comes to mind: Married.

So far this whole sticky situation is a “secret”. But I feel like I’m watching trains coming at each other. I shudder to think of the consequences when they collide. His wife goes to our meetings too. Everyone involved is a loving and loved member of our home group. I’m imagining our “atmosphere of recovery” being shattered by gossip, torn allegiances and a whole lot of pain and suspicion.

What am I going to do as I watch the trains on their collision course? Nothing. It’s their program, and noone is asking me to jump in. I have my own program to worry about. I wish I could control it, I feel like natural instinct’s have gone awry, and are about to tyrannize us all! I have no judgment for the people involved. It saddens me, because I would imagine that the feelings and issues that would allow someone to be unfaithful in a marriage are extremely close to the same issues that lead to relapse.
We have drunk to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk again to make more passions possible.

If I get all worked up about this and take it to my sponsor he will ask me “Who's in charge?” Of course I believe the answer to that is God, and I am not God. So I’m sad, but when I pause, I’m not too worried. The 13th Step has been around a long long time. Apparently people survive.

Today, I'm free
This brought me to the good healthy realization that there were plenty of situations left in the world over which I had no personal power--that if I was so ready to admit that to be the case with alcohol, so I must make the same admission with respect to much else. I would have to be still and know that He, not I, was God. As Bill Sees It, page 114

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Goin' Home

Tomorrow we head for home. This vacation has been great but there’s no place like home. I’m looking forward to pulling into my driveway and calling out to my pups. I know they will be jumping for joy. I’m also anxious to get back into my own routine… life, my meetings, my friends and family. I do best when I am centered and grounded in the life I have grown to love.

Vacation is nice, but it is not reality. Reality is the life I have built based on the principals, my conscious contact with God and my willingness to stay connected with my program….and Reality is awesome. It’s not always easy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m glad I like my life today. I owe my life to my sobriety and God’s grace. I have spent a lot of time on this trip feeling close to my Higher Power and grateful for the blessings in my life. I’ll take those feelings home with me.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Spiritual Awakening at Iao Valley

I’ve been reading a biography of one of the founders of AA, Dr. Bob Smith. It seems like Bill Wilson gets way more hoopla than Dr. Bob, and I’m not sure why. I’m really enjoying the book. He was a gentle man who did a lot of soul searching. He seemed to regret that he never had the kind of blinding light spiritual experience that Bill Wilson had. I can really relate to that. My spiritual growth has been more of a “quest” or a journey. My spirituality has evolved. There is a chapter in the book I’m reading that talks about Dr. Bob always searching and reading anything he could get his hands on about religion and spirituality. He was very open minded, and his spiritual journey was very rich as a result. I would like to think that my heart and mind are open too.

I have had spiritual experiences where I feel very close to God and even loved ones who have passed away. They are rare, but they happen. I think these experiences are available to all of us, but we shut them out with logic or a closed heart.

There is a valley here on the island that is very sacred. Whenever I go there, if I quiet my mind, and open my heart I experience a connection to the Universe that I cannot seem to achieve elsewhere. Many tourists just grab there camera and go for the beauty. I have learned that if I approach this place with the reverence the locals hold for it, a visit to the Iao Valley can be a gift.

Iao means "cloud supreme", for the bank of clouds that often sits over the valley. It is a valley of creeks and water falls, lush with flowers and greenery.

`Iao is so sacred that the remains of the highest chiefs were entrusted to secret hiding places in the valley. Kaka`e, ruler of Maui in the late 1400's to 1500's, is believed to have designated this valley as an ali`i burial area.

It was the battle in which
Kamehameha the Great defeated King Kalanikupule and conquered the Maui army in order to unify the islands. The battle was said to be so bloody that dead bodies blocked the ʻĪao Stream,

What lingers there now is a reverence for life. When I stand still and contemplate the magnificence of the place and consider that this valley has existed forever (and will still be here long after we are gone) it humbles me. It also helps me understand with certainty that God exists, and that the mysteries of the Universe are beyond my understanding. I am grateful that I get to contemplate and understand them one day at a time.

But when we take time to find out some of the spiritual laws, and familiarize ourselves with them, and put them into practice, then we do get happiness and peace of mind. . . There seem to be some rules that we have to follow, but happiness and peace of mind are always here, open and free to anyone. DR. BOB AND THE GOOD OLDTIMERS, pg. 308

Thank You From Charlie

Hi, my name is Charlie Mac and Meg and Patrick belong to me. They are on vacation in Maui and left me home with my brother Bob and sister Lucy. My Auntie Caron is taking care of us while my mom and dad are away.

I wanted to write to you all to thank-you for all your thoughts, best wishes and prayers for my speedy recovery. It was very nice to know so many people cared. I am doing great as you can see! I ended up with 13 bites and 4 stitches and felt pretty bad for a couple of days. But I got a piece of that *@^$#%@ coyote. We found lots of coyote hair. (I like to tell everybody I killed that coyote, but Auntie Caron says I shouldn’t exaggerate.) I stayed on the couch lying on my mom’s bathrobe and didn’t even bark at the pool guy, or garbage trucks or mailman. Auntie Caron fixed a whole bag of popcorn for me, but I had to share. I let Bob and Lucy take the watch for a few days. I tried to explain to Lucy about patrolling the perimeters but she just kept taking a nap under the big ficus tree. And Bob would bark at the birds at the feeder, lizards or palm fronds swaying. I guess I have to do it all.

It’s time for my antibiotics (I get my pills inside pieces of hot dog or cheese balls). And I should probably do a run around the perimeter of the property because both Bob and Lucy are sleeping on their watch. Oh dear, my work is never done!

Tomorrow I get to swim in the pool finally. I just hope Bob and Lucy will take the coyote watch when I am chillin’ in the pool.

Thanks again for all of your concern,

Love, Charlie

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Music quiets my mind and transports my heart

Today I spent time lost in the music

Mahalo E Ke Akua No Keia La ~ Thanks be to God for this day

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Maui Friends of the Library

I love to read. I have a book underway all of the time, sometimes two or three. I like all kinds of books, intellectually challenging, spiritual, or novels…they all interest me. I think it’s my favorite mode of escapism.

On Maui there is a little book store located way out in the middle of the sugar cane fields where you can buy books for a dime. It’s the Maui Friends of the Library bookstore where they sell off the books that have cycled through the library. This is a relatively small island, and books move through the system in a matter of months, before they have to be cleared out to make room for newer releases. This means the books in the MFOL are good books! They are sectioned off by topic or fiction vs non fiction. It's just like a bookstore, only PRIMITIVE. The people who work there are always happy to see someone show up. It's hot and red dirt dusty out there; and without customers there are only the chickens for company.

A local person told us about the place a few years ago. The first time we went there I was thinking maybe they were messing with us “mainlanders.” First you drive out to the sugar cane factory where white steam is billowing out of the chimneys and the air smells like sweet nirvana. You turn down the dirt road that leads behind the factory and follow it through a maze of sugar cane plants as high as the car windows. Red dirt flies up off the road, and the car goes bumpity bump. Press on. When you are sure you are lost you come to a little (and I mean little) sign that says “Books” and has an arrow left. Follow that around the bend, past a bunch of chickens in the road that scatter everywhere, and suddenly you’re there!

Books for a dime……I’m like a kid in a candy store.

So now you know one of the best kept secrets on the island. When you visit Maui, load up, kick back and relax on the beach with a good book. Tell them Meg sent ya.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Meltdown At Sunset

No matter where I go, there I am….even in Paradise. I had a little meltdown at dinner the other night. The first week of our vacation is over. The second week we will be joined here by some of Patrick’s relatives from Michigan. They are fun people and I love them, so that’s not the problem. The problem is my own head. I got it in my head that we should go out to a nice romantic dinner to celebrate the end of our time alone together. I had the entire evening “scripted” in my imagination. The trouble started when I forgot to give Patrick the script.

I dressed up, put a flower in my hair, and we went to our favorite place here on the island. Everything was perfect, so far, so good. The sun was just setting, it was absolutely beautiful. Patrick grabbed the camera and said he wanted to get the sunset. He left the table and went upstairs to shoot the photos off the balcony. That’s when the script fell apart. I want what I want, and I want it now. I wanted to be the center of his world. I didn’t want to sit alone in the restaurant watching the sunset alone. When he came back to the table I treated him like he had been away committing an ax murder.

Amazing how quickly self will can ruin an evening. Amazing how quickly I can “forget” to be grateful and tolerant. Even more amazing it that I seem to need to learn this lesson over and over.

One of the blessings of a 12 step program is our 10th step. Sometimes I get to watch my behavior like it’s a bad movie, but the 10th step gives me a remedy. I can look deeper, I can see my part, and I’m not afraid to apologize and/or even laugh at myself today. I used to choke on apologies, it was so hard for me to admit my character defects. It’s easier now, because of YOU. I have learned that I am not alone.

The pictures he took are awesome. And today I’m feeling pretty awesome too. I’m not writing a script for tomorrow. I’m just going to BE HERE NOW, and wait for the miracles to unfold.

The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Big Book pg 60

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Charlie Mac

Bad news from home. My dog Charlie was attacked in the night by coyotes. Maybe I should be calling this good news, astounding and wonderful news because he is still alive.

The entire time we have lived in our home I have feared this day. I feel so helpless being so far away now. The coyotes prowl the property line at night, and I listen to their eerie yips when they kill a rabbit or some other critter. We are cautious with the dogs, but at some level I have had to relax and accept that we have done all we can do.

I don’t know why Charlie went out in the night. He usually sleeps with me and doesn’t move until morning. He’s a real cuddle-bug. Maybe because we are gone he felt the need to go “on patrol”. I guess we’ll never know.

Caron found him in the morning; he had managed to make his way back up the hill and into the house in spite of his wounds. He has nine bites. Two at the throat and shoulder, the other seven are all in his hind quarters. I think God was watching out for that little guy. He has stitches, a full load of antibiotics and doggy pain pills. Now we just say prayers and wait for the healing.

A friend (one of my husband’s sponsees actually) went to the house and found the place where the fence had been breached. He reinforced the fence line at the lower levels of the property and installed motion detector lights.

This is a time for me to remember the basics. I have to accept that I am powerless over what happens now. Rushing home would serve no purpose. What happened ….happened. Charlie is in good hands. I feel far away and helpless. I feel fear. I am trying to focus on gratitude. I’m grateful he somehow escaped. I’m grateful that my sister is lovingly watching over him. I’m grateful that our friend Brad fixed the fence.

I’m grateful for the Big Book. It tells me to ask God who I should BE in this situation, instead of worrying about what I should DO.

We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear. Pg 67

For another post on Charlie click here

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Patience & Tolerance


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Love the Dog You're With

In the little town of Paia in Central Maui there’s a place where you can borrow a dog for the day. There’s no charge. All you have to do is buy your picnic lunch from them and they throw the dog in for free. I think it would be cool to take a dog down to the beach and throw a Frisbee around, or on a hike up in the rainforest.

I’m missing my dogs at home. I absolutely love the idea of a 2 week vacation. It takes my psyche the first week just to slow down and surrender. The second week I'm officially "mauied". The hard part is being away from my dogs that long. The minute the suitcases came out Bob and Charlie knew we were going away. They started their depressed behavior, following us around, sure the sky was falling. Lucy on the other hand is still young and dumb, she didn’t have a clue.

My sister Caron is staying at the house. She doesn’t have dogs, she has cats. She called and said she’s having trouble adjusting to the pile of pups in the bed at night. I told her to consider it protection. Apparently, they broke into her groceries and ate all of her cookies too. Lucy won’t stay out of the pool, and is in and out of the house soaking wet. Yesterday Lucy took her first swim at 6:30 am. Oh well, a small price to pay for all that canine unconditional love. I asked how they were, expecting that they would be sad and blue missing me. Nope. She said they are all having the time of their lives. Guess I’m expendable after all.

I may go borrow a dog in Paia. I’ve gone before to check them out. The trouble was they didn’t seem too anxious to be selected for an outing. They were just snoozing away in the sunshine, looking like contented old cows. Maybe if I lived here year round I would be too.

Monday, June 04, 2007

At the Beach

Maui has many different kinds of beaches, white sand, black sand, rocky reefs and the lava bed beaches at La Peruse. All of them are different, and all of them are public access. Even the large resorts and hotels cannot close the beach off to the public. The Hawaiian culture has a strong belief in the sacred status of the ocean (kai) and the environment. These islands sprung from the ocean, and their love and respect for the land and sea is an attachment that has developed over hundreds of years. It is an attachment that is cultural, physical and spiritual. When Patrick and I visit the island we are sensitive to this and treat the land and the ocean with respect. But we see tourists tromping around with their trash and trappings and feel a certain shame just because we’re mainlanders too.

The Hawaiian alphabet has 13 letters, and only 5 of them are vowels, so the beaches all have funny, hard to pronounce names that I can never remember. Naturally I have my favorite beaches and I need to be able to refer to them, so we have come up with our own names. My favorite beach is named Meg’s Beach. It has white sand and clear water, gentle waves and is very quiet. There’s another one where the locals take their dogs to play in the surf. I always jump in and join the game, since I’m missing my pups back home. No surprise here, we call it Dog Beach. My least favorite is a place that Patrick likes. The waves are strong, good for body surfing, but too scary for me. The shore is rocky and I cut my ankle there. I call it Me-no-likee Beach. We don’t go there much. I’m too much of a whiner.

There is also a nude beach called Little Beach at McKenna. We actually have been there several times in the past. I don’t know if we’ll go this year. The first time I went I thought I would be shy, but it was different than I expected. No one paid any attention to us. It was kinda cool. The part I didn’t like was the sunburn.

Whatever beach we’re at, I always feel the amazing presence of God, whether I’m laying in the warm sand or out floating in the waves. Whenever I’m here I try to close my eyes and “capture” little moments to take home with me. My heart is full and God’s blessings are many.

Aloha until tomorrow.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Hula of the Heart

Aloha from Maui. The AA convention closed today, and I can assure you the spirit of recovery is strong and heartfelt here on the island. It’s always fun to be at any convention, but this one is particularly special to Patrick and me. We have been coming to Maui annually for eleven years now and in a way it is our spiritual home away from home. When we are here we go to the local meetings almost daily, so we have made some friends over the years. It’s nice to be welcomed back with the spirit of Aloha. Aloha is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation in Hawaii. Aloha means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring. The convention was full of happy smiling people, joined by that common outlook that we read about in the Big Book.

At the opening meeting Friday night they had hula dancers. I’ve never been a fan of Hula, other than thinking it’s kind of interesting. But these dancers were different. They all had been incarcerated in the prisons of Hawaii. They did a dance that was narrated and it really touched my heart. The hand gestures and moves told a story of going on a journey in life. On the journey they were looking for something to soothe their heart, but they ended up taking the wrong path. Eventually their God lead them home, and they learned that what they were looking for was here the whole time. When they finished the dance, it was a very emotional moment…for them and for us…… they stood there stunned as they got a standing ovation from the two or three hundred alcoholics and addicts who understood and loved them. It was just another amazing moment in recovery. God, I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.

Patrick and I drove home with the top down on our rented car along the cliffs overlooking the ocean. There was a full moon that turned the water silver and more stars than I could count. Light clouds were moving across the sky in the opposite direction, so it looked like the moon was racing along beside us. We cranked up the radio to “Come and Get Your Love” an oldie by the Real McCoy. Yep, just another amazing moment in recovery.

More tomorrow.