Sunday, July 29, 2007

It Wasn't Wonderland

I try not to pay attention to the media frenzy surrounding celebrities and their struggles with addiction. Lord knows I’m grateful there weren’t paparazzi and up to the minute coverage of my dismal days. On the other hand I admit I’m starting to get frustrated with the sense of entitlement that some celebrities seem to have. The cushy rehab experience doesn’t seem to be conjuring up the attitude of gratitude that is so vital to our recovery. Do we know how lucky we are to have this fellowship and these rooms? They used to just call us crazy….literally.

Back in the late 30 and early 40’s when AA was in its infancy there was a young star named Francis Farmer who was gorgeous, brilliantly talented and critically acclaimed for her work both on Broadway and in films. She unfortunately had a reputation for being rebellious and outspoken, and was considered by many to be uncooperative and offbeat because of the clothes she chose to wear and the old car she preferred to drive. Maybe she was the Lindsay Lohan or Britney of her era.

Whether it was due to stress of studio life, a series of failed marriages, or perhaps she was just genetically predisposed, Francis Farmer became addicted to alcohol and amphetamines. Her drinking and using resulted where it always does—jails and institutions. But for her that was the end of it. No AA, no cushy rehab for a celebrity, no second chance.

There are several websites that tell the story of Francis Farmer’s tragic life and eventual death. I’ll quote a little from a few of them. Beginning at the sanitarium, she was subjected to insulin shock treatment, “a brutal psychiatric torture that stuns the body in addition to inflicting extensive brain damage.” Reacting badly to the insulin shock – she received some 90 of these –.”

“In an attempt to break her defiant and rebellious will a new brutal treatment was added, “hydrotherapy.” Now illegal, this barbaric practice consisted of her being stripped naked and thrown into a tub of icy water for six to eight hours at a time. After several more months of this torture, she was publicly declared “completely cured” —a supposed model victory for what was then called the “mental hygiene” movement.

Conditions were barbaric: both criminals and the mentally retarded were crowded together, their meals thrown on the dirt floor to be fought over. Farmer was again subjected to regular and continuous electroshock. In addition, she was prostituted to soldiers from the local military base and raped and abused by the orderlies. “One of the most vivid recollections of some veterans of the institution would be the sight of Frances Farmer being held down by orderlies and raped by drunken gangs of soldiers.” She was also used as an experimental subject for drugs such as Thorazine, Stelazine, Mellaril and Prolixin.

What happened to Francis Farmer, an addict, and alcoholic, a brilliant woman of untold capacities to impact other lives is beyond tragic. But it does shine a light on the miracle of the 12 step fellowships. It is as though we have come out of the dark ages. I can’t imagine what she would have given for 30 days in Wonderland or Promises.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

One Day At A Time

From "The Housewife Who Drank at Home":

"A.A. gives us alcoholics direction into a way of life without the NEED for {alcohol, pills, lying, cheating, over eating, over spending, smoking till I'm raw, isolation, anger, blind rage...fear, fear & fear }
Are these things still part of my life? Yes. Do I need them? No.

That life for me is lived one day at a time, letting the problems of the future rest with the future. When the time comes to solve them, God will give me strength for that day.
"I had been brought up to believe in God, but I know that until I found this A.A. program, I had never found or known faith in the reality of God, the reality of His power that is now with me in everything I do."
© 2001 AAWS, Inc., Fourth Edition; Alcoholics Anonymous, pg. 300

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bark Bark Bark

I haven’t posted for a week. Every time I sit down to write I draw a big blank…zero…zilch. It’s not as though there is nothing going on in Meg-land, quite the opposite, I’ve been overrun by “Life on Life’s Terms.” I saw the above cartoon and laughed. Yeah, I used to have a blog… my head just barks incessantly. So maybe that’s my post. Here’s the short list of what my head is barking about:

  • My doc took me off my hormones 3 weeks ago. There’s just too much risk of breast cancer with my family history. I’m rather fond of my ta ta’s so I’ll stick it out for now, but the mood swings and hormone flux has been a bitch.

  • One of my closest friends is in a relapse and struggling. I love her; I hate this disease.

  • I’m registering for school. It’s been many years since I went to college. I have a whole realm of emotions running in my head around this subject. Excitement, fear, anxiety bark bark bark.

  • Speaking of bark, coyotes were over the fence on the property again the other night. I forgot and left the back sliding door open. My dogs went rushing down the hill (Charlie is a slow learner or else fearless…) Anyway, Patrick broke it all up before there was any blood this time, but I’m still jumpy as a hen under the hogs, and not sleeping well.

  • My sister in law had a heart attack last week. Damn she’s only 2 years older than I am!

  • My mom had cataracts removed from her eyes yesterday. As she gets older, I worry more and wish we were closer geographically.

  • The housing market continues to flat line and my husband is working like a demon for very small potatoes. Very demoralizing......requires great faith.

There are a zillion other things running around in that little brain of mine too. That’s what we do……stinkin thinkin, until we are convinced we just can’t cope. The truth of the matter is that I have quality problems today, and I absolutely can cope! When I review my list, I have a home, a husband, medical care, education, family and friends. Sure there are challenges, but that’s life. I’m clean and sober today, even when my head is barking incessantly. I’ll focus on that attitude of gratitude and with HP's and your help, stay that way, 24 hours at a time.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Second Surrender

Our Rockin Girl Blogger Scout has asked me to post on the 7th Step. I just adore her, so I want to get this right. Ironic that the 7th step is about humility and here I am struggling with a desire to make this perfect. Perfection…perfection…now where did I put my perfection? I know it’s here somewhere. All I can do, Scout, is share with you what my incredible upline of sponsors have given me; and any wisdom I have gained from the “rooms” and my relationship with God.

I think of the 7th Step as my Second Surrender. The first surrender was the 3rd step. Each “surrender step” has a prayer and they are both actually really similar. I used to wonder why, it seemed to me we were doing the same thing twice, giving ourselves over to our Higher Power. The difference turns out to be “SELF” and “OTHERS”.

When I first got clean and sober my life was wrecked and I was spiritually sick. The urgent task at hand was all about ME ME ME and my messed up life. So the 3rd step prayer was about asking God to relieve ME of the bondage of SELF, take care of (you guessed it) ME, and relieve ME of my difficulties. And I incidentally made a bargain with Him that I would use this victory over my difficulties to help others. ( hey, I’m not just a taker!)

So, time went by, yada yada, I worked my 4th, 5th and 6th steps. Now I was living a totally different life. I felt changed, circumstances had improved, hope and faith were somewhat restored. I was no longer the urgent task at hand. But my sobriety will always be urgent so it was time to take that 7th step. In the 12 and 12 it says: The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God.

In other words I was told that if I wanted to stay sober it was time to lay it all out at my Higher Power’s feet and say “Here it all is. The good, the bad. Can we use any of this to get closer and to help me serve others? Will you help me get rid of what would stand in our way?”

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me the strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen. Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 76

So that’s my experience, strength and hope on the 7th step Scout. Keep this prayer in your morning meditation. I have to remind myself daily that all of my shortcomings will be relieved on God’s timetable, not mine. For one thing, what I see as a very annoying defect, God may see as very rich material he can work with. (God works in mysterious ways). Secondly, I believe God won’t relieve me of a shortcoming if there is still “work” I need to do in that area. My Higher Power wants the very best for me. That’s the agreement we made, and we’re sticking to it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Journey



Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Mask

I remember the first time he hit me. I was so surprised….. not that he hit me, but at what it did to my face. It didn’t even seem like he hit me that hard, but in the mirror the next morning I was shattered. Eye swollen closed, a red and purple weeping nose, numbness throughout. He looked at me and said “but I didn’t even use my fist……….”

I wasn’t surprised because there had been signs before; a push, a shove, a twisted arm. It hadn’t particularly scared me. I knew he would eventually hit me. I just wondered when…and how…..and where. It never occurred to me to wonder why.

I knew the reason why. When we drank and used speed he got violent. It was part of the life and for a long long time I accepted it. I was not only an addict but also an addict’s wife. I had dual addictions …. to drugs and to him. There is such a significant correlation between substance abuse and domestic violence that drug and alcohol counselors are now trained in protocols for the treatment of both issues.

The first time he hit me was obviously not the last. The battering lasted on and off for years depending on the cycle of our disease. I do not want to write this from the viewpoint of a victim. I was not a victim. I was a willing participant. I knew where drugs would take us and I went there willingly over and over again. Cunning, Baffling and Powerful.

Living in active addiction is so shameful. There were so many many secrets. I didn’t want to grow up to be a drug addict and a battered wife, so I pretended not to be. I lived two lives shrouded in secrecy and shame. I isolated from family and friends and hid my reality. I put on a mask.

I left him when the fear finally overwhelmed me. I wasn’t afraid of him any longer. I was afraid of myself. I had begun to think of ways to hurt him. I was near my bottom with my using (still more than a year before I would eventually get sober). I knew I had to leave.

The gift of sobriety has helped me let go of some of the painful memories. I guess what remains is forgiveness and understanding for others who walk a similar path.

Today we have made our amends. He lives far far away and we are distant friends with bittersweet memories of a passionate love and a passionate hate. It seems like so many years ago, when drugs ruined our lives, I ravaged his soul and he shook my bones.

Friday, July 06, 2007

It Can Happen Anywhere

"I went to the filthy bathroom and got down on my knees. 'God, teach me to pray,' I begged. I remained there a long time, and when I arose and left the room, I knew I never had to drink again. I came to believe, that day, that God would help me maintain my sobriety. Since then, I’ve come to believe that He will help me with any problem. – Birmingham, Alabama, USA"

Came to Believe, 30th printing 2004, pg. 36

Thursday, July 05, 2007


I'm feeling a little edgy today. Change is hard. Feeling the change is harder. It's all good.

"My creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. Amen."
Page 76 AA Big Book

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sweet Surrender

Practicing faith is not easy. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Often my first inclination when I am faced with a problem is to either start frantically searching for a solution OR ignore it. Either way, the “go to” emotion is fear. It takes a fair amount of wheel spinning and gut wrenching before I am brought to my knees. I wish I could say it wasn’t that way, but unfortunately the truth is sometimes I forget about God when I’m in fear.

Ignoring a problem used to be a personal favorite. Telephones and mailboxes = BAD. Authority Figures = WORSE. When I first got sober my sponsor had to help me open month’s worth of mail. I just couldn’t face it. Collection notices, unpaid bills, nasty letters, even casual letters asking about my well being; it was more than I could emotionally face alone. My survival skill had been ignoring it, now I had to take baby steps and deal with it. Baby steps. One day at a time. This program tells us we are “never alone.” I survived. I tried practicing faith, I did some footwork and my Higher Power provided.

Now days, I don’t often ignore a problem, but I do get into self will searching for solution. I am working on reminding myself that solution is in surrender. So what is surrender? Well, for me, it is asking myself what is God’s will for me in any given situation. And what is God’s will for me? It is that I apply the 12 principles in all my affairs. Honesty, Hope, Faith, Courage, Integrity, Willingness, Humility, Brotherly Love, Justice, Perseverance, Spirituality and Service. I wish I could get it through my head that every decision, every dilemma, every challenge can be surrendered to God when my motives include God’s will for me. Ah, Sweet Surrender.