Monday, January 26, 2009

Attitude Adjustment

The more I listen to the news, the more powerless I feel. All I can change right now is my response. Here are some random acts of kindness that I will use to adjust my attitude.

Keep birdseed in the feeder
Smile at all the really old people I see
Ask store clerks how they are doing today
Hug my friends often
Take clothes to a charity
Take food to a food bank
Say something nice about someone I don’t like
Really listen to people
Take a pie to my fire station
Pass some favorite books on to friends
Make some music mix cds for friends
Visit a lonely person
Call my mom more
Let someone go ahead of me in line often
Tell others they matter to me

Friday, January 23, 2009

What About The God Deal?

When I share with people that I’m in a 12 step fellowship they often ask about “the God deal”. It’s an interesting question, and my answer is probably never the same. My concept of spirituality and Higher Power evolves constantly, and of course it’s very personal. I think what many people really want to know, but hesitate to ask is “hey, if I go to AA do I have to get onboard with this whole God thing?”

My answer to that is “It may not be the whole God thing, but you’re gonna have to get on board with something.”

The good news is that each person gets to choose what that “something” is in the beginning, and then grow along spiritual lines. Maybe your spiritual awakening will be as literal as it sounds….your spirit will begin to wake up. After years of being absorbed with self you will realize you are not the center of the universe.

Being addicted is the highway of destruction. There are other highways. With a little willingness and without all that incessant mind chatter you might discover a new path. At the foundation of our program is the ability to choose and define our own Higher Power and our own concept of spirituality. It doesn't matter what religion we are (or aren't). It's a journey. Many of us have seen a lot of hell and we are looking for a little of heaven. In the end we’re all gonna have to serve somebody.

Bob Dylan Gonna Have to Serve Somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You might be a rock 'n' roll addict prancing on the stage,

You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage,

You may be a business man or some high degree thief,

They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
But you're gonna have to serve somebody,

yes indeed You're gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

You may be a construction worker working on a home,

You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome,

You might own guns and you might even own tanks,

You might be somebody's landlord, you might even own banks

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Every Stone A Story

I've been working for a year now in a residential treatment center for female alcoholics and addicts. The facility is a six month program for pregnant women or mothers with young children. It's one of the only places around here that a pregnant woman or mother can get treatment and bring her children with her. Many are jail releases; most are on probation or parole. All of them are addicted, lack parenting or any kind of social skills and arrive with a criminal record and a story. Their stories include trauma and despair, broken lives, broken families, broken hearts. The reunification with their children can be chaotic. They trust no one.

When I first started working here I was so naive. While I was studying for my degree in Addictions I imagined making a difference in lives. I based my imaginings on my years of twelve step meetings and sponsorship. I thought I'd go to work, bond with the clients, introduce the steps
and save lives.

Reality in a treatment center like this is quite different. The twelve steps and bonding will be important to each client at some point, but the first order of business is to teach them not to put a fork in each other's eye in the dining room. The mothers need substance abuse treatment and counseling. The children need to be loved, nurtured and healed. The cycle of abuse stops here. It takes a village to heal these children.

I have learned so much in the last year I feel like a different person. I am living the concepts of "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly" and "first things first". I am learning there are many effective approachs for treating addiction and each person has pain and trauma that needs to be considered as part of the treatment. I understand that my ego thought I could make a difference. That will never happen. Only God can make a difference in people's lives and my job is to show up and do God's work.

Some make it out of here clean and sober and go on to transistional housing with happier healthier children in tow. Some get violated, sent back to jail and their babies go into a foster care system that can be brutal. There are days I leave and think I can never go back; but there are days I get to hold a newborn brought into this world by a clean and sober mom who has new hope.

She down on the corner, just a little crime.

When I make my money, got to get my dime.

She down with her baby, wind is full of trash.

She bold as a streetlight, dark and sweet as hash.

Way down in the hollow, leavin' so soon.

Oh, St. Teresa, higher than the moon.

Show me, my Teresa, feel it rise in me.

Every stone a story, like a rosary.

Joan Osborne St. Teresa

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Season of the 2nd Step

I think I'll always look back at this period of my life and think of it as the “Season of the Second Step”. It seems like every day I have to rely on the assurance that God can and WILL restore me to sanity. You might think this would be a onetime event, and then we could all wash the holy water off our hands and go on home. But apparently I require restoration over and over. I seem to be slipping in and out of sanity, so to speak.

Insanity is a strong word, and I hate like hell to apply it to myself. The first time I worked my steps I thought it referred to all the “stuff” we did when we were out there drinking and using. It’s easy to look back at all of that wreckage and say “that’s insane; I must have been out of my mind.” Well, truth be told I was out of my right mind back then. But what about the insanity and wreckage that happens now in sobriety?

If I want to acheive and maintain emotional sobriety then I guess I better take a look at that wreckage and start cleaning house. Bill W. had something to say about emotional sobriety.
AA History - The Next Frontier: Emotional Sobriety - Bill W. "Suddenly I realized what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence -- almost absolute dependence - on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came, so did my depression. "

I can relate to that. I've been relying on people and circumstances to fill my needs and give me a sense of security in uncertain times. More than ever it is clear to me that I am powerless. Powerless over people, places and things. Powerlessness, the unknown, uncertainty ---these are words that strike fear in me. My response used to be medicate medicate medicate. Now my response is different. On a good day its prayer and surrender. On a bad day, everybody duck and cover.

It’s not enough just to be aware of the potential for insane behavior. Awareness and getting into action are entirely different things. When I read in the Big Book about the guy who put whiskey in his milk it tells us that “sometimes the insane thought wins out.”
Dr. Silkworth writes "The human mind has a marvelous ability to protect itself from outside influences. Although the conscious portion of the mind may have a sincere desire to find out what’s wrong and to it, the subconscious part will block any such effort by putting up a bewildering variety of misleading motivations, misinformation, and misdirections. The more important—the deeper—the particular hang-up is, the higher and thicker this wall will be. If the problem is big enough, the conscious thinking mind will not even be aware of its existence, and the mind that does become aware will still be powerless to do much about it."

Well, the mind alone may be powerless to do much about it. But I have a Power Greater Than Myself. So.... back into action, every step, fearlessly and thoroughly. But today, and for awhile I imagine, it’s the 2nd one that’s saving my life.