Monday, October 30, 2006

My False Self

Early on in my sobriety I remember sitting at an open AA meeting next to a woman of wisdom. She was nearing 80 years of age and when she spoke we were all mesmerized by her humility and wisdom. I remember asking God to infuse me straight away with some kind of similar wisdom before it was my turn to talk. Ya, right. Not exactly the way it works is it?

At that point in my life there were two thoughts that were constantly at the edge of my consciousness. One was that AA meetings were the only place on earth that was safe and real. That reality alternately scared and thrilled me. The other was wondering why I couldn't handle living in that reality. Why could I not just say how it was with me without it having to be about image? My image. I found myself jockeying for position - a position that came from within me - not one that anyone was trying to compete with me for. Eventually the group I was in disbanded and there were several reasons I didn't seek out a new one. None of them good or justifiable. Had I gone to a different group I am sure I would have either been confronted with truth that I couldn't side step and I would have either welcomed it or used it as an excuse to get drunk. With no sponsor (still thinking I could go it alone) there was also no one to answer to. I walked away from it thinking I had enough years of sobriety behind me that me and God could handle my soriety solo.

Well, that I could handle it solo and would call on God only when it was obvious that I wasn't handling life on my own too well. What followed was nearly 10 years of mostly a dry drunk. Occasionally I walked the talk. More often than not I didn't. More often than not today, I still don't.

I can type that without beating myself up. I do have regrets about not having gone to meetings for the past 10 years. I came close to losing my sobriety this past June and in desperation I went back to meetings. When I did I came in contact with people with the same amount of sobriety as me and I got to see what sobriety, in its fullness, could be. I'm willing to learn not to mourn those years too much but I still stumble over the words we read aloud at every meeting:

"We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it."
I feel like I am newly sober. I want the serenity others have. I want to know what it is to say how I am without dressing it up a bit. To be able to own up to my humanity without being self condemning. It could be someone newly sober or someone with 22 years of sobriety that God uses to speak truth to me. It took at least two months of meetings for me to ''get it'' that years of sobriety didn't count for much, it was living it in this moment that really mattered. And when I heard someone with 2 days of sobriety worry less about image and more about reality than I was capable of - that got my attention.

Which brings me to today. Wondering what it says to have 18+ years of sobriety behind me and not one day of abstinence when it comes to either bingeing or sexual addiction. There is a bit that we read at every meeting that has been haunting me lately. It reads like this:

"Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men or women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest."

I used to read that bit in the big book and think of my brother-in-law who went through rehab like it was a revolving door. He died over two years ago, sober on the night of his death, but not in sobriety. I used to think what a pity it was that he couldn't get honest while patting myself on the back for my own. These days I hear the above read at meetings and more often than not the words are hitting me so hard I am unaware of anyone else in the room. I pray I can learn to be so rigorous. I worry that I won't.

I told someone the other day that there was no way I wanted to be an 80 year old woman still stuck in her addictions. But do I want freedom bad enough to do the hard work? It seems I keep coming back to the truth that this life is lived only one fucking day at a time and I keep trying to live the rest of my life at one go. It feels like paying attention to this moment is an impossibility. I am scared to find out how that feels. I have heard enough at meetings to know I will never do it perfectly. But can I be willing in the moment, to be in the moment? I get exhausted just thinking about it. It makes me feel like I will have to spend the rest of my life like some guard standing at attention when all I want to do is slump against the wall.

The other day a piece of the puzzle came into focus for me. I have read of ego and have heard others speak of it at meetings but I never really understood it for myself. It was while reading this the other day that I got it finally. I sat there and realized it was my ego all along that has been in the way of being honest or being me at meetings. In love with my false self and protecting it at all costs. It was what others at meetings had faced in order to be rigorously honest. There was a time - let's say oh, 2 weeks ago - when having that revelation would have propelled me into action - trying to fix it and prove to anyone who cared that my real self truly leads the way. Today I can simply acknowledge the revelation for the gift it is, saying a hesitant amen to these words:

"If we are blessed God will destabilize and begin to 'break down' this false self."

I keep on hoping that it is possible to string together days of abstinence like my friend bobbie has. I do however, question whether I want it bad enough to make it a reality. I wonder if going to AA meetings and learning what I am there will make me come to the end of myself in these other areas or whether I will be one of those unfortunates who is unwilling to be honest with themselves. Some days I wonder who the hell do I think I am fooling. I'd rather have some miraculous cure from Jesus than face doing the hard work of recovery. But something tells me that hard work is the only way serenity and abstinence and true sobriety is ever going to be my reality. And that by stringing together one day at a time's worth of any of it really is a miracle.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I'll have mine on ice (not)

Over a foot of snow fell yesterday while I was in town for meetings. Highway travel wasn't recommended so I didn't venture home until today. On the drive home the worst stretch was the five miles of pure ice. Winter driving isn't my idea of a good time so I was really glad to turn in the driveway; my 55 minute drive turned into nearly 90. But here I am safe and sound. I am thankful.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Way Back

Lately I have felt like I've been blindfolded, spun around countless times and left to navigate my way with no sense of direction. I spent the afternoon reading an amazing book online. Reading this book helped point the Way back.

One of my favourite quotes:
”When you’re not content with reality you will always worry about the way things appear.”


"Aloneness is not a curse to be avoided but a grace to be embraced. Aloneness is the goodness of an inner centering that faces the pain of differentness, sculpted and understood by God. And there is no greater grace than the blessing of acceptance in the face of one's differentness and aloneness...the God who made the world with kaleidoscopic beauty affirms us at the core of who we are and says: "I know you,do not be afraid."
~Henri Nouwen~


Words Of Comfort

"There are days I drop words of comfort on myself like falling rain & remember it is enough to be taken care of by myself."


Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I feel like I am slogging my way down a very murky path
doing the fake it til you make it dance.
I feel kinship with the cold, bare trees outside my window.
Except I have a layer of fat - humour still intact, that's gotta be a hopeful thing.
I feel like embracing waiting, being present and grounded are things I am faking.
Embraced is the last thing I want.
So I run the other way and get pissed that I do not run alone.
I want to yell "leave me the fuck alone."
Yet know that will never happen.
Not only does One run by my side but
I am surrounded by a cloud of witnesses,
seen and unseen, cheering me on.
I try to drown out their voices
only to find A voice inside me.
Even so, I try to hide what cannot be hidden.
And I cry because I am embraced
on the murky path,
while fighting to go it alone.


There are some excellent posts over at Prodigal Kiwi(s)Blog regarding a series of talks given by Richard Rohr.

Day One
Day Two

The pdf notes available within the posts resonated with me.

Here's one quote from the notes that I wrote out:
"If you do not transform your pain, your hurt, your brokenness, your addictions and your woundedness, you will always transmit it - will always relate to others out of it."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Work Of Grace

I am grateful for the mysterious happening called letting go. God knows I can't seem to make it happen on my own.

Last night our youngest son came over with his girlfriend. A girl I have had a real hard time liking. Thoughts such as you've got my son by the balls and I'm onto your games have been at the forefront of my mind for much of their relationship. Ya. Not the proudest of that, but it's the truth. I had had a breakthrough with my attitude towards her earlier this year but my attitude didn't last. No angel halo for me.

So last night (at the end of an 18 hour spoonless day, no less) I was pleasantly surprised to find no ill will within me towards her. Instead a calm acceptance. Somewhere between last night and I don't know when, I realized I had stopped expecting things she can't deliver. Things like acting more than her age (15) or not acting out in behaviours that she could only change through hard work, healing grace and much love.

And while I was pleasantly surprised not to have that below the surface pissyness towards her I was also unsettled. Because I know a change in attitude towards her means I most likely have a softer attitude towards myself, too. A work of grace. And for this control loving woman, not being able to put a finger on where and when and how it all happened, and that it happened without my orchestrating it all - well - that's an answer to someone's prayers! Including my own.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thank You For Each Moment

I spent the day at a journalling retreat. It was good to get a different perspective on journalling as well as concrete ideas for cultivating a deeper awareness of my spiritual journey through journalling. Here is a prayer we prayed (whose title is this post title) together at the start of the retreat:

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the blue-sky moment,
the softening earth,
the refreshing wind,
the yellow bush,
for my full heart
and the joy rising in me.

Soften me
to receive whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment
for the twilight moment,
the pause,
the good tired,
for the quiet reflection,
the slowing down,
the mysterious sunset,
for the wisdom growing inside me.

Gentle me
to feel whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the midnight moment,
the loneliness,
the fretful wondering,
for the watchful stars,
the long ache,
the sleepless wait,
and the hope straining in me.

Focus me
to see whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the high-noon moment,
the job,
the necessary routine,
for the sweaty struggle,
the impulse to change,
and the courage gathering in me.

Ground me
to wrestle with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the shared moment,
the listening,
the unguarded word,
for the fragile openness,
the ready smile,
the accepted difference,
for my passionate heart
and the trust rooting in me.

Stretch me
to grow with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the charged moment,
the confrontation,
for the hard decision,
the unexpected growing,
for my intense heart
and the truth expanding in me.

Free me
to be open to whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.

Thank you for each moment,
for the holy moment,
the music,
the child's eyes,
for the sunlight,
the touch,
the tears,
for the trembling pleasure,
the unutterable beauty,
for the life and love and heart in me aware,
and the wholeness spreading in me.

Touch me
through whatever comes as a gift
That I may be grateful
and praise you in it.

~from Guerrillas of Grace by Ted Loder

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Words To Ponder

Give Birth to Your Own Baby
~Janusz Korczak

"To demand that others should provide you with answers is like asking a strange woman to give birth to your baby. There are insights that can be born only of your own pain, and they are most precious."

Source: How to Love a Child


Monday, October 16, 2006


I'm having a hard time accepting where I'm at in my journey right now. I feel all too familiar with this frozen/walls up state of being. It's a fight to keep on putting one hopeful foot in front of another. I just want to be free of the struggle. And I can't seem to make that happen. I can want it. I can long for it. Knowing what it felt like once to be without these self made walls makes me hope for it to happen again. Hope for it to one day be the norm rather than the exception. Yet here I am with walls up and no map as to how to get them down again. So I wait and hope that what I can't seem to do on my own, God will. And the waiting seems like the hardest work there is.

Writing it all down without judging myself for where I am at, is hard. I feel like a drama queen on a pity pot. And I hate it. And I want to pretend I am somewhere else on the journey.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Strong Yet Broken

I thoroughly enjoyed your ideas of what 'symbol of self' I should bring with me tonight to my Lay Formation course. Thank you for putting the time and energy into answering that question for me. I did think of bringing my silly putty or my little silver square medallion with the word Hope engraved on it. But in the end I chose this rock you see. Rocks are strong. When this rock is put together you can still see the cracks in it. So as much as I sometimes like to think I have it all together, the cracks remind me to let the Light in. This week I visited the Sacred Space website for the first time and the day's Scripture reading was about the good Samaritan.
I've been trying to keep God at a distance for a while now. When I feel insecure and want some semblance of control in my life I tend to stop talking to God - God is often too unpredictable and I get scared to risk the conversation because it often wrecks my effort to keep the distance and also wrecks any illusion I have of being in control.
I was reading the verses about the good Samaritan when into my head came this image of Christ being the good Samaritan and it was I who was lying on the road in need of tending. I watched as Christ knelt and tended to my wounds with the utmost tenderness and care. I may be trying to keep God at a distance but this image reminded me to do so is always a one sided endeavor. I could hardly bear it and I tried to shut the image out. "But I'm trying to keep you at a distance. I can hardly bear the tenderness of Your love." I wish I could write that the whole experience reduced me to tears and that my walls were broken down. For now I am keeping this image in my heart until, well, until I give up the fight and accept the care Christ keeps pouring out no matter how much I struggle.

With all of that happening it is harder for me to let this rock fall apart because when I do, I am reminded that it is not only okay to be broken, but that the journey is also about hope, healing and restoration. The line
"You're worth more broken."
from Broken For you reverberates within me.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Symbol of Self

I am in the second year of a Lay Formation Program that is offered in our Diocese. I get to meet with a great group of people one weekend a month from September to April. For our next weekend the presenter has asked each of us to bring something that is a symbol of self - something that says who you are.

So - two questions. What would you advise me to bring - what comes to your mind when you think of something that would be a symbol of who I am? And what would you bring if it was you?

I have an idea of what I am going to bring. I'll post a picture of it next Friday.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Catholic Carnival

This week's Catholic Carnival is chock full of great posts to read.

Monday, October 02, 2006

To The Best Of Our Ability

When dearest one brought me to this part of the country nearly 25 years ago I remember asking him, "Where's civilization?" We were driving along a two lane highway with trees hugging both ditches. As far as the eye could see there were trees - that part of the country uninhabited by people.

That stretch of highway is still there - upgraded to a four lane highway most of the way - but still the trees reach to the horizon.

This past weekend, after my AA meeting, I wished I didn't live so far away from 'civilization'. With a 150km round trip to get to a meeting it takes more than wishful thinking to get there every week. I feel like I am sponge soaking up so much goodness when I go to a meeting. If I lived closer to meetings I would take in more than one a week.

At my meeting this past Saturday I heard, I mean truly 'heard', a woman talk about working the steps to the best of our abililty. And it struck me that if I looked at all of my life in that vein I would take the pressure off myself to be somewhere other than where I am on the journey. I need reminding of truth like that. Then this morning I read Jim's comment and knew that he was essentially telling me the same thing. Here is his comment in case you missed it.

"Hope, none of us walk on water. Some would preach it like the entrance of Christ suddenly turns us into super saints who have it all together. Always, it is a journey. The "transforming of our mind" (Rom 12:1-2) is an on-going process that we attempt with Him. What you ask yourself is: Have I not come a distance from where I was? Does His presence speak to me in the journey?...If all you have is an attempt to change yourself, the Bible asks in Jeremiah: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good that are accustomed to do evil". Indeed, the difference in us is "only" Christ "in" us; and that relationship we forge with Him brings unto us strength, patience, peace, grace, all that He is............"
jim Homepage 10.01.06 - 8:14 am #