Practicing Gratefulness


Gratitude is one of the sweet shortcuts to finding peace of mind and happiness inside. No matter what is going on outside of us, there’s always something we could be grateful for.- Barry Neil Kaufman

When you have destroyed your life to the point of what you think is unrepairable, where do you go? How do you even begin? What steps do you begin to take? Desperation drove me to do ‘whatever’ was suggested is my story. Even making gratitude lists!!! I’ve heard of these, what I would have referred to in the past, “stupid lists” since I arrived at AA in 2004. But never would I have thought these fluffy, psychobabble, silly things would be helpful. I’ve been such a cynic. I have called myself a realist, but in truth I have been a pessimist. I prepared for the worst because it WAS coming, nothing good was coming….. that happened to other people.

So when my sponsor suggested that I make a daily list and send it to her and she’d send me hers, in this new journey in sobriety…..I could have rolled my eyes all the way down the street. I was so damn annoyed!!! But when you are as beat as I was… you just do it anyway. Her lists were nothing short of amazing and wonder. Mine, on the other hand, coffee, my astringent (they were afraid I was gonna drink the crap in rehab so I just got it back), my pillow, and talking to my son. At least I could see something.

But it did get better, I got better. Lots of stuff happened and that would be entirely too dang long for this particular blog but I began to see things. I began to actually look for things throughout the day to be grateful for. A call from a friend. A beautiful sunset. A day without a migraine. A patient not cussing me out or hitting me (I worked in a fully locked unit so let’s just say my patients were a trip and sometimes I was the ride). A day without a fight with my husband. God’s grace. Becoming conscious of His Power, hell becoming conscious. My eyes were beginning to open to the wonder of life through the eyes of gratitude, from these little lists. That’s not all of course but I do believe now in hindsight they were a game changer for me.

Then the bottom dropped out about the time I thought I was catching my stride. After a month and half of inpatient rehab and 5 1/2 months in sober living I was going to move back home closer to my son and husband but into my own apartment. But like I said, what do you do when you have damaged your life beyond repair? What happened to me is I was handed divorce papers. I was heart broken. But I changed nothing in my daily routine. I continued to pray, meditate, talk to others that I trusted and most of all I continued to look for things everyday to be grateful for. Just like the quote says, “no matter what is going on outside of us, there is always something to be grateful for”.

I became grateful for God’s plan for my life. That all I had to ‘do’ was the moment that I was actually ‘doing’ at the present second, and knew that I could handle that. I couldn’t possibly handle everything I was going through, so I just didn’t. I just breathed it out. I focused on just what was good. Not what I messed up, not what I could no longer fix, not what I could have done differently in the past, not what was going to happen in the future, not what I wanted or thought I needed…… I focused on the moment I was in, mindfulness and being grateful. Grateful for everything that I had been through, the lessons I had learned, the mistakes I had made and the truth I had learned from them, the memories that we had shared good and bad because that energy was always and forever expended between the two of us, for who holds the future because it is far better off in His hands that it would ever be in mine. There were dark moments, sad moments, hard moments, and painful moments but they were all temporary although they didn’t ‘feel’ that way at the time.

“No matter how hard you try, you cannot get rid of darkness because it does not exist. It is nothing but the absence of light. In order to effect darkness you must do something with light, because the light is the only thing that actually exists.” -Teal

Developing the practice of gratitude in my daily life, for me, was one of the many things that brought light into my darkness. Not just the list though, that’s way too simple. Being grateful for something is more than just an attitude towards something, it takes action, awareness, care, concern, compassion, responsibility, respect, attentiveness….. get my drift??? It has paid huge dividends for me by bringing light into my darkness. I had no idea that gratitude could be such a game changer or at least it has been for me. It has immensely helped me and 4 months later after I thought I might just die without “him” I am once again whole. Completely grateful for the entire journey and hopeful for what is to come.

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude. – A.A. Milne

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Misunderstood


It is no secret that I have been an anger ball, especially before I got sober. Well….. for quite sometime after that and during certain periods of my sobriety too. I have never been one to back down from a fight, much less just start one for whatever reason I deemed necessary at the time. I genetically have a predisposition to frowning, I get that naturally from my dad. He looks stern and mad at the world but is a genuinely happy and content. I, on the other hand, look stern and mad at the world and sometimes I am.

Before I got sober, people used to approach me at the bar and asked why I didn’t smile. My response was usually, “Maybe your mere presence just pisses me off” or “what’s it to you?” or “get the #@(% away from me!” I was so warm and fuzzy…. NOT!

I can really relate to the Hulk in the Avengers movie.
Steve Rogers: Doctor Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry.
Bruce Banner: That’s my secret, Captain: I’m always angry.
[Banner hulks out and punches the Leviathan]

This has gotten much better in sobriety. I don’t get asked about my smile anymore. However, my general facial expression apparently is not always welcoming either. “Betty” a good friend of mine in the Program, told me when I was about 1-2 years sober that I was going to have to accept the fact that I am unapproachable. She said, “I know you are because I am too.” At the time it hurt my feelings, but over time I saw it’s upside and that I was not the only one. People don’t come whine to me about menial things. People sucked up in self-pity don’t approach me for attention. Nor do they look to me to co-sign on their B.S.

More often than not, after I’ve known someone for a while…..then comes the confession. It usually sounds like one of the following…. “When I met you I thought you were a bitch but now I know better.” or “I thought you were stuck up and better than everyone when I first saw you.” or “I was afraid of you at first.” You get used to hearing these after a while and they don’t bother or surprise me anymore.

I am “armed with the fact about myself” thanks to the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous! The truth is this, I am a concrete-marshmallow! I carry around the tough outer exterior that exudes confidence and strong esteem of self but I am compassionate, caring, and vulnerable. I will do everything I possibly can for the still suffering alcoholic. And because of this internal vulnerability, when I do get my feelings hurt…. I go ANGER first and have the capability to cause immense damage. This makes me very grateful for the spiritual principle of Step 9 when I do make the mistake of letting my anger get the best of me!

“The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear” 12 & 12 page 76

Me knowing that this is a defect of my character is of no use unless I am willing to have God remove it because it is objectionable to me. My experience with this is that I have asked for God to remove “the bitch” on many, many
occasions. In fact, I have begged Him at times. But what I have come to realize and to accept to some degree is that maybe God needs that part of me. Maybe sometimes He needs someone that is blunt and straight forward. Maybe He has use for a “Marine 1st Sargent” which is my dear friend “Kit” calls me.

Check out the link below….. you may know someone like me too!

http://totalsororitymove.com/chronicles-of-a-girl-with-chronic-bitch-face/

I am flawed and will never be perfect but at least I have a fighting chance at happiness with AA, sponsorship, God, and constant practice of 10, 11, and 12!

It’s a WE deal!


You ever get the feeling that you just aren’t helpful or effective? That no one hears what you are saying? That they just don’t get the point? Well I do! But I have had it beat into my head that feelings aren’t facts! I’ve been told that since I got to AA. None of my sponsors have coddled me or listened to me whine about my “so-called” problems! It always been “where did you start the ball rolling”, or “what is your part in this” or “Man you really are sicker than I thought!”. I’m just kidding about the last one! Although it has been said to me and it is a realization I have come to myself!

But I am not the first one in the program to feel useless or it wouldn’t have talked about it in the bedevilments on page 52 of the Big Book. But God has always provided what I needed, as long as I have been wiling enough to look for it and to give Him credit. There was a period of time that I sponsored no one, truly I didn’t have what anyone wanted or what I wanted either. But when I finally started doing the work again and quit isolating myself from the people that had the answer and from the program, fellowship and service…..I began to get better.

Well that period of time was a while ago and I am not devoid of sponsees anymore. I actually went from 2 to 4 in one day! My first thought was…. “Man, God must think I’m real sick right now!” Truth be told, I love these women I sponsor! It lights me on fire when I see the light bulb come on! It’s better than any high I ever got off dope and booze! The book even tells us about it!

“Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow up about you, to have a host of friends — this is an experience you must not miss. We know you will not want to miss it. Frequent contact with newcomers and with each other is the bright spot of our lives”.- Big Book page 89

Man has that been my truth! What a blessing and a promise! To go from a self-absorbed, self-centered, “me and mine” girl to wanting to help someone else…… I am amazed! Of course none of that would ever happen if I didn’t have God to reduce all the self, self, self! That was and is definitely a Big part of the equation!

“You are going to meet these new friends in your own community. Near you, alcoholics are dying helplessly like people in a sinking ship. If you live in a large place, there are hundreds. High and low, rich and poor, these are future fellows of Alcoholics Anonymous. Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey. Then you will know what it means to give of yourself that others may survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Big Book page 152-153

I have found them! I have made lifelong friends! I am bound to them, for they are my people! I have escaped disaster because they showed me the way out! I journey with them! I have experienced giving of myself, my time, my experience so that WE can not only survive but live! I have learned the meaning of “Love thy neighbor as thyself”! And I have been shown how to do this by some of the most wonderful people that were once hopeless just like me! It’s a WE deal! I get it!

It is freaking AMAZING!!!

God said “YES!”


“‘I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I? Have you a sufficient substitute?’
“Yes, there is a substitute and it is vastly more than that. It is fellowship in Alcoholics Anonymous. There you will find release from care, boredom and worry. Your imagination will be fired. Life will mean something at last. The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead. Thus we find the fellowship, and so will you.”
Big Book, page 152

I had absolutely no faith in this statement the first time I heard or read it. How can this be? Life without alcohol is bound to be not only impossible, but also incredibly lame! Well, I was wrong! Admitting I am wrong still isn’t easy for me but about this…..I’m ok with!

While drinking I had little desire ever to be a mom! Didn’t really think I would have what it takes. By the Grace of God I didn’t have a child while I was still writing my alcoholic biography. But after I got sober, it was a different story. I ended up with this desperate drive to be a mother. Problem was, I had very faulty plumbing. I won’t go into all the medical details of that, but I was told at the age of 20 I better have children young or I may not be able to. After extensive scar tissue from a few surgeries and minus one ovary, I didn’t have much to work with, nor did science…..but God had all he needed.

We tried fertility meds, treatments, charts, sonograms, weekly shots and lots of getting down to “business” for over a year without so much as one positive pregnancy test. I was FLPPING NUTS! Obsessed! Just flat insane about it. I remember clearly the day we stopped all of this insanity because I finally had this overwhelming peace in the pit of my soul that God was going to give me a child someday. I knew that I may not be able to conceive and carry this child but I would be a mom somehow. See, I believe in a God that will give you the desires of your hearts.

So I gave up! Surrendered! I knew I had been demanding, one more time, that God give me what I wanted when I wanted it, instead of letting God have control. Well 5 months later, while putting on a bridesmaids dress (that I was spilling out of) that had fit fine 4 weeks before, my husband pointed out some things to me. He had the nerve to suggest I might be pregnant. I ranted and went left on him about “how dare you even suggest that, you know everything I have been through. It never worked before and there was no way that could be possible blah, blah, blah!” He went to get a pregnancy test and lets just say he was right!

I met my little miracle baby 6 years ago yesterday! I was scared to death my whole pregnancy and the first year of his life. My blonde headed, blue-eyed little devil has brought me more joy, laughter, and life than I could have ever imagined. Thank God his parents are sober! I hope he will never see the people we used to be! By the Grace of a loving, forgiving God he wont!

So when I read, “The most satisfactory years of your existence lie ahead.” I know what that means because I have felt it, lived it and I know there is more to come. And for that I am as grateful as I know how to be!

Not NOW! Not TODAY!


Wish I could say that I have been a beaming angelic child of God lately but that would be entirely untrue. Life is just life! I am at least grateful that I know that no one is doing this or that to me. You know you have heard the sayings… Life on Life’s terms or Life on God’s terms or Life on my terms. I don’t know which is true or which reality I am actually living. That’s probably because my belief is that it is simply or complicatedly JUST LIFE.

My husband and I have said for years…..”When life slows down in a few months” or “When we have a weekend off from commitments”. You’d think we would have figured out by now, that is simply not gonna happen! There will always be something that comes up to plan into the mixing bowl which is our life. Even with all these gadgets and do-ma-hickies that make everything faster, none of them shorten my day. They do however allow me space to cram more stuff into the already over filled day. So, you start with this super crammed life that I have either created or participated in creating and then you throw in some anomaly like back taxes due to the IRS because I screwed up 3 years ago, my husband having the flu and me having a raging migraine simultaneously for 5 days, or our car was in the shop and then the car we borrowed breaks down while my husband is on the way to work. I could go on, but I’m not special! This kind of stuff happens to everyone.

“We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn’t do it. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence” Big Book page 133

WHAT AN ORDER!!!! Truth is, this is not always the easiest thing to do. When trouble comes my first reaction is not to go skipping through the tulips with full trust and dependence on God. My first reactions is to FLIP SMOOTH OUT! No spiritual giant here, for sure! I usually calm down pretty quick because I get this uneasy feeling in my stomach that this is not how to act, treat other people or react in any given situation. My sponsor says, “at any given time I am either moving toward a drink or moving toward God”. I have this sneaky suspicion that letting my head spin like I am having an exorcism is in no way moving toward God! So what I usually have to do is regroup which most of the time comes down to me talking to God with skin on.

“When we developed still more, we discovered the best possible source of emotional stability to be God Himself. We found that dependence upon His perfect justice, forgiveness, and love was healthy, and that it would work where nothing else would. If we really depended upon God, we couldn’t very well play God to our fellows nor would we feel the urge wholly to rely on human protection and care. These were the new attitudes that finally brought many of us an inner strength and peace that could not be deeply shaken by the shortcomings of others or by any calamity not of our own making.” 12 & 12 page 116

The coolest thing about this program, to me, is that we GET to practice it. Practice the principles. Practice turning our will over to His. Practice forgiveness. Practice reliance upon God. Practice! Practice! Practice! I think about all the years I spent playing basketball and the countless hours of practice I put in. I made tons of mistakes, air-balls, turnovers, bad passes etc. As long as I dusted myself off and tried again, I still improved and over time I made fewer mistakes. To practice is the repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it. So essentially I am trying to become proficient in a spiritual way of life.

No matter what my poorly planned, insane, inappropriate reaction to calamity, another persons behavior, or just simply &h!t Happens……… God can and WILL meet me right where I am! What an AWESOME gift that is! I don”t have to come to Him perfect! I just have to seek Him, not find……just continue to seek! And that folks is simply FANTABULOUS!

Aside

Why We Were Chosen


“You are not selected because of exceptional talents and be careful always if success attends your efforts, not to ascribe to personal superiority, that to which you can lay claim only by virtue of My gift. If I had wanted learned men to accomplish this mission the power would have been entrusted to the physician and scientist. If I had wanted eloquent men there would have been many anxious for the assignment, for talk is the easiest used of all talents with which I have endowed mankind. If I had wanted scholarly men the  world is filled with better qualified than you who would have been available. You were selected because you have been the outcasts of the world and your long experience as a drunkard has made, or should make you humbly alert to the cries of distress that comes from the lonely hearts of alcoholics everywhere. Keep ever in mind the admission that you made on the day of your profession into  A.A., namely that you are powerless and that it was only with your willingness  to turn your life and will into My keeping, that relief came to you.”- Address by Judge John T. on the 4th Anniversary of the Chicago Group October 5, 1943

I have never have ascribed to the idea that my best thinking got me to AA. With a thinker like mine, this sucker nearly thought my way out of the Grace of God on many occasions. I have prided myself my whole life on just how smart I am. I built my whole self-esteem surrounding my intellectual abilities. Then I end up with a disease that “only a spiritual experience will conquer” and that “self knowledge will avail me nothing.” Not SOME but NOTHING! DAMNIT!!!!

You mean I can’t think my way out of this thing? What the heck? My only shot is to be beat into a state of reasonableness and to have my ego “right-sized” like only the process of the steps can do. My old sponsor told me a long time ago that I am a “slow learner and a quick forgetter.” Man that pissed me off the first time she told me that! Talk about an ego bruiser! However, the longer I have stayed sober the more true that statement has become for me.

The only easier softer way for a pseudo-intellectual type like myself is “the work”! So surrender to the process……I will!

20 Seconds of Insane Courage


Ever since I got sober I’ve heard it said that fear and faith can’t reside in the same body, well I’m here to tell you that is NOT my truth! I have been taught to be a woman of consideration in Alcoholics Anonymous and not to take any thing I read, hear, or see as truth until I consider it based on my own experience. And what I have concluded about fear and faith is that they are a balancing scale. The more faith I have the less fear……the more fear I have the less faith. Just because I have fear does not mean I have no faith at all. I have done A LOT of things afraid sober and funny thing is that God has showed up for me every single time!

Fear is an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence is shot through with it.- Big Book 67
I had no idea how true that statement was when I first read it! Fear has drove me all my life! I’m not good enough, I’m not doing it right, they’re gonna find out I’m a phony, what if I’m wrong, I’m not gonna get what I want, what if I choose the wrong way, thing, boy, job, shirt….. You get the point!

The answer to fear is trust and reliance upon God instead of reliance upon self! Self is insufficient to sustain me in times of trials, indecision, or difficulty. God is either everything or he is nothing. What is my choice to be? I can either trust infinite God or me? Hmmmmm What do you think I should choose?

Even when seeking God’s will for my life and feeling as if I am being led in a new direction by God, it is still possible to be gripped by fear! That’s what my week has been like! I’ve been getting NEON signs to follow God in a certain direction and still full of fear every step I have taken. But I have followed the signs afraid and guess what? God has showed up once again! So doing it afraid still works and God still suits up and shows up every time no matter how I feel! God is everything!

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – We Bought a Zoo

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