“Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you” – Maori Proverb

sunI’ve been absent from this blog space for awhile – wow, since April! – but I’ve continued reading other blogs and living solidly in recovery. I think it’s time for me to recommit to posting at least monthly, because I know how helpful it is to read about the lives of others with years behind them. If this blog has a primary goal, it’s to inspire people who still struggle to create a rewarding life without the buzz. So here’s what I’ve been up to.

What I’ve survived so far this year:

February – My amazing mom died unexpectedly.

March – My “baby” brother went through detox and treatment for heroin addiction. My youngest son, 18, moved out of the house.

April – June – I helped clear my mom’s house and put it on the market. Sold the new car she’d bought to celebrate her successful cancer surgery just months before she died suddenly of something else. I did my best to remain the strong oldest daughter in support of my siblings.

July – A visit to my 84 year old dad made it clear that his days of independent living are numbered and he needs help with a transition.

August – Closing on my mom’s house; time to distribute the proceeds of her estate. Delayed grief creeps in.

Throughout all of this, I continued working a full-time job, a part-time job, and began a volunteer job.

How life is better now than it was 3 years ago, despite recent challenges:

I don’t take things personally. Each person on this earth is living their unique existence as they best know how. As I cross paths with others, there will be points of connection both positive and negative, but my existence is peripheral to theirs.

I allow other people their experiences and space. I try to tread lightly.

I don’t waste (much) time feeling righteously indignant. (“What gives him the right to be angry at me?”) I jump more quickly to accountability. (“How could I have handled this communication differently?”) I respect myself more when I do this, and it becomes easier each time.

I establish limits and boundaries. I pause before making a commitment and have a small conversation with myself. My decisions are more thoughtful and less squishy.

I move through my sadness, and sometimes I move slowly. I allow myself to live with my feelings as long as I continue to do the next right thing.

I follow my interests. I didn’t know that making hand-stamped jewelry would be rewarding until I was inspired to try it. Now it’s an activity that blends into my life and gives new opportunities for sharing.

I’m grateful every day and I share that gratitude with a group of sober women like me.

I embrace cherish my sobriety and don’t take it for granted. Protecting it is my highest priority. From that foundation, not drinking is easy.

Have you been put to the test in recovery and survived it as a better person? Please share!

 

 


I’m The Evidence

 

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Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Maine Alliance of Addiction Recovery (MAAR)

Last week I completed an important step toward becoming an advocate and coach for others in recovery. The seeds were planted here.

I attended a Peer Recovery Coach Academy sponsored by a local non-profit recovery advocacy organization. I got to know twelve amazing people with the common goal of helping others achieve and maintain the freedom we’ve found. We were led by expert trainers who generously shared their passion and knowledge.

Let me just say that, as grateful as I was for this opportunity, it came at a most inconvenient time. In the wake of my mom’s death I’ve been working through a steady onslaught of family issues, and I’ve missed a lot of work. Fortunately, in recovery I’ve developed the ability to establish priorities and keep promises, even when it’s uncomfortable. This was a promise I made to myself last year and I’m so happy I honored it.

At the end of the week, each of us presented our “elevator” speeches. These are statements we learned to create describing who we are in relation to long-term recovery. This is the current version of mine:

“My name is Ginny and I’m a person in long-term recovery, which means that I haven’t had a drink since December 24, 2011. My dad modeled long-term recovery for me. I’m now able to be a role model for my three sons and other family members, and enjoy a mutually supportive marriage. Recovery has taught me that it’s never too late to build a more meaningful life, and the capacity for change lives in everyone. I’m inspired to carry on my mom’s legacy of service to others. For me, that means supporting people like me who seek change and better lives through recovery.”

One of my classmates shared that in another group she was offered the title of I.T.E., which stands for “I’m The Evidence”. I’m grateful beyond words to have had the opportunity to get to know L.K. and all the others at the Academy. The world has just gained a small army of people equipped to venture forth and present evidence of hope to those in need.


Step by step

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On Saturday I joined hundreds of other people for an annual 3-mile Recovery Walk, one of many such events held nationwide as September is recognized as Recovery Month.

It was a beautiful morning for walking, the turnout was great, and the city lake where the event was held is just 15 minutes from my home.

I went alone, walked alone, and didn’t really “connect” with anyone, but that was ok. I’m still dipping my toes into this pool of real life sober people. As a participant/observer, I felt completely at ease and fully present if somewhat invisible.

As I walked quietly alongside groups and pairs, I took in a couple of memorable slices of conversation.

“I used to think I had so many small problems in life, until I figured out that I really just had one big problem.” Yeah. I can relate to that.

Members of the “honor guard” wore purple sashes with numbers attached representing 10 or more years of recovery:  36, 28, 11, 15, etc.

A younger woman congratulated an older woman on her 10-year achievement, adding, “I would have had 6 years, but I messed up.”

The woman in the purple sash replied, “You didn’t mess up, sweetie. You just needed to go back and do some more research.”  “No”, said the young one. “I really MESSED UP. I’m looking at doing 5-10 years now.”  A poignant reminder of how serious this can be.

The variety of participants represented a true cross-section of our community. These were people I would expect to see at the grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, the county fair; normal people, living every day in recovery, coming together with friends and strangers on this day to honor the journey and show their faces.

I had my photo taken in a Fun Photo Booth labeled “Show The Faces of Recovery”, and I’ve posted it on my About Me page. Yes, I’m still hiding behind sunglasses, and I’m still a work in progress, but one baby step at a time, without fanfare, I’m getting out there – sharing myself, my face and my story of recovery.

Recovery works, and I’m living proof.