gifts of sobriety

true

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birthday candles

Fuzzy: What do you think happens when we die?
Willy: We get to have sex again.” -Longtime Companion

at certain intervals recently, i find myself shivering from a seemingly new sense that we are definitely living in a newer era. man buns, social media, selfie sticks, apps,  handcrafting, crowd funding, locally sourced, gmo-free are just a few terms that signal the radical shifts we have made in our daily lives. it as if the american portrait is no longer a rockwell or a remington, but the new american rendering is like a chuck close collage made up of smaller individual pics. i guess you need to zoom-in to be able to see what is at the heart of the story(ies).

close collage

young people (and people in general) especially millennials no longer remain loyal to companies or stay in jobs for decades because there is no sense of security, little hope for a pension, and a large chance of being let go as they age. mergers and acquisitions have created a completely new monopoly board. there have been so many broken deals, cover-ups, and gerrymandering of the system that people are too numb with frustration to bother participating in the political system.

when these random moments that contain a bit of cultural clarity occur, i feel a bit giddy and refreshed as if i had just come up for air after swimming underwater. relieved to breathe again and feeling blessed and hopeful that i am allowed to do yet even more. this is my 6th decade on earth and not only am i amazed that there is more to take in.

i have had another of those moments recently. it’s not a power moment- although it feels powerful- no it’s a humbling experience. i think back to my experiences in say the early 1980’s. at that time i was certain that my bohemian lifestyle and twenty-something world view was uber-insightful and could doubtfully be aced in any way. and then there’s the gift of now which provides me the experience of memory lost and of millennial worldviews that tell a quieter more bittersweet tale of lives and dreams drifting in and out of view.

my blog has always focused on the emotional side of recovery. at first it tried to cultivate the basic  feelings that early sobriety uncovers. this was followed by a more personal journey of emotional sobriety, my own shame and trauma that my younger self masterfully wove into older adult tapestry. now my temple of words remains a small canvas that i splatter, brush, tap, spit, or caress some feelings i have ready on my palette. it is definitely a spiritual practice whose consistent presence has normalized my multi-colored experience.

i’m bustin’ out

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Well, not just one wish. A whole hatful, Mary. I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here and go to college and see what they know… And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long….. George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life)

as the year comes to a close and fb has launched it’s “2013 year in review”, i am flooded with an odd sense of almost urgency. i have walked through a couple of dreams coming to life. i have felt the immense reassurance from the universe that some of me indeed makes sense. i have witnessed change happening in peoples’ lives that have been as breathtaking as watching pink or orange sunrises.

i vowed last year to make room for love in my life. somehow i have managed to do this. i intend to grow this intention in my life and to expand it and to be more specific. i watched as part of my world seemed to fall apart and i did what i always do, but i also found the where-with-all to lean into the destruction and try to glean something from it. this last bit is a definite sign of progress for me.

i am excited for the chance to let go a bit more. i have been holding on to some invisible side rail feeling as if i could be knocked over at any moment- also with a deeper feeling that maybe i didn’t deserve to be carefree. this year has swept in change with regard to this. i am grateful for this and i am both nervous and excited to change even more.

as i review my year, again i am amazed at the ninth step promises coming true in my life. perfection has not been reached, nor will it ever be- but a global shift has taken place in my world. it feels really wonderful and i want to examine it more closely. happy holidays.

The choice is ours…
Do we want more of what brought us to AA …

We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were a prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people—was not a basic solution of these bedevilments more important … ?
3rd ed. Big Book pg. 52 

… or do we want what practicing the principles of AA promises?

If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
That feeling of uselessness and self pity will disappear.
We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
Self-seeking will slip away.
Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

3rd ed. Big Book pg. 83 & 84 

recovery is my double helix

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i wanted to just give an update on the things happening in my life. i have realized that this blog has become a bit watered down. i journal here now and again about some personal process but with a vague quality because i am an addiction counselor and there is necessary confidentiality. sometimes my days are challenging with the people i counsel- maybe more than sometimes. but i also find that i have just as many challenges (if not more) with the structure of my workplace and the colleagues and policies i work with. these are day-to-day challenges that i often need to process, but when i blog about them i am as vague as possible so as not to implicate anyone in particular. this style waters down my posts and i assume they seem bland and hazy. certainly they do not mirror the frank qualities of my early posts before i entered counseling or healthcare. i used to have the freedom to write my truth. i have spent the last couple of years trying to develop a style that will convey a perspective as well as the “zoom out” quality that my spirit and my life have taken on with ongoing recovery.

opportunities have made themselves available to me on a steady pace since i got clean. and challenges have made themselves unavoidable in tandem. these seem to co-exist in my recovering life just as a double helix is part of my dna. as opportunity and success careen forward, it becomes necessary to address character defects and re-examine old wounds and current motivations regularly in order to avoid meltdowns. i have begun to share in meetings that one of my greatest barriers has been my own ability to be ordinary. so much of me carries a belief that i am less than (or not as good as) others. since this has been a lifetime belief developed from the times i was 9 or 10, fatherless and yearning for male companionship, sexually active with older peers and publicly humiliate by those same peers for the same activity, i also developed a keen ability to tune out or shut down my feelings in order to keep going and not fall apart. it seems no wonder now that i chose getting high as an alternative to living in truth. it allowed me to transcend  the brokenness i felt.

you know- the funny thing is that i didn’t understand any of this about myself until i was 4 or 5 years clean. the denial was so embedded that it took time to bubble up to the surface. and believe me when i say there was not a party when i first encountered these ideas. it was reliving the trauma of it all first and then finding a way to climb out of the ancient emotional  hole i had again crawled into. doesn’t this sound like a hella lotta work? it is. and i can’t be anything but grateful because i had no idea i had carried that crap around all those years.

so here’s the flip side of my sober life experience. while i am helping myself grow emotionally from the 10 year old boy who was riddled with self-esteem issues and enough defense mechanisms to keep palestine safe, i also came to understand that the emotional landscapes i had traversed such as having a mental health diagnosis, being hiv positive, being gay, being fatherless could become assets and sources of support for others. and i now believe that the reason that i survive all the things i have is because i have experienced all the things i have. my challenges and tribulations have become my assets.

and while all this ancient history is rewritten and re-edited, i have managed to accomplish the following:

i am part founder of an organization called TEN – i started a newsletter in 2008 for HIV positive individuals in Colorado and it is still being published.
i author 3 blogs – The Climb, TEN, and After The Pop!
i am board chair for AFR- Advocates For Recovery.
i have chaired AFR’s annual Rally For Recovery for the last 2 years.
i am on the BHPAC- Colorado Behavioral Health Planning and Advisory Council.
i am on a team working on BRSS TACS– Bringing Recovery Support Services To Scale in Colorado
i co-chaired the Denver HIV Planning Council for 3 years.
i have introduced peer coaching and peer mentoring to a large Colorado Public Hospital SA clinic

for me this seems a solid amount of service work. not amazing, but solid. and when i couple it with the internal work that has been done, i am reminded that i am not in charge at all and that i am so grateful i have a spiritual program to keep me somewhat balanced. i have developed a buddhist sensibility somehow- probably because the buddhists are so sensible when it comes to drama. recovery has become a lesson in letting go of drama for me. or at least not being caught up in it.