Friday, January 22, 2016

I've Moved!

I've decided to move.  I love our recovery blogging community.  You have given me comfort in some very difficult times. Some days here at "Praying for Henry" I run out of things to talk about.  I've decided to branch out.  In my new spot, I will still share my ongoing recovery journey.  I will also share a bit more of my life as 'the vet's wife' and our home life with three adult children, one and a half horses, two dogs and a cat.   I hope you will drop by for a visit!

You can find me at:


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself

I now teach two classes at the jail.  One is 'Understanding Addiction' and the other is 'Expressive Writing'.  I teach them back to back and so I decided to find a way to tie them together and this came to mind.

So it is said, that if you know your enemy and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself, nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

The Chinese general responsible for writing the book, The Art of War, which I have never read, BTW, is widely known for this quote.  I don't know why this quote came to mind but it did and so I used it and am now seeing that this was perhaps, divinely inspired.

The program for re-entry my class is a part of is primarily religious based ( a protestant denomination) and so when they handed me a packet with the twelve steps containing scripture to go along with each step, I was leery.

I am a good Catholic.  But, I have learned from my twelve-step program, that it is important to have a thorough understanding of what a power greater than MYself really means and to know who I think that POWER is.  Many of us worship our own illusion of power without ever realizing it.

Apropos to that last sentence, back when I was trying to cure and control the addictions of others, I read Gabor Mate's book, In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts.  His insight is eye opening and radical relative to current ideas on addiction.  He introduces people with addictions and their stories.  Then he asks us to always ask the question, "not why the addiction, but why the pain."

That book helped me to look beyond the symptomatic behavior of addiction and to see the person instead.  To me, that is key.  It is an act of mercy to see every person and not just see their failings.  Father Greg Boyle, SJ often says that, we are more than the sum total of our worst mistakes or something along those lines.  (Sorry Father G if that is wrong).

I started using this book because when I ask how many in the class are addicts or alcoholics (this happens each and every semester) few raise their hands even though ninety percent in our county jail are there due to drug or alcohol charges.  I wanted them to have an accurate picture of addiction.

Addiction--or enslavement--is the ENEMY.

Now, for knowing thyself, I turned to Divine Therapy and Addiction.  This is a book by Father Thomas Keating OCSO and Tom S.  Tom S. interviews Thomas Keating about the twelve steps of AA and how centering prayer can aid each person in the task of learning who we really are.  He also takes an in depth look at happiness; what it is and where it can be found.

First of all, let me just say that each of these books is not for you if you are in the market for a fluffy beach read.  They are deep and thought provoking.  And, they are technical.  If the class weren't thrust upon me at the last minute, I might have prepared something different.  Something on a simpler level. 

You see, most classes whose curriculum is prepared with inmates in mind, targets the vocabulary at a sixth grade level.  And, many days, my students behave like middle school girls, looking out the window at any male inmate who happens to walk past our classroom.  They whisper and giggle.  Sometimes they try to shock me with sexually explicit discussions.  They become easily bored and so if you aren't really on, you have lost them.

I began my class by reading a few personal narratives from the addicts in Mate's book.  They were totally engrossed.  I picked some hard core addicts stories and some functional alcoholics and a few in between.

Then we read step one and talked about powerlessness. I didn't need to speak much about unmanageable, that part is easy to get.  But, powerlessness, takes time. 

Then we talked about step two: Came to believe that a Power, greater than ourselves..... This is where we talked about who God is to us.  How do we see him?  Do we actually trust him?  I told them that I had a really hard time trusting Him with my son, especially in the beginning....truth be told, I didn't trust him at all with my son.  They were shocked.  The church lady doesn't trust God and says so out loud--gasp!

God had their total attention for three hours.  I just sat there and followed His lead.  It was the most amazing gift to be a part of.  Their faces were like the symbol on your computer that lets you know it's searching for some request that you have made of it.  They would ask questions and you could see surprise or delight when maybe a connection was made.  If I meditate on the most amazing part of that class, it will have to be that when they started to buy in to what I shared, HOPE appeared.

For them and for me.

I realize now that I can only share my experience, my strength, my hope and my prayers for you and the Henry in your life and mine.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Keep your eyes fixed on where you're going."  Shouted Mr. Gray, an old cowboy who was trying to teach me to ride my horse, Bo. 

He would say this over and over again because, I was easily distracted.  "If  you keep your eyes fixed on your destination, he will head in that direction."  He said.

But, how will he know where my eyes are fixed, I wondered.  Mr. Gray continued as if knowing my question, " He can feel a fly on his back.  He will feel the slightest shift in your weight as you look around."

I began to learn that he was right.  If  I looked down at my feet, or looked at something to my left or right, he became distracted.

Today, Lucy, my little long haired dachshund, and I were out for our morning walk.  She was wandering more than usual, and I was wondering why she seemed so distracted.  Just as I began to think about why, the memory of those riding lessons came to mind.  So, I fixed my gaze on the path that I intended to walk, and like magic, Lucy straightened her path.

St. Francis of Assisi is attributed to the quote,

 "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words."

I began to understand how to preach the gospel, without opening my mouth through my twelve-step program.  I had to mind my own business--clean my own house, first.  I cannot force anyone to follow my lead.  But if  I examine my motives carefully and am purposefully seeking to follow the will of God, by attraction, others may follow.

 If I have my gaze fixed on the will of my 'power which is greater than myself--God', then my weight will stop shifting in all sorts of conflicting directions.  It will be clear that there is confidence in where I am going.

We went to a family funeral last weekend.  It was a hotbed of distraction.  There have been disagreements.  There is division to the point of some family members refusing to speak to others even in a place where a family should come together. 

It was so stressful that when I got home, I got physically sick.  Those family systems can be toxic.  It gets confusing.  How do you honor your parents if they try to force you to go against all that you believe in?

It is no wonder why we self medicate. 

I was so grateful to come home.  It is where I can slow it all down.  I can call on the Serenity Prayer and work on discernment.  Then, I try to do what I need to do to take care of myself...Today.  That is all that I need to figure out.

Prayer and meditation are wonderful gifts.  I can pray for guidance and through meditation, I listen.  God's grace floods my mind with all sorts of ideas and thoughts to help me understand; thoughts to remind me to stop looking around. 

"Fix your eyes" I can almost hear Him say.  And so today, that is where I will place my focus. 

Addiction gave me these tools.  I would not have them if it had not been for the difficult journey of addiction.  Out of difficulty, there is blessing.  Always.

I'm praying for 'the Henry's' in my life and yours.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Draw What You See

Sirens racing past.  Two police cars, another unmarked and one ambulance.  I'm picking up dinner as I see them pass, wondering what could be going on in our small town.  The ten o'clock news reveals that there is a hostage situation at our county jail.  It is the same county jail that I have volunteered at for the last five years.  It is where I will be in just a few short hours.

A local detective who has worked closely with animal control has been placed on administrative leave without pay, pending investigation of misconduct.  My husband has worked with him for years.  He has always respected him. 

In high school, I took an art class.  I wanted desperately to be an artist.  But, I could not draw.  I was a serious coloring book aficionado, growing up.  But, drawing left me frustrated.  In our very first class, the teacher gave us each a huge sketching pad and pencil, placed an object in the front of the room and said, "draw what you see." 

That was it.  As she walked around the room, I stopped her and said, "I just can't seem to do this."  She looked at me and smiled, "draw what you see."  And that is all that I got for the rest of the year.

It wasn't until I began to write and I was told, "Don't tell me, show me", that I started to understand my problem.  As I began to put on paper what I actually saw, separating it from the way that I felt, I realized how often I saw with my head instead of my eyes. 

What do I actually see?  How has my perception colored what is?

A friend posted her son's " one second movie" on Facebook.  There is an app where you record one second each day for a year and then it creates a movie from your collection of one second videos.  It was so interesting that I decided to buy the app and make my own movie.  My friend's son is a professional; not only was his movie very good, he made it look easy.

He pointed out that this app, helped him to look for the good in each day.  It's true.  I am more observant.  I am always on guard for that moment--a second that is worthy of interest. But, for me, it also helped me to see that a random moment probably isn't so random.

And, perhaps I am learning that what I see has many more layers.  And, separating what I see from what I feel has tremendous value.  Maybe that is why I write.  Maybe seeing with my head and my heart are just as important to the story.  Maybe that is why I have so many questions. 

As the mother of a recovering addict and alcoholic, staying in each moment and realizing that I can't "see" beyond what is within the scope of my vision or the confines of my heart and mind has given me tremendous freedom.  It also helps me to be responsible with my moments--my seconds of each day that all too often, I tend to take for granted.

This post may be a bit random.  But, sometimes these seemingly arbitrary moments won't leave my thoughts.   When that happens, I usually know that there must be a nugget of value in them.  Why did my mind tie advice from a high school teacher to yesterday's news and a friend's FB post? 

To me this is fascinating.  It is a part of why I love to write.  I hope that you will capture what is special about your day and unearth what the moment has for you to learn.

Feeling grateful for the lessons learned in recovery and this community.  I'll take time today to pray for Henry--yours and mine.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Listen and Learn

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That is how I felt.  For the last eight weeks, I have had to fill in at my husband's office.  It is a forty-four hour work week, unless I don't finish the jobs that I normally do when we have another employee in the office or an emergency comes in.  Then it could easily stretch to a fifty hour work week.

Endlessly the phone rings to schedule appointments, ask for advice, give updates on their horses health or sometimes to complain about a bill.  Clients come in to pick up medications and love to talk without realizing that there is still lab work to get ready for pick up or shipments to unpack because someone is waiting on a medication.  I used to handle the stress far better.

My husband and I have been doing this for over twenty years and I am weary from it.  It is his passion, not mine.  But, it is our bread and butter.  I am grateful.  I'm just very tired and very burned out.

I had to take over at the office one week before I went to New Jersey to pitch a book that I have been working on for quite some time.  At first, I panicked.  Then I realized that I had given this outcome to God and so whatever was supposed to happen would.

In the midst of this heavy workload, my son decided to seek sobriety.  He decided.  There is such gratitude and a lot of trepidation. 

Be careful. 

Don't expect. 

Just be.


Then, I realize that for a few weeks, all three adult children will live with us.  There is more laundry.  There is less food.  The house is a big mess.  I find myself tensing up. 

On a Tuesday evening, after a nine hour day at work, cooking supper and running a load of clothes, I wanted nothing more than to put on my jammies and fall asleep on the couch to some mindless  television program. 

But, I have the key to the church where our Al-Anon meeting is held.  I knew that the others who have keys would not be there that night.  I'd like to say that I knew that I needed a meeting, but I was too tired to care.  I felt obligated.  So, gripping and complaining, I went.

The chairperson for the evening's meeting said that I had 'voluntold' her to chair the meeting.  I think that is how I got my service position.  It was either that or I didn't show up and so I was nominated and voted in.  I'm glad that she chaired because she did a marvelous job and it was just the meeting that I needed. 

Her topic was on the slogans.  She took all of the slogans that she could find from our conference approved literature (CAL), typed them up,cut them into strips, folded and put in a basket.  She asked for us each take a turn to choose a strip, look in the index of our book and find a reading on that topic and then read the reading and tell the group, how that topic applied to our day.

As always, there are no mistakes.  God always seems to choose just what we need.  I think he told me to 'shut up and listen, dad gummit.'  No, he told me to 'listen and learn.'  Boy, oh boy is that exactly what I need.

I kept my slip of paper.  I am using it as a book mark. 

I'm glad I spent those eight weeks at the clinic.  I was able to clean up a lot of things that needed dealing with.  I was able to find a smart young girl who is happy to work there. 

My son decided to get sober, dealt with some things he needed to deal with and has chosen sober living.  He chose. 

My daughters and I have spent some time talking through some hard things that needed dealing with.

My husband and I are working through things we've needed to deal with for a long time. 

Before, I would have felt very sorry for myself.  I still did at first. 

But, then I decided to 'listen'--what am I being told to look at,  in this situation?  And, 'learn' --how am I to respond in a way that I am being led?

Like those who suffer from addictions, I too, don't really like to deal with things.  I'm learning.  It is hopeful.  My HP does a pretty good job, if I will let Him. 

I'm grateful to have my time at home again.  Lucy, my doxie is too.  We take our walks each morning.  She is careful to sniff and see who has been on "her walk".  She tells the big dogs in the neighborhood to, "Back off" when they bark at us.  And we are both grateful for our time of prayer and meditation.  Her snoring is somehow soothing as I pray.

I may have been gone, but, I did not stop praying for Henry, mine and yours.


Friday, June 26, 2015

God Has a Sense of Humor

I walk my little doxie, Lucy, every morning.  The length of our stroll is dependent upon the temperature, humidity and lately a neighbor that I will refer to as 'Mrs. Kravitz'. 

Until last week Mrs. K has only walked on occasion.  And, when she does, you will no doubt learn a lot about her life, who our other neighbors are, what they and their children are doing. 

The last time I lucked into such a meeting, we had just begun our walk and as she started talking my little Lucy did her business.

 Mrs. K said, " now you need to bag that up."

"Since it's an empty lot, I usually wait until I'm on my way home and then bag and grab it.  That way I don't have to carry it all the way through the neighborhood."  I replied.

"If you bag it now, you can lay the bag on the curb, that way you won't forget it, and will see it and can grab it on your way back."  She said.

It's hard to break old habits.  So, I bagged the poop and laid it on the curb, all the while listening to her remind me what a great idea that was.  My twelve step brain was so angry.  Why do I automatically try to please others?  Why didn't I just say, " that's a great way of doing it too" and just continue walking?

I've taken to looking out both doors before leaving and if she is on her walk, I just wait.  How silly is that?  Then one day last week, after I Lucy and I took our walk, I decided to put some day lilies in the ground before I took my shower and guess who was rounding the corner?

Inside, my youngest was having breakfast.  She heard me mumbling about what to do because I really needed to get them planted and get moving to get to a morning appointment. 

"What is going on"?  She asked.

"Oh, Mrs. K is walking and I'm afraid if I plant the lilies now and she stops to talk, I will never get away."  Then an idea came to me.

" Will you do me a favor"?  I asked.

"Sure"  She said.

"If she stops to talk and you see that I just cant get away, will you bring out the phone and tell me that there is a call for me"?  I asked feeling mildly guilty for including her in my deceit.

"Yes, I'll save you"  She chuckled.

I began digging as the guilt made it's way in.  She is probably just lonely, I thought.  How many times over the years have I told people what to do?

  "Lord, please forgive me.  Help me to be kind."  I silently prayed even though I did NOT really want to be kind.

On hands and knees, as I am putting the lily in the ground I hear her voice.  "You make me feel guilty out here planting this early."  She says as she walks up to where I am planting.

"Moooom"  I hear coming from the front door.  Wow, she did not waste a single second.  I just meant to save me if I was trapped.

"The phone is for you."  She said with an enormous smile on her face, all the while trying to give me some secret message by raising her eyebrows and winking at the same time.

"Always busy."  Mrs. K said and headed towards her home.

Daughter whispers, "the phone really is for you." 

We both laughed.  Maybe, if I was willing or perhaps even struggling to do the right thing, then God was willing to give us a little laugh for the morning.  Maybe it was just good luck.  I don't know.

As families in addiction, we sometimes need to focus on these little graces and move our focus so that the day has meaning and purpose instead of the insanity that the disease brings.  I just wanted to share this with you in the hopes that it would brighten your day.

  Praying for Henry.  Mine and yours.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Glimpses of Heaven

Little Sister and I went to see my sisters in another state yesterday.  It isn't a big trip, it is only a two hour drive.  My oldest sister had lunch ready for us.  She is the unofficial cook in our family.  Lunch alone, was worth the drive.

My other sister lives just a couple of fields away.  She was at a dermo apt with her husband and didn't get there until later.  She had an found old movie taken when my kids were little.  We could not wait to watch it.

When your parents have died and your kids are grown, finding a glimpse of something past is the best gift.  I can't even find words for it.  It's feels like a supernatural phenomena.  The movie was on a VHS tape.  My sister only has one VHS player left and it is in her grandsons room.

Five adults sat in a five year olds bedroom, littered with toys, peering at the small television set, placed at eye level for a three foot tall boy.  We strained to see and hear our parents speak.  We laughed at the children as toddlers.

It was a wonderful treat.  But, I found myself growing sad.  I was sad because I realized that I was peering at my son, the same way that I peered at my parents.  I looked at him as someone who was gone from my life because addiction has come between us.  It has made him so enslaved unto his disease that he can't even consider being a part of our family.

More than anything, that is my wish.  But, it is not to be.  At least not now.  Drug and alcohol addiction is at epidemic proportions and we're worried about what Bruce Jenner is doing with his life. 

I wonder if we aren't already living in hell sometimes.  I guess there is but one road between heaven and hell.  My perspective has everything to do with the direction that I'm facing on that road.

There was a little part of that movie where my sweet dad sat in his rocker with my son at about five years old.  They were rocking and cutting up with each other.  They were both smiling and laughing and in that moment it was pure heaven.  I think I will hang on to that.