Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding Me Day 9

"Forty is the old age of youth;  fifty is the youth of old age."  Victor Hugo

I am learning more and more about my age.  At 47 yrs old, some things really surprise me when they don't work.  In my mind's eye, I am still a young person.  Yesterday I cleaned like a mad woman.  I washed windows, laundry, walls and doors.  I spent 2 hours cleaning my son's bathroom.  While I considered the need  for antibiotics after that task, it felt great to get it done.  Today I was going to finish up downstairs with my big deep clean.

While in my cleaning frenzy, I said to hubby," order pizza, I'm not cooking, I'm gonna get this done."  So he did and we had pizza and salad.  It all seemed like such a good plan at the time but at about 1:00am, I found that it wasn't.  You see fats of any sort don't agree with my lack of gall bladder (it is fair to say that they didn't agree with my diseased gall bladder either). 

So today, I've shuffled around feeling older and slower and it has been a bit challenging for me to accept that which I cannot control.  Funny that one....just keeps rearing it's ugly head at me.  I'm trying to be grateful.  I should be grateful.  I am just grouchy...frustrated and all around cranky. I feel cranky over a host of things I can't control.  This desire to curl up in a ball on the sofa and feel sorry for myself isn't something I'm particularly proud of but there it is. 

I've got so much to be thankful for.  I know this.  So today I will say the serenity prayer like a mantra.  I will try to busy myself with other things and I will pray for all of you and your spouses, children and friends.  And, I'll throw in a prayer for Henry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Finding Me Day8

"What we do is just a drop of water in the ocean, but remember, the ocean could have been deprived of that little drop of water."  Mother Teresa

Addiction and recovery are spoken of as a journey.  But, our very lives, even if addiction weren't a part of them are also a journey.  We learn through travel.  Traveling requires movement or action.  We can travel like a lame duck and go in a circle.  This is where it's important to accept and be aware that old ways of doing business are taking us to the same destination....nowhere. 

We can travel to new places trying out new things, to see what brings us growth, joy or peace.  One of the most profound lessons that the disease of addiction has taught me is in the appreciation for the little things.  I used to avoid changing because I thought that it meant there needed to be this huge change.  I didn't do things differently because I couldn't appreciate or probably understand the difference that just one little thing makes. 

Mother Teresa is said to have met a very wealthy woman in India who wanted to contribute to the Missionaries of Charity work.  She wanted to make a large demonstrative gift to the Home for the Dying.  Mother Teresa asked her not to do that but instead to buy less expensive saris and the money that she saved she would appreciate very much as a donation.  This act taught her to live daily small acts of charity.

I've always loved the idea of this but have been unsure of how to go about doing it.  I think that God has been trying to send me a tool kit lately and I am so grateful.  It started out with my best friend, the mom to 8 children, 5 of which are adopted.  We usually talk daily in our effort to solve the worlds problems.  She has often mentioned reactive attachment disorder with regard to some of her kids from hard places.  She went to a conference this weekend about attachment needs and tools for healing attachment issues.  Then when hubby and I started counseling our therapy is attachment based.  Then I read a blogging buddy's post about a book on addiction where attachment issues are studied as a root cause of addiction.  I liked that so much that I looked up the authors other works and he had a book on ADD and attachment. 

I don't think this is a coincidence.  Attachment can be healed with many small acts over time that give safety and security to our loved ones.  Eye contact, listening with both your ears and your heart and so many other little things heal.  I am so excited that I read a chapter for about 3 or 4 different books each day. 

Today I am thankful for all of those messengers pointing me in the direction that I need to take.  I pray for the understanding necessary to use this new information.  I pray that we all learn the value of the small acts of love.  And I say a prayer for Henry.

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."  Ralph Waldo Emerson


Monday, September 26, 2011

Finding Me Day 7

"Where Jesus is there is joy.  Where Jesus is there is love.  Where Jesus is there is peace."  Mother Teresa

I'm on a mission to learn who I am as a person.  I was reading about the "Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius" written by a priest (Jesuit) who started his career as an attorney with the hopes of eventually entering into politics.  He began to feel dissatisfied with his choice and so he got himself a spiritual director.  He asked her to help him figure out if he should become a Jesuit Priest.  This wise director told him that they would put that question aside for a while and she asked him to tell her who God was for him.  He said that it took almost a year to scratch the surface of answering that question.

Knowing God is a way of getting to know his creation (you and me).  If we are quiet long enough(this is particularly challenging for me) we can start to identify things that excite us.  We might start to realize what our real fears are and why we're afraid of them.  We might get in touch with our feelings. 

I bet like me, many of you don't even know what YOU feel anymore.  As mom, we worry about the feelings of others more than our own feelings.  We might have been told by the alcoholic or addict that our feelings were wrong or invalid so much that we begin questioning them ourselves. 

Today in AlAnon we talked about our feelings.  It is so strange to me that a simple word like "feelings" that we think we can easily define, really we can't.  I've had to look it up.  I've had to look at the list of possible types of emotions that represent my feelings.  Feelings aren't right or wrong.  You don't have to let anyone deny you of what you matter what their perception might be. 

It was a very interesting conversation that we had today.  I hope you will join me in exploring what you feel or perceive.  I think it will lead you and me to a better understanding of who God made you to be.  I think I'm gonna start asking my kids to really tell me about what they feel.  I want them to expect to be heard. 

Today, I say a prayer of thanksgiving for understanding the importance of our human emotions.  I pray that we might all become a little more enlightened with each passing day.  And, I say a prayer for Henry.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Finding Me Day 6 Rembering the Golden Rule

"We are precious to him, the man dying in the street--precious to him, that millionaire--precious to him the sinner--precious to him." Mother Teresa

      You did then what you knew how to do, And when you knew better, You did better.”  Maya Anjeleou

We are all children of God.  I can accept this almost all of the time; now more than ever.  One of the places that I have a harder time is when someone  blatantly tries to cause harm to me or my family in an effort of personal gain.  I have prayed for the strength to forgive, but I'm not sure that I'm there and I don't especially know how to get there.  However, while I pray for the ability to forgive, I will recognize that this is not a safe person. 

I think this also applies to remembering that we are precious to God.  So many of us have raked ourselves over the coals to look for what we did wrong with our addicted family member.  I think we all need to get to know what our personal motives are for our behaviors.  Then pray for direction.  Learning to love ourselves and others is a big job.  It is the most important job. 

Today I pray for the wisdom to learn the lessons that I need to learn.  I pray for all of you who love and care for anyone affected by the disease of addiction.  I pray increased awareness and I say a prayer for Henry.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Find Me Day 5...Awareness

"We have to be aware of the poor to love them."

Mother Teresa pointed out that if we knew the poor, then we would have more awareness of them.  To be aware is to give attention to it.  Once we do that it is much harder to walk away.  To know our addicted loved ones, we must first come to know ourselves and our motives by taking an honest moral inventory of ourselves (step 4).  Thomas A Kempis says "We are quick enough at perceiving and weighing what we suffer from others, but we mind not what others suffer from us." 

Before I continue to judge those who stigmatize addiction, I must first be aware of the ideas that I might have that are formed without the proper awareness, attention and understanding.  Before I judge an action that my son might take, I need to be aware of the "whys" that a particular action causes fear and concern in me.  As Socrates said, "Know Thyself." 

I imagine that it will take a lot of practice to learn to be focused.  Today, I am thankful of the need to understand myself.  I am thankful that this self discovery not only aids me in an understanding that helps me to reduce my fear but also to help me extend myself to others.  I pray for daily discoveries, the health of our loved ones and as always a prayer for Henry.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Finding Me Day 4

"Knowledge can only lead to love and love to service."

I often get upset about the stigma associated with addiction.  I was reading something on Mother Teresa where she said that rich people aren't indifferent to the poor they very often don't know who they are.  She went on to say that when they don't know them by name they remain untouched by their lack of shelter, food, and painful struggles.  "And where there is no knowledge, there is no love."

Maybe that sums it up for the stigma of addiction.  Perhaps that will help me to feel less anger and more compassion towards others.  The question is, how to spread the knowledge???

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finding Me Day 3 Learning From Lucy

"Love has to be put in action and that action is service."  Mother Teresa

In The Road Less Traveled Scott Peck defines love as action, as the willingness to extend oneself in order to nurture another person's spiritual and psychological growth or one's own.  It so happens that this is also the precise meaning of giving attention to another person or to oneself.  The origin of the word attend is the Latin tendere, "to stretch".  Attend means to extend, to stretch toward. 

The best teacher of unconditional love that I know,  is a member of my family.  Her name is Lucy and she "lights up" every time I see her.  She brings such joy to our home.  Today I will try to remember to be more like Lucy. 

Today I am thankful for Lucy and her amazing ability to show love no matter what.  I am thankful for the perspective and awareness of my need to put that kind of love into service.  I pray that our addicted loved ones will also start to enjoy that kind of love and I say a prayer for the soul of Henry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding Me Day 2

"Poverty doesn't only consist of being hungry for bread, but rather it is a tremendous hunger for human dignity."

I've done a little research on self discovery.  It seems rather odd that I'd need to research who I am but that just about sums up how my life works.  I tease my friend about what a paradox she is and I find that I too may be living in the same conflicting world.

Anyway, in my research, I am told to use my senses to find what brings me joy.  That is easy for sights, smells and tastes, but touch can involve more than the physical touch and hearing can be layered with more than just the words spoken. 

 I tried to remember the times where I felt like I was doing something needed.  In being needed, not used, I feel called to help.  It is an urging or longing.  Even though I'm not really qualified in any particular field of service, sometimes I think that we all just need someone to tell us we can do it. 

The picture above is of a pony foal named Sassy at 7 months old.  She had botulism.  Botulism can be contracted from any decaying matter, whether animal or vegetation (like rolled hay bales).  What happens is the virus (remember I am the vet's wife and didn't go to vet school and my memory seems to lapse more and more) causes the animal to be unable to stand or swallow.  The virus itself doesn't kill, it is the inability to eat or drink or pneumonia that usually kills. 

Sassy's owner didn't know if he could afford treatment and so I said to my husband, "Can't we try to save her if he chooses euthanasia?"  Long story short, we treated her and I do mean we because when you pass an NG tube to tube feed, it is good for the pony to be sternal so that the chance of aspiration is less.  So, his assistants and I would roll this pony's dead weight  up to a sitting position while he fed her 4 times a day for almost 3 weeks.

More than that I would visit her and brush her and cheer her on.  And when she was first able to nibble on her own, I would pull grass from outside for her to munch on.  It seemed to perk her up.I knew that if she survived, she'd be a fighter, and she is.  And, she's not afraid of anything!! 

Here is Sassy today.  I've got a "little" trainer for her and she entered her first dressage show as a 3 yr old this spring but she will probably be a little hunter/jumper when she's old enough.  Dr. Maya Angelou once said that what children need is for you to "light up" when they entered a room.  I wish I had heard that and understood the importance of that long ago.  I can't go back, but no matter their ages, I want to physically light up when they enter the room....because they do light me up....they just need to know that they matter, that they can do it.  I guess it doesn't take a degree to do that.  So, on day two, I'm gonna make an effort to show others how much dignity they have by making them feel like they matter.

Today, I am thankful for this one thing.  I pray for all of our children that they may know that no matter what their past, that they are so important.  I pray for continued strength and vision in this journey and I say a prayer for Henry.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Search of Me Day One

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself. ~Alan Alda

Things are changing.  My life is in a bit of limbo.  My son is working and my girls have gone to college.  I no longer work for my husband.  My son is the only one living at home but his work takes him away most of the time.  This is good because it  stops me  helps me not to  get into his business. 

In an effort to get to know just who my 47 year old self is, I try to remain faithful to my AlAnon meetings.  Yesterday, our topic was detachment....always a good one.  Detaching is where I have to try to figure out what is mine and what belongs to the person(s) I am detaching from. 

My fearless leader had a really good rule of thumb.  I liked it so much, I wrote it down.  "When you don't know whose responsibility it is, do nothing", she said.  I have to say that some of the things that I held onto for dear life in my effort to control or fix things, I now enjoy letting go of.  I've started to appreciate giving up the tasks that made my head spin.

When we discuss detaching, we learn a lot of "what not to do's".  But, now what do I do since my life has taken such a radical turn?  Al Anon tells us to take care of ourselves.  We do this by getting to know who we are so that we CAN take care of ourselves. 

But, how do we even start?  My fearless leader had a great thought which she said helped her always.  "If I do any one thing, it gives God the opportunity to do something within me."  Being the big fan of baby steps, I decided that perhaps I could include just one thing extra in my day to allow God the opportunity to show me who I am and perhaps where I needed to go.

I poured over all my books, looking for inspiration when I discovered a little book I have called Love Without Measure.  It's one of those 30 day reflections on the spiritual service of Mother Teresa.  She is my favorite!!  I hope you enjoy this 30 day journey with me.

Day One

"The world today is hungry, not only for bread but hungry for love, hungry to be wanted and loved.

There is nothing new about the invisibility of those who have nothing and the blindness of those who have something, who have everything.  There is nothing new about a prayer of the poor(to me this may also mean the poor in our addicted sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers) 

Look at me.
There are millions of us.
But each of us has a name.
See me. 
Know that I exist.
Know that what you feel, I feel. 
Know that I hunger for bread,
but not just for bread.

Know that I am hungry to be wanted,
hungry to be loved.  Know that I am.

For today, my prayer is one of thanksgiving for the opportunity to get to know who I am, today.  I am thankful for my group and fellow bloggers who always have great experiences to share.  I pray that God helps me to increase my love by allowing me to give it away to those most in need.  I pray for all of our addicted loved ones and I say a prayer for the soul of Henry.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Scarlet Letter...

I've saved this from my son's time in treatment.  It has haunted me since I first laid eyes on it.  These words are the antithesis of what I've ever wanted my children to learn or feel about themselves.  But, here it is in black and white. 

Over the year's time, I know that we've gained a lot of ground.  I am thankful for that.  But, last night I was reminded of how far we have to go.  I was telling my son about my girls at the jail.  He was asking why they were there.  I told him I didn't know and that it really didn't matter.  "What is important, is their need for hope and encouragement."  "I don't think that they have been told that they can do anything they set their mind to", I said.  Without missing a beat, my son says, " you shouldn't tell them that, it just sets them up for disappointment." 

Pow! Boom!Bang!  It felt like an old episode of "Batman" where those words popped across the screen and I couldn't see them coming.  "Where I work, they are more accepting of  people like me, but a lot of places aren't that way,"  he casually stated. 

The stigma of addiction. The word stigma is from the Greek and it is the singular form of the word meaning a mark of disgrace on one's reputation.  If you are Catholic, you've heard of a stigmata.  Go here for more info.    People (saints mostly) who bear the physical marks resembling the wounds of the crucified Christ are experiencing a stigmata.  Stigmata is the plural form of the word stigma, meaning many marks or tattoos of sins or suffering.  I find this "goosebump worthy". 

Raise your hand if you've  read The Scarlet Letter in high school.  What did you learn from that?  Have you heard the parable of the Good Samaritan?  What about how foolish the people of biblical times were about the lepers?  Huh, did we associate that lesson to the AIDS epidemic?  We're so evolved.  We can see each lesson in that one tunnel visioned story or lesson, but we can't GET the lesson that is to be applied to other things. 

There is this  wise blogger out there says that folks won't get it until they get their turn in their own barrel.  I guess she's right.  But, I still need to get this rant off my chest.  Are you perfect?  Have you done things you weren't proud of ?  Did you do it of your own free will?  Well, guess what, our addicted loved ones lost their free will.  They didn't want to keep doing these things.  But, the disease of addiction physically forced them to keep feeding the hungry beast. 

All I ask is this, the next time you see a homeless person, an inmate, a drunk or addict, look into their eyes.  Imagine those eyes as an infant in the arms of it's mother.  Remember that that person is someones child.  Imagine that it is your child in that place.  Now, treat them accordingly. 

"The  King will answer and say to them ' Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of the brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."  Matthew 25:40

Today I pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of knowledge.  I am thankful that God gave me the vision to see my son's "marks".  I am thankful for the gift experience from all those great bloggers out there.  I pray for the wisdom to continue this journey.  I pray for the continued healing of our addicted loved ones and, a prayer for Henry.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

There but for the Grace of God, Go I

Today, I volunteered for my second meeting at the jail.  These girls/ladies teach me so much.  My fearless leader,  (aka my Al Anon leader) who will never accept that title.....but who lovingly leads....quietly,  soothing each fear and insecurity in her ever so approachable way, asked me to join her because 2 volunteers are needed at the jail and no one else was available.  I went. 

If you had asked me just one year ago if I would ever volunteer at a jail, I would have said, "absolutely not !!"  My perspective one year later, finds this experience to be a great  blessing.  Like most people, a year ago, I might have thought that these people were reaping the fruits of their actions.  I,  most likely would have had any number of judgements swirling around in my mind.   But, since this time 13 months ago, I, like them, have been broken. 

There is beauty in our brokenness.  I would have never understood that before.  But, when something like addiction rocks you to the core, you finally have the courage to let down your guard, lose all those protective barriers, confess all those dark haunting sins and know that only by throwing your arms wide open and walking directly into your personal pain, will you ever have the chance to experience a different life.  Brokenness opens the door to conversion.

Some of these girls are the victims of some pretty awful circumstances and abuses.  Most of them are smart but have been poorly educated.  If they are pulling the wool over my eyes, it is because this behavior has always helped them to survive. 

Today, they opened up a lot more.  I have no reference for how long this takes, but my fearless leader says that they are trusting sooner than usual.  She is I am too.  There were two ladies in particular who talked about how they felt that forgiving those who abused them, let them off the hook.  We tried to tell them that by not forgiving, they allowed their abuser to steal away a piece of them that could be used to explore their gifts.  Letting go is a gift to them not the abuser.  One lady has such tremendous guilt over her actions and how they are affecting her children.  Like most of us, they are stuck.  Feverishly hanging onto our sins as if we don't trust that we can be forgiven while allowing the shame and consequences of our bad choices define us.

The beauty of "the bottom" is that at that place we are ready to let go and start to hope for something different.  We are ready to confess our sins and plead for forgiveness and another chance.  We finally feel worthy of forgiveness. 

Before the meeting I always say a little prayer that God will help me to use only His words and that He will help me to keep my mouth closed when I need to (a recurring problem).

 A couple of the girls had a really hard time articulating the guilt they felt and the worthiness to expect anything different.  It was at that time that I heard myself say, "there but for the grace of God go I."  God's words I am sure, for I didn't plan them....they just popped out.  I went on to say, "that means that if I were born into your circumstances, or yours, or yours.....would I be any better or different?  If you had been born into mine, would you be different?  I had loving parents who didn't drink or do drugs.  I wasn't abused.  Who am I to judge someone who had to endure all of that?"  "We are all children created by God.  I am no better than anyone here.  I got lucky growing up, but I screwed up with my own son by not making sure he felt unconditional love." My eyes moved around the room, making eye contact with every girl who would meet my gaze as I said, "we are no different, in God's eyes, we can only learn and support one another and when you get on your feet, give back."

With tear filled eyes, two people mouthed thank you.  I say thank you to God, for the privilege of being His messenger, for the gift of His words and for the hope He brings.  I am so blessed.  Mother Teresa was right.  Americans are spiritually starving.  At the end of each meeting we form a circle, hold hands and say the "Our Father".  I took this one girl's hand and she winced.  I looked down and her hand was terribly swollen.  "Oh, I'm so sorry" as I let go.  "You can still hold my hand, just don't twist it."  I held her wrist and hugged her when we finished. 

We all crave love without judgement.  These girls crave our touch, acceptance and love.  Today I realized what an unworthy servant I am.  I have frittered away so many opportunities and been given so many advantages. 

Today I am thankful for this vision given with this new opportunity.  I am thankful that I am allowed the privilege of His service.  I pray that the stigma of addiction, alcoholism, those who are in jail and so many other things will be seen as the marks of Christ dying for our sins.  I pray that we can help to feed the spiritual starvation of our world.  And, I say a prayer for all addicts and Henry.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Snowball's Chance in Hell......

I just love a good mystery.  John Grisham (ahem) used to be one of my fav's.  I love the Maisie Dobbs series, but when the mystery of my life unfolds, I typically expect the bad to come tumbling down.  You can imagine my shock when several amazingly wonderful things started tumbling my way.

My husband and I both began Al Anon.  It has been a lifeline. We also entered counseling.  The astounding thing about counseling is not learning who is right and who is wrong, but, what all the arguing means.  Communication is so rarely spoken.  We might not even understand how to verbalize our wants and needs.  But, we are learning that we want and need the very same things, we just don't know how to give and receive our needs.  This new information is so wonderful.  I feel like a kid who has just had a heart to heart with my best friend and now we move on from the crap because we just can't wait to start working on our "fun things to do" list.  I get giddy just thinking of adventures to come that this time last year, I couldn't even imagine.

Financial gurus talk about the "snowball effect" of either good financial practices or bad financial practices.  I think that in recovery we can also experience that "snowball effect".  We accepted the chaos of our life.  We detached from our son's active addiction.  We went to meetings.  We got counseling.  Just like building that snowball, it's hard to find enough snow to get it started. It seems like a lot of work until it starts to really grow before your eyes.  I think that is where we are now. 

My son is starting to amaze me.  When they tell you to allow them to handle their own problems and experience the natural consequences, and to say things like, "oh" and "huh" and "what are YOU going to do about this or that?"  Well, I am now a believer!!  In total exhaustion and exasperation, I let go.  I stopped advising (ok I admit to feeling a little like "he deserves what he gets).  I finally got to the place where I thought that it was just time to let the chips fall where they may.  And, when things happened that normally would make me snoop or ask or think about solutions, I just started chanting, "not my problem, not my problem". 

Guess what?  He's becoming so responsible....dare I say driven?  Oh yeah and I'm starting to see this young man who is gonna do great things.  I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom.  No, he's got this determination and ambition.  He's got good ideas.  He's thinking like a man with plans.  Wow... each day brings something new....a long given up dream brought to fruition.  Things like his coming home and talking to us about his day.  Telling us his dreams and ideas.  Hanging out with the family and looking forward to it.  Starting new hobbies.  He has stopped blaming others for his problems.  He accepts them and deals with them!!!

It's official, I've hit the lottery.  I used to think that I had a snowballs chance in hell at ever having such a wonderful cohesive family.  But today, I'm not naive, I know this is a long journey, but to ever have experienced this kind of healing is a miracle.  I stand amazed.  I'm so grateful.

My girls aren't exempt from this equation.  They are at college and are happier, healthier and starting to grow emotionally as their family begins to heal.  This snowball just keeps growing.  They no longer have so many worries so they can focus on who they are and what they want to do with their lives.

In the last post I asked for comments on the stigma of addiction.  I didn't get any comments.  But, I will say this.  After last year, I bet a lot of folks started talking about me and my family.  I've heard gossip.  It's really quite amusing.  The gossip usually gets back to you.  You start learning who to trust.  I guess that is part of this process....learning about what is real and what isn't and dealing with it.  Those that criticize and judge are sad.  I don't say that with sarcasm (even though the ugly part of me really wants to).  Honestly, they are sad.  Because they don't get it.  Living life to it's fullest means living in total honesty.  And, those who criticize, can't be accepting of their own defects or they wouldn't be trying to tear others down.  They would be understanding of all of our human frailties. 

I think that our addicts of today are the lepers of yesterday.  The label has changed but the ignorance and selfish judgemental nature of some will never change.  Addiction enlightened me.  I would never willingly want to learn from something that was so awful for my son.  But, he went there.  The best I can do is to glean from any situation the gifts of knowledge and act in a way that shows I've learned from that lesson. 

Today, I say many prayers of gratitude for the miracle of this growing snowball of gifts.  I pray for your alcoholic or addict.  I pray for you as you care for them.  I pray for those who judge.  And, I say a prayer for the soul of my grandfather, Henry.