Day 21 – Sunday, December 25: Trusting the process

My sponsor often says, “Trust the process.” It reminds me to remember that taking all the small steps, working the program, and simply continuing on the path will bring changes and transformations along the way. I may not be able to see the changes right away. Usually it happens when I do something so differently from my pre-recovery behavior that it catches my attention.

Today, “Trust the process,” came to mind as I let go of my hopeful plans to work on my blog while my aunt and uncle were enjoying Christmas Day dinner elsewhere. They both awoke with sore throats and (wisely) decided to stay home and take it easy. For my uncle, this included spending time in his office. When they were having dinner and I peeked into his office to see if I might use his computer, I saw that he was in the middle of a sewing project and had stuff all over the desk. (The man amazes me. He endlessly repairs things, including his many denim shirts and pants. May I be so active and productive in the years to come!)

Since I had to abandon my anticipated blog-time, I decided to do something fun. I headed to the movie theater to catch what looks to be a delightful and enjoyable movie…only to discover it wasn’t even on the electronic ticket purchasing menu! I overheard someone say “sold out” to someone else and wondered if it might be this movie. In any case, I drove by a couple more theaters, then let it go and returned home.

Later, while watching some DVDs, I found myself antsy to do something toward my goals. Since finances are a primary concern and I have difficulty keeping a handle on what I actually have to work with, I recently purchased some “realistic” play money to see if working with that could help me get a better picture of my monthly resources.

I counted out one paycheck’s worth of play money. Then I set aside my usual set monthly expenditures: my tithe, storage, cell phone, car insurance, and so on. I then figured out what I typically spend on gas and what I need for a couple of other bills. The remaining amount was disconcertingly little for food, other groceries, and everything else from public transportation to vitamin supplements to unexpected necessities.

As my anxiety started to increase, I remembered something I recently read in a book by one of my favorite authors. The (true) story was of a man who was struggling in his business. Rather than stressing about it, he took the small amount of money he had, gave thanks for it, and paid what he could. Over time, as he continued this practice, his finances did indeed improve.

It was truly helpful to begin seeing what I have to work with on my present income, to remember to be thankful for what I have, and to know that I can always do something. As I let go the fear, I found myself able to see what I do have, rather than what I don’t – and that was a blessing!

Today’s action step(s):

  • Going through two plastic bins of nutritional supplements I’ve had for some time and releasing almost all of them. (I’m passing them onto a friend to see if they might be helpful to her, which admittedly made it much easier to release them.)
  • Using play money to help me get a better picture of my available finances.

Day 20 – Saturday evening, December 24: Small but definite progress

Christmas Eve day was spent helping my aunt get the house in order for the family dinner, doing a bit of cleaning in my own room, enjoying the Christmas Eve service at church, and attending to one particular are of my recovery journey… And let me just say that I find this difficult to talk about here, but that is the point of this blog – to face my fears and challenges. (It is oh so tempting to not post this.)

More than a decade ago, I began giving the love-relationship area of my life over to God. After my last relationship ended, I recognized that I did not know how to do this part of my life well. I was tired of feeling like I couldn’t shut off the “guydar” that was on constant alert and wanted to discover what it was like to let God lead me into a healthy, loving relationship. Since that decision, my progress has been gradual and sometimes challenging. In fact, I have not always been able to tell if I’m actually making progress since I have not been in a relationship in a very long time.

Friday, my aunt told me about “George” (not his real name). George and her oldest boy had been best friends in their youth and George had taken to calling my aunt “mom.” George and my aunt’s oldest son had reconnected a year or so ago and have again become the best of friends. It turned out George would be joining us for dinner.

When I learned that he was single, I knew I needed to not pretend my curiosity and possible interest would be piqued. I immediately began releasing any preconceived ideas or romantic fantasies that might come into my thoughts. As it turned out, having so many things already on my plate around my recovery, it was actually fairly easy to turn my thoughts to other things. Yay!

I helped my aunt by clipping holly branches to adorn the buffet, cleaning and decorating the front bathroom, vacuuming the carpets, and setting the table. During the afternoon, I spent time organizing the small, but chaotic collection of kitchen and food items in my room. (One of the “conveniences” of temporary living quarters is having virtually everything all in the same room…) It didn’t take long, but I appreciated how helpful even this small task of organizing was. I was rewarded by finding two items I had fruitlessly searched for earlier in the week. Besides, now I know what I have with me.

The first guests, my cousin and her spouse, arrived while I was dressing for church. I left shortly afterward and returned from church to find everyone assembled: my cousin and her spouse, two step-cousins and their spouses, my aunt and uncle, and my aunt’s other “son,” George.

I am often nervous around people I don’t know, especially single, handsome men, which he turned out to be. But my efforts over the previous day and a half paid off. It was important that I had honored my plans to attend the Christmas Eve service at church and, even more so, that I acknowledged that I am still not ready for a relationship. It took me a very long time to be willing to recognize the boundaries of my recovery and to respect where I am right now.

Right now, I have important things that need my attention: finding more work, finding a place to live, taking care of my health and finances, and focusing on my recovery. As much as I do hope to someday have a love relationship, now is not the time. Recognizing this and respecting it has taken time and effort on my part. But this evening’s dinner, even with George sitting right next to me, showed me that I am making progress.

I was grateful to discover that, with very little effort, I was relaxed and comfortable being myself in circumstances that, a short time ago, would have gone quite differently. And that was one of the best Christmas presents I could have received!

This day’s action step(s):

  • Organizing my food and kitchen stuff.
  • Keeping my attention on my recovery and letting go the circumstances around me.

Day 20 – Saturday morning, December 24th: Reflections

I read a few pages in Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II last night – two were listed under patience in the index (p. 197 & 210, July 15 & 28). One of them talked about all the small steps and countless things that precede what appears to be an abrupt change or healing.

There are definitely times when I feel as if I have experienced a sudden shift or change, even though I know it didn’t happen out of nowhere. Even though I am often eager, sometimes even anxious, for a particular something to happen, in recent months I have begun discovering a patience with my process that feels new. Sometimes I wonder if it is just the natural maturity that comes with age and experience. Often I know better and recognize the work I have been doing for many years now.

As I was writing this, my eyes landed on the small lighthouse calendar I recently picked up for only a dollar. I bought it because I liked – and still like – the idea of daily seeing a lighthouse as a reminder of God’s light in my life. I know that I would not have made the progress I have, were it not for God’s unending light showing me the way.

I sometimes wish I could run ahead to get to the easier, more comfortable places in the journey. But I’ve discovered and come to appreciate the value in moving slowly enough to absorb and integrate what I’m learning along the way.

A story I heard or read long ago comes to mind. A woman woke up one morning to discover that she could see perfectly well without her glasses. But because she couldn’t believe it, couldn’t accept it as a reality in her life, she soon required wearing glasses again. I don’t remember if her clear vision lasted hours or days. I don’t even remember if the story was actually about a woman or a man. What I remember is that her (or his) inability to accept that incredible blessing is what caused things to revert back to the way they had been before.

I know that my thinking is what needs to change the most in my life. Any healing, any blessing, any manifestation of unexpected abundance will be sustainable only when I can believe and accept it. Until I truly believe I am loved by God and that God wants my recovery, my healing and an abundance of blessings for my life more than I want it for myself, only then will I be ready and willing to receive these things.

I wonder, what do I believe about my eyes and their ability to be restored to their former, normal and healthy condition? About my finances and my ability to have a place I can actually call “home”? About all the other things I want and hope for in my life?

What do you believe about yourself and the things you hope for in your own life?

Day 19 – Friday, Dec. 23: Small steps, progress and momentum

Too often I’m in a rush to have things happen. I don’t just want change, I want it now! I’m learning that most things don’t happen that way.

This morning I was thinking about the small shifts and progress I’ve noticed this week. Nine days ago I had a massage. I had not realized how tight my muscles had become until I finally felt them relax near the end of the session. The odd thing was that the moment I headed back to my car, my low back felt like it was going to give out. I wondered if my muscles were finally so relaxed that the lack of support had become evident. The following morning, the simple task of bending over felt alarmingly unstable. I was motivated to do something.

The next morning, I did just a few minutes of core strengthening exercises before I got in the shower. It took probably less than five minutes. It was short, simple and repeatable. I’ve continued doing this each time before my shower and I can already tell a difference. I’m keeping it short because I know it won’t remain repeatable if I do my usual thing, which is to start pushing it and trying to get a whole lot done in a short period of time. I have been addicted to the “quick fix” for any number of things for as long as I can remember. But I finally get, truly get, how unhelpful the quick fix can be. Perhaps over time, I’ll even stop being tempted to seek it.

A networking techniques workshop I went to at JVS yesterday was packed with helpful information. Among the many useful things the instructor said were two words that seemed to capture what I was feeling this morning. The words were “motivation” and “momentum.” My back pain had provided the motivation; now I was experiencing some momentum.

This morning I did just a bit more during my short core “workout” (if you can call five or so minutes a “workout”) and it was rewarding to discover two things: one was that I could actually do things that I know I couldn’t have done even a week ago; the other was that I had enough wisdom to still not push it. It’s when I feel a bit stronger that I’m most tempted to start pushing myself. “Oh! I can do more now – let’s go for it” pops into my brain and I overdo things, suffer the consequences, then give up entirely.

Sound familiar? Naw! You’ve probably never ever done anything like that!

There were other small-step progress noticings as well. This week, I was at a gathering with both familiar and unfamiliar faces. What I realized this morning, probably because of what I learned at yesterday’s networking workshop, was how much more I had talked to people I didn’t know than usual. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it was a difference. I’m considering the possibility that networking might also be something I can learn in small steps. I hadn’t actually thought of it as “networking” while I was chatting with people, but that’s what it was. Maybe if I keep up the baby steps, it won’t feel so scary when I’m intentionally networking.

None of these were big changes, yet they felt significant because they were noticeable. Maybe there’s such a thing as gently-increasing momentum. I’m not sure yet, but what I’ve experienced this week feels good, and repeatable.

Today’s action step(s):

  • Allowing myself to be flexible with my schedule and my plans. In that letting go, errands were surprisingly easy and I enjoyed many moments of grace.
  • Finishing up the tasks at work that would allow me to enjoy some much-needed time off next week.

Day 17 – Wednesday, Dec. 21: Mixed feelings

This morning I woke up with the freedom to not leap out of bed and get a busy start to my day. I lay there and began to thank God for the things I was noticing and appreciating in that moment: Being able to sleep until I was “done.” The comfort in my right eye, which has been bothersome these past few days. The space over the holidays to attend to such things as student loan paperwork and other financial matters. Even the time to start jotting down the many things that actually do need my attention if I am to take care of myself better.

When I thanked God for my aunt and uncle and having a safe space to stay for the holidays, I ended up in tears as a mixture of pain and appreciation filled me. The ‘pain’ is the loneliness I feel and the longing for family, particularly for my son and for the aunt, uncle and cousins I grew up with from my mother’s side of the family. (I’m staying with my dad’s older brother.) My other uncle has passed on and my other aunt lives in a lovely and personable assisted-living facility several hours away. My cousins, their children, have, of course, grown up and now have families of their own all around the state. My son is living a couple of states away and neither of us have the funds for travel to see each other. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him and how often.

The appreciation I felt is deep gratitude for being with family rather than strangers and for being in a place that feels safe and familiar. It gives me the space to attend to the challenges that are on my plate at the moment. And these are the edges where fear tends to live.

Student loan paperwork to defer repayment, finding housing where rent will not be needed (at least for a time), and addressing healthcare issues with no insurance can be challenging on a well-paid day. They feel intimidating to me right now, when my finances are so tight. I wonder how I will ever be able to take care of these things on my present income.

When I try to muster the energy and courage to search for work, it just isn’t there if I’m in the midst of feeling overwhelmed. The release of tears this morning helped. It is helpful to acknowledge just how difficult this journey is for me right now.

For a little while, I felt energized to begin tackling some of these scary things and resume the tiny steps toward my goals. But I can’t always turn on that tear-release-valve and capture a sudden burst of energy and confidence. Most of the time, I have to keep reading things, reminding myself that I am not alone on this journey, and keep taking those baby steps. (The movie “What About Bob?” comes to mind. Maybe I should look for it at the library.)

How do you face these kinds of challenges in your own life? Or what kinds of challenges are you facing? I’d be interested to hear, if you’re willing to share.

Take care and be blessed.

Today’s action step(s):

  • Threw away a formerly favorite velour sweater that I virtually never wear anymore. 😦
  • Checked bank balance and downloaded statement to balance.
  • Re-posted ad to find housing on Craigslist.

Day 3 – Wednesday: Different journeys?

In the midst of this process, I am often amazed to discover parallels between my journey from a year ago and my journey today. In one of my journals from last year, I wrote: Piece by piece, I find myself pulling together the tattered edges of my life. They have become tattered through neglect and through simply not knowing how – or perhaps being willing? – to go at them in a more effective manner. Shades of the Al Anon journey.

Years ago, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. In 1998, I read Janet Woititz’s book Adult Children of Alcoholics, recommended by a family member who wisely recognized that we were, indeed, raised in an alcoholic home, even though the alcoholic was no longer present in the home (or in our lives for the most part). I was startled to feel like I was reading about myself. One of the things Woititz said was that adult children of alcoholics “guess at what normal is.” How true that is! Lately I’ve begun noticing more and more things that I don’t know how to do. I find myself wondering how others seem to do so many things with ease. I wonder what class I missed while growing up. I wonder what class I can take to catch up. I feel anything but “normal.”

I’m not sure what I meant by “tattered edges” last November. The entry was written just three weeks before I had my hyperactive, unhappy thyroid gland removed. The surgery brought blessed relief to my body and I suspect the transition in my health is what has enabled me to work at deeper levels in other arenas. Being freed from the persistent physical challenge has allowed me to notice more the things going on inside my mind, including the fears to which I turn my attention through this blog-journey. The first two days, I was focused on letting go of stuff I don’t need. This day I reached into other arenas where fear has held me back.

Wednesday was a day of attending to one of the bigger challenges in my present life – learning how to (effectively) search for work. I have a part-time job at a place I love and hope I will be able to stay there. Needless to say, though, having only one part-time job makes life a bit challenging. Thankfully, a friend recently introduced me to a wonderful organization, “JVS” (Jewish Vocational Services) in San Francisco ( This organization provides a fantastic array of workshops and training to prepare people for finding work and it’s available to whomever needs the help and support, regardless of faith affiliation. There were two JVS activities on my calendar this day.

In the morning, I went into the City to attend a cover letter and thank-you note writing workshop. All through the workshop I thought about a recent application I had submitted. I had learned that I was not being considered for the job, though my resume “impressed” the hiring committee. After attending this workshop, I could see several things I would have done differently in my cover letter that might have given me a better shot at an interview. This part of my day was more helpful than intimidating. The scary part came later – the “networking event.”

I’ve never been to a networking event and the mere idea of going someplace for the express purpose of “networking” intimidates me enormously. I barely know how to socialize with a group of friends. For whatever reason, when I’m with more than one or two people – even friends – I quickly turn into a wallflower and disappear at the first opportunity. Being intentionally with twenty or so people to “network” felt most intimidating. But I’ve made a commitment to “job searching” and learning how to do it. The truth is, I know these events are also teaching me skills that will serve me well in the work I want to do.

After a hesitant start, I found myself rather comfortably visiting with a few different people at various times during the 90 minutes I was there. I had no expectations of finding a job connection at this, so I had let go concerns about how I presented myself and practiced just being me. I was nervous at first, but I’m glad I went. I didn’t stay long, but I learned enough to know I can do this – and to realize that I’ll get better with practice.

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