Words To Live By

 

I recently read an article from Psychology Today that talks about why we should all have a personal motto; something we say to ourselves that brings us comfort when things aren’t going well, or motivates us to reach a goal, or helps us establish a new habit. The article focuses on using a motto to change behaviors, but it got me to thinking about the importance of how we talk to ourselves. Before I got sober and learned a new way to live, the way I spoke to myself was a lot different from the way I do now.

In the past, my personal mottoes were all about hiding emotions, keeping up appearances, and not letting anyone see the real me. I can’t tell you the number of times I said to myself, “Get it together, DeLoe,” or, “Suck it up,” when my real emotions started to bubble up. It was all about pushing things back down and not feeling the negative emotions. Another personal motto of mine growing up came straight from my mom, “Act right.” This wasn’t meant in the same sense that the AA saying, “Do the next right thing,” is. It wasn’t about taking the next right step, or acting your way to a heart change. Its underlying meaning was whatever you do, however you feel, if it’s negative, don’t show it; just act right, and no one will know. Ugh. It’s no wonder I drank.

Now, I talk to myself differently. I allow myself to feel my emotions, and I express them. Sometimes it isn’t easy though, and old habits and methods of dealing with things pop up. When I start to hear the old sayings in my head, I combat them with new, true sayings. Here are a few that work for me:

This Too Shall Pass.  I remember the first time I heard this was in 7th grade English
class. I don’t remember the context in which my teacher said it, but I remember
thinking that those four short words provided such comfort. At the time, I was filled with that middle-school angst, worrying about things that I had no control over (yes, I did that even then), and wondering if I would always feel so messed up. The truth is, I did feel messed up for a long time, but I tried to remember that “this too shall pass,” and it did help. These days, whenever I face something that is hard to deal with, I say those same words to myself, only now, with three more decades of life experience, I know that they are true.

 
I’m a Real Girl, With Real Feelings. I have to credit my husband for this saying. When we were first dating, I would apologize whenever some uncomfortable feeling came up that I thought I had to hide or stuff back down so that he wouldn’t see it. Austin would tell me that I needn’t apologize, that I was a real girl, with real feelings. Wow. This was a revelation for me, because I had lived my life trying to keep any uncomfortable, or negative, emotion from showing outwardly. I thought that in order to be accepted, I had to appear to have it all together. I was wrong. Now I know that true acceptance only comes when I allow others to see the real me, feelings and all. From time to time, I still have to remind myself, or Austin does it for me, that I am a real girl, with real feelings.

I’ve made it through worse. Sometimes, when situations seem desperate, and I am feeling like I can’t take one more thing happening, I have to remind myself that I have made it through far worse. I have been raped, beaten, arrested, fired, divorced, and estranged from family. I have blacked out drinking and fought, wrecked cars, passed out in the dirt behind a dumpster, and been to rehab twice. I have suffered through PTSD related flashbacks, nightmares, and fear. I have been to the psych ward and to jail and thought my life was over. But you know what? Every single time, by the grace of God, I have survived. So today, when some obstacle or challenge comes up, if I remind myself that I have made it through worse, I am comforted, and I can persevere.

Everything is okay, right now. Staying present, not dwelling in the past or worrying about what is to come is huge for me. I slip into guilt and fear at the drop of a hat, so being mindful isn’t something that comes easy. When I remind myself that I am alright, in this present moment, whatever it is, I can carry on. This is especially important when I am feeling overwhelmed – either with emotion or with daily life. Believing that I am “okay, right now,” allows me to make it through the moment, and move on to the next.

All things work together for good. St. Paul’s comment in Romans 8:28 is something that I often say to myself. When something is going on that I can’t understand at the time, and I am asking myself, “Why me, God?”, I remind  myself of this verse. So many bad things happen in life, and we often can’t comprehend why until much later, when the real reason becomes clear. So, in the moment, I try to remember that there is a reason, God’s reason, and it’s okay if I don’t know what it is right now; something good will come of it, and I’ll understand later.

It is what it is. This saying is, by far, my favorite. As a matter of fact, I even have it tattooed on my wrist. I know that it’s overused and it sounds kind of flippant, but it holds special meaning for me, and I love it. One of the hardest things for me when I got sober was acceptance. I didn’t want to accept my past, I wanted it to be different. I didn’t want to accept that I was an alcoholic, or that I couldn’t stop drinking on my own. I didn’t want to accept that I couldn’t control others, or at least sway them to my way of thinking. I didn’t want to accept that the mess I found myself in was caused by me. So when I say “It is what it is,” it’s all about acceptance. In recovery I had to learn that I have to accept the things I cannot change, and it hasn’t been easy. Having the reminder (right on my wrist!) helps me deal with situations that I have no control over. Some things just are what they are, and they’re not going to change no matter how much I wish they would. It is at those times that I say to myself, “It is what it is.”

Those are a few of my personal mottoes and how they help me. What are some of yours?

 

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Good Things Come to Those in Recovery

good-thingsI’ve been neglecting this blog lately. I haven’t written very many posts in the last few months, and I don’t have any legitimate excuses as to why, except that life happens. I’ve been really busy with some new things that have come along, Good things. Really good things that I have been spending quite a bit of time on. The past few months, for whatever reason, have been very good to me. A couple of years ago I wrote a post about wanting to do more of the things that feed my soul. It seems that there has been some sort of shift, and I am now getting to do those things.

There are a list of things that I consider nourishing for my soul: connecting with others, writing, recovery (from alcoholism and mental health issues), sharing my story and hearing other people’s stories, and deepening my relationship with God. There are more, of course, but these are the biggies, and in the last several months, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to spend a lot of time doing them.

I’ll share some details:

  • My husband and I moved to a much bigger, nicer house at the end of last April. One of the things that has allowed us to do is entertain more. I’ve been able to connect with others so much more! In June we started what we call “First Sunday Dinner.” On the first Sunday of each month, we invite all of our friends over for a big potluck dinner. We set up extra tables in the living room and our friends come and go and it’s awesome! Sometimes we have more than 25 people, and sometimes we have a smaller group.  Either way, though, it’s fun to visit and laugh and eat, and most importantly, to connect.
  • I’ve been doing more writing (just not here) lately.  I’m doing some freelance copywriting, and earning some extra money. I’ve also been selected to be a blogger on the mental health website, HealthyPlace.com.  I’ll be writing for Trauma! A PTSD Blog on their site. It’s a great resource for anyone suffering from any kind of mental illness, or anyone who has a loved one who suffers from one.  Check it out if you have a chance, my posts will start next week.
  • One thing that I haven’t really blogged about, although if you listened to my story from a post last year I talked a little bit about it, is that I am post-abortive. Up until now, it hasn’t been something that I have been as open about as I am with my alcoholism. There is a lot that happens to a woman when she has an abortion, and the emotional and psychological impact isn’t talked about much. I have been fortunate enough to attend a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat twice in the last few years. It’s a Christian retreat that provides healing and forgiveness for post-abortive women (and men who have had children aborted too). Now, I’ve joined the Rachel’s Vineyard team here in Tucson and I get to help other women whose shoes I have definitely been in. It’s such a blessing!
  • After a long search for a church where my husband and I feel accepted, with good preaching, liturgy we love, and a loving congregation, we found one! We’ve only been going for a short time, but I think this one is the right one for both of us. Thank you, God.
  • I’ve had some success with selling the prayer beads that my husband designed and I make.prayer beads green We started this as a way for people to learn to pray.  Austin chose the scripture that goes with each bead as you work your way around the loop. Making them is something that I love to do, as I feel like I am helping bring people closer to God, and I like being crafty!

It’s been an eventful few months, but I am so happy!  Life is good.  I am going to work on getting back to being more active here on Sober Grace, because my sobriety and recovery still have to come first, before all other things.  I cannot be complacent because it is only by staying sober that I can continue to do all of the wonderful things that feed my soul.

Good for the soul

It’s All About the Maintenance

I’ve been slowly working my steps with my sponsor, and have finally finished this go around.  I had steps 10, 11, and 12 to go, and since this is my umpteenth time through the steps, and I incorporate these 3 steps into everything I do, we worked them all together.  The last three steps are the program’s maintenance steps, how we should try to live our lives every day.  Even though I feel like I practice these steps pretty regularly, I still like to go through them with my sponsor.  She has me do some writing on them, and I always feel a sense of renewal in my program and have new insights that I hadn’t recognized before.

Step 10 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

step 10Step 10 is like a mini fourth step, that you do every day. It’s a way to hold yourself accountable, without procrastination (one of my biggest character defects), so that at night you can go to sleep knowing that you took care of your side of the street in all of your interactions that day. This was really difficult for me when I started out in the program. I had a lot of resentments, and I clung to them tightly. I had what I thought was justified anger, and most of the time, I wasn’t too keen on letting them go. I sometimes recognized my part in them, but even when I did, I was nowhere near “prompt” in my handling of them. Step 10 has helped me to stop avoiding taking responsibility. When I look back at my day, and I see a situation that I could’ve handled better, or I see someone who I owe an amends, I really do try to take care of it right away, and No matter the outcome, I always feel better for doing so.

There are different ways to do this step.  There are daily inventory worksheets you can download, and there are apps for your phone, or you can do what I did in the beginning and call your sponsor every night.  But really it comes down to asking yourself, “how did I do today? Is there anything that I need to make right?”  When you answer those questions honestly, and you take the necessary action, you’re working step 10.

Step 11 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

I love, love, love step 11! Now, that is. When I started out in AA, this step was one of the most daunting for me. I didn’t have any kind of relationship with God, and I didn’t know how I would ever get one. I never pictured myself as someone who prayed; I didn’t think that I could do it.step 11 coin

What I found was that Step 11 wasn’t something that had to be done perfectly from the start. It’s a step that evolves over time, starting as one thing, and growing into another. My prayers started out as simply as, “Help me, God” and “Thank you, God.”  That was all I could muster.  But it worked.  I no longer felt alone, like I had to do it all myself, and I felt grateful. Now, some four plus years later, my prayers and my relationship with God are full and rich. I talk to God all day long, and I thank him for everything, because I know that I couldn’t do this sobriety thing without Him.

Step 12 of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says:

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

step 12The first time I reached step 12, I realized that it assumes (guarantees, really) that by this time we will have had a spiritual awakening. I wondered, at first, had I had one? What if I hadn’t? Had I done the steps wrong? As I thought about it though, I realized how different things were for me. I wasn’t drinking anymore, I wasn’t creating more wreckage, I was taking responsibility for my past actions and bad behavior, I was improving my conscious contact with God, I was living recovery. If that’s not a spiritual awakening, I don’t know what is!

The latter part of step 12 is about helping others and living all of the steps every day.  I love to carry the message of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I love spending time with other alcoholics. I try to reach out to people who need help, and who need to hear that there is a better way to live. I feel like it’s my obligation and my privilege to share my story and spread the word of AA.

The last three steps really are all about the maintenance. I know that when I am doing my best to work all three, my life is happy, joyous, and free.  That’s the way I want to be.

it works if you work it