Monday, August 15, 2016

These days

I am okay. Still here and doing relatively well. Between gardening, riding, sailing and going to meetings, I stay busy.  Life has a familiar groove to it.

Getting through the worst heat of the summer has been difficult. The humidity is stifling.  I have been going to the barn to ride in the evening when the sea breeze comes up and no one else is around.  I prefer the quiet times there and going to the ring or to the fields when the sun is setting.

The garden is in the waning phase so I'm getting ready to plant some fall crops. It produced well, but the heat eventually beats down everything, except for egg plant and okra.  We put up over 75 quarts of tomato sauce for winter.  It was a two day long ordeal but we managed to get through it, although both of us did not want to see another tomato.

Sailing is still the most fantastic getaway for me.  I go out for several days a month, dropping the anchor and staying overnight.  It is relaxing in a way that's hard to describe. I sleep better on the boat with the gentle rocking.  Even though it's hot on land, the island near the ocean where I anchor has a great breeze. I sleep comfortably with the ports and hatches open.

I celebrated ten years in Al-Anon on August 13.  It is hard for me to remember all the turmoil of the years before I went and the moments that propelled me to attend my first meeting. I don't dwell on that time much.  I have a core group of two meetings I attend each week and have been adding a third on as often as I can.  We all remain imperfect, struggling to get along with others and especially with the alcoholic.

One of the greatest things that I have learned is to have compassion and empathy for all who are struggling with the disease of alcoholism, whether it is the alcoholic or the person affected by someone else's drinking. And the same for those who are struggling with life and the circumstances of it.  I don't judge others for their choices or struggles. And I have learned to not take what others do or say personally.  My hurt feelings about something unkind said to me have diminished from days to an hour.  I hope to get that to a millisecond, as the feeling flows through me.  Resentments are killers of happiness. No need to hold onto someone else's bad feelings.

I don't feel much of an urge to write anymore.  But I am going to keep the blog going, perhaps only visiting once in a while.  All that I have written about here with such urgency in the past seems much less so now.

C. and I have a remarkable love for each other.  She picked up her ten year chip a week before I did.  We have grown in peace of mind, love, respect and compassion for each other.  And we are growing old together.  Every day is one to hold onto.




Thursday, June 23, 2016

Getting By

The events of the past month have been unsettling. So much tragedy that I can't wrap my head around it.  So I do what I can to stay insulated by not watching the news, reading the paper, or doing outreach in the community.

I know this isn't good, but the feeling of being overwhelmed is real. Somehow, if I stay in my world, it feels better than constantly rehashing mass murders and the lack of our elected officials to do anything about it.

That the Orlando massacre nearly coincided with the anniversary of the Emanuel church murders in this city was difficult.  And I ask myself, "How many more?". I did not participate in activities planned to honor the dead. I worked on my boat, went to meetings, met with my sponsor, rode the horse and gardened. I feel jaded and tired of the arguing about guns, politics, religion and racial injustice.  Maybe we are moving forward in inches.  I can't see that, and it certainly feels as if we are moving backwards when it comes to giving up hate and divisiveness.

The summer heat has moved in and feels unrelenting.  I do most of my work in the mornings and evenings, otherwise it is unbearable.  Last night, I had terrible leg cramps which I tend to get when I have sweated to the point of dehydration. Irrigation is saving the garden which is producing well.  We are picking blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans.

I have learned in recovery to not take things personally, yet I still do that on occasion.  I fight with the notions of rejection and abandonment.  Probably this will be a life long struggle for me.  My father comes to me in dreams. I wait for him and he does not show up. Instead, I find him drinking in a bar, or I walk home and find him drunk at the kitchen table.

In my last dream, I was pouring out bottles of booze while saying the Serenity Prayer.  I awake from these nightmares, shaking and disoriented.  It is PTSD, and I know that the best thing for me to do is to get busy and remember that the dreams are feelings that are coming up, flashbacks to pieces of events from long ago.

Am I happy?  I believe that I am optimistic and reasonably happy.  Some moments are filled with such joy that I feel incredible gratitude.  Other days, I am getting by.  Today is one in which I am getting by.  But that can change if I take some action to make the day better.  I plan on having a good dinner with C. after riding this evening.  Then we will pick blackberries and maybe watch a movie.  I have the ability to make the changes needed to have happiness.
 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A few things on Sunday

I am posting a few thoughts from today:

Been really torn up over our dog dying. Each one hurts, but two so close together was more difficult.

I thought that I saw our dog out of the corner of my eye on his dog bed. Felt a keening sadness and then he was gone. And I feel better. Who knows but perhaps that was his spirit moving on.

I am going on the boat next week. Three days of much needed nothingness except sea and sky and wind.  Heaven to me.

My horse received the silver medal at a show. He is really a star.  I am going to the barn to ride him shortly. Maybe a pasture canter today and no ring work. He deserves everything.

C. has been having stress related restless leg syndrome.  So to relieve this, she works in the garden all day, takes a warm whirlpool bath in the evening, and reads.  I am rest broken from it so when it is bad I sleep in a different room which I am not happy about.  I miss hugging her.

Two years ago I went to Mexico and still think about going back. I would like to camp in the desert.  Maybe soon....

The garden is amazing so far.  Dug potatoes last evening.  Been picking black berries and making healthy shakes from them and strawberries.  A cool spring has helped.

My new sponsee gets it.  I am grateful for that. So much easier to have someone who is willing.

Hope that you have a good Sunday.



Sunday, May 15, 2016

A small vacation

I am writing this while eating freshly picked blackberries from the garden.  The fruit is large, and the bushes are heavy with ripening berries. It's a cool spring day, good for being outside.  As usual, I have been keeping busy the garden, the animals and exercising.

Sadly, we lost another dog this week.  It was unexpected and quick: osteosarcoma of the spine. Two vertebrae were engulfed by the tumor.  So we made the decision to euthanize. I sat on the floor cradling him for about an hour and telling him what a good boy he was.

Today, I removed his dog bed from the bedroom. I put his toys away, holding them to my nose to inhale the scent of this much loved boy.  No matter what I am not prepared for them to go.  So we are down to two dogs now, and both of those are seniors.

C. has been away for a small vacation.  I missed her with an ache of loneliness.   Things seemed so empty without her being here.  Yesterday, when I picked her up from the airport, I felt as if I was emerging from a fog created by my being alone and mourning the loss of our dog.

We went by the seafood market to get some soft shell crab for dinner. Tossed them in coconut flour and fried in olive oil, they were delicious.  Soft shells are a delicacy that many people don't appreciate, but growing up on Chesapeake Bay, I was exposed to them and other regional culinary delights when I was a child.  Shad roe fried with scrambled eggs, she crab soup, brined mackerel--all good memories.

I took the senior dogs for a walk on Friday evening and captured some of the beauty of the place where we live.  I hope that you enjoy these.







Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring is here

We are having blustery April weather in the Lowcountry with cool temperatures. Lots of beach erosion with much of the restored beaches losing most of their sand. A foolish enterprise to try to add sand to beaches on barrier islands. The very definition of insanity is to keep doing something over and over again, expecting different results. Yet that is what happens on the tourist inhabited barrier islands.  And then the next northeaster comes along and removes the sand back offshore.

The catkins are falling from the oak trees. We have moved from pollen season to leafy green spring with incredible hues of green.  I wash off the cars and realize that is also insanity because every morning they are covered again with catkins. No need to do anything but let them fall and have the wind blow them off as we drive to town.

We lost another of our dogs last week.  It was unexpected which made it hard on us.  He had gone in for removal of a large interdigital cyst, recovered from the operation, and then two days later began to run a fever.  He died later that afternoon from an occlusion to the mesenteric artery that cut off blood flow to his intestines.  So we have three dogs remaining in our pack.  All are elderly, and we are thinking that we won't get another dog.  I have had dogs all my life and will greatly miss having one, but perhaps it is time to travel more and not suffer the heartache of watching them grow old.  Meanwhile, we love the ones that we have.

I have begun to attend a new meeting (for me) on Monday evenings.  I like it. It is filled with a lot of recovery and good people.  I had promised my sponsor, who died a few years ago, that I would keep our home group on Monday going.  I did my best.  But keeping a meeting going is a collective effort. So my current sponsor and I go to this meeting where there are more people and lots of enthusiasm.  I am eschewing "doing the same thing over and over" in favor of branching out and seeing old friends within the district at this meeting.

C. and I have been busy with the garden and taking time in the evenings to go downtown to some concerts.  The blues concert by the sea was great.  An outdoor venue on a bright afternoon was just the thing. And then going to hear Joan Baez and Greg Allman was also awesome.  We like the smaller venues which definitely make for some great listening and interesting people watching. Sadly at the last concert a woman sitting next to me got very drunk, and her son and husband left early to take her home. Drinking several 16 ounce beers in a short period will do that. I felt bad for her family. I am grateful that I don't have to be the one taking a drunk home anymore.

It is varnishing time on the boat. I am planning on getting a lot of that done before it gets too hot.  This is an annual occurrence--sand, varnish, sand, varnish and then add six more coats of varnish.  A labor of love for a classic boat.

Sending good wishes for your day.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Addictions other than alcohol

It's a rainy Easter Sunday here.  The rain over the past few days has brought out every new leaf, turning the landscape into a thousand hues of green.  And it has washed away the pine and oak pollen that was coating everything yellow.  All seems refreshed.  And that is what I love about this time of year in the Lowcountry.  It is green and lush and covered with flowers.

Last time I wrote here about getting a new sponsee.  That lasted about two weeks when he decided that he could deal with all of his problems on his own.  It turns out that he is a recovering alcoholic which is okay because certainly most alcoholics are qualified to be in Al-Anon.  Who hasn't been affected by someone else's drinking?  Not many people that I know.

Anyway, what I want to write about here is problems other than alcohol that seem to plague many who are in recovery. Once the drinking stops,  other addictions can be a substitute, such as gambling, eating, or sex.  He happened to be using the latter.

He told me that he had 13th stepped several women in AA.  Then when he was married, he stopped doing that.  But over the last two years, he was finding himself more and more into on line chats and sexting. Needless to say, this brought about more problems in his marriage to an alcoholic.  His wife asked him to move out. And he thought that having a sponsor in Al-Anon would help him with his marriage and in dealing with an alcoholic spouse.

I know that I can't help someone who has an issue outside of Al-Anon.  I suggested that he find a 12 step group that could address his sex addiction.  That wasn't something that he wanted to do because he was still focusing on his wife's drinking.  It was a convoluted situation for sure.  And one that I could not help rectify.

I know from my own experience that getting honest with yourself, admitting that you are wrong and making amends can be so powerful.  So many things that we do in our lives hurt others, cause them to lose trust, and drive people away.  I hope this fellow gets at the root of what drives him to make bad decisions.

"Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to — alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person — you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why, after the initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relationships. They do not cause pain and unhappiness. They bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addiction does that. Every addiction reaches a point where it does not work for you anymore, and then you feel the pain more intensely than ever." ~Eckhart Tolle
 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Tuning out chaos and hate

I have seriously gotten to the point where I am sick of reading and hearing about politics in this country.  I once liked to listen to news, but over the past year I have tuned it out.  I don't even read the newspaper on a daily basis, but prefer to catch up when I can.  Nothing but the same old stuff to read anyway.  And the media are like vultures waiting for the next blood letting to occur.  So I am shutting it out.

I know that I don't have to be in the thick of political discussions, but no matter where I go, it seems to come up.  Even on a trail ride yesterday where there was so much peace, a friend started talking about Muslims and not knowing what had happened to their religion.  I kept my mouth shut.  I don't need to get into a conversation that is going to end up polarized.  And I know that I am not going to change any minds.

One of the good things about practicing the principles of Al-Anon is that I can use them as a guide to life outside of the rooms.  And now, more than ever, I am glad that I have those principles.  Things like "How important is it?", "Never miss an opportunity to keep my mouth shut", "Take what I like and leave the rest", "THINK", and "Live and let live" come to mind.  I can tune out the chaos and the hate.

Since the last time I wrote, I have been asked to sponsor another fellow who just began in Al-Anon.  He recently separated from his alcoholic wife and is having a hard time.   The same aspects of behavior that I had are there: guilt, shame, anger, fear, obsession, anxiety.  But I know that we can work through all of these together.  I have seen it happen a number of times.  A sad person becomes a powerful person.  Willingness and trust is all it takes for us to walk together in recovery over the next months.  He seems willing and trust will come.  More will be revealed as we move forward in the steps.

I am seeing signs of spring here.  The azaleas are blooming.  The garden is looking good.  This winter has been mild for which I am glad.  I am going on the boat next week. With temperatures in the 70's, it is time to get on the water.   I hope that you are all doing well.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Feeling at home

Happy Love Day to you, my friends.  It is a cold one here, unusual for even February.  We have a good fire going.  And some warm soup on the stove. Nothing too special but some time together.

What I want to write about is my home group.  Sadly, few people attend anymore. We were always a small group, but it seems that over the last 8 months, our numbers have dwindled remarkably.  If you recall, this was the group that my sponsor started over 20 years ago.  It was where I worked my steps and studied the traditions. It was where we did book studies.  And now, it feels like a dying group.

I have driven an hour to this group for nine years. Now, I am tired of driving the distance and have three other meetings within 15 minutes of our house.  The other meetings have from 12 to 25 people.  Yet, I feel sad at the decline in the legacy of the group where I felt most at home.

I am not going to give up and plan to be back in the spring. Hopefully, others may come back too.

Unfortunately, there appear to be a decline in some groups throughout the area. And numbers are down nationwide.  As the population ages, it seems that fewer young people are coming to the rooms.  And men are definitely rarer in meetings than women.

I am not sure why this is occurring.  Perhaps as problems in society increase, people have less time for "self help" and spend more time just making ends meet. As for lack of men, most of us are less likely to seek any help for any problems, both professionally and in a "self help" format.  Maybe it is the mention of a "God of our understanding" that is off putting.

Having tried therapy years ago,  Al-Anon was the place where it all "clicked" for me. It was where I found fellowship and support.  I learned that others had the same problems that I had.  And I learned to not hide those problems, but to share what I felt in a group of strangers.

This was hard at first. But I stuck it out and learned to trust, feel safe and be emotionally present to ourselves and others.  I believe that the fellowship is probably the reason most people stay. The real work of the 12 steps and doing service work seems to be not as high a priority.

No matter how long we go to meetings, family relationships cannot always be transformed.  I have seen individuals transform though, from angry people to those who have learned to be loving even when our families are dysfunctional. We learn to soothe ourselves, and we learn that we need to be close to others. No longer being a victim is empowering.  In the meetings I attend,  I experience patience and kindness, especially when we see traits in others that we have looked at in ourselves. As we truly learn to love and accept ourselves, these traits are seen as a reason to love than as an excuse to persecute.

I will keep coming back.  It is where I feel at home.

Hope that you are experiencing love today.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

This day in time

Well, today I am securely into middle age.  I slept late this morning. The rain has been pouring since the wee hours.  Now, the skies have cleared, but the wind is strong and cold coming from the north.

C and I had a nice breakfast together.  I am going to head to the barn for a while to see my horse. Later, I am going to roast some oysters for my birthday, have some ribs and celebrate with our handyman who comes out every Sunday to help out. We have known him for over 25 years, and have come to see him as family now.

I thought about how much I miss my parents, C's parents, and all my other relatives who aren't here, except in spirit.  I'm not sad today, just reflecting on the happy times of past birthdays.  And I heard from some of my oldest friends whom I have known since elementary school.  It is a source of comfort to know that some of my long-time best friends are still around, running half marathons, celebrating grandchildren, and working their farms or businesses.  There is stability in that knowledge.

I am planning for this to be a lazy day. I am one year older.  I feel the same.

"Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out." — Mitch Albom (The Time Keeper) 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Drinking in the New Year

I hope that you had a good beginning to 2016.  It seems that a lot of people are struggling with the aftermath of the holiday season. The rooms have been fairly packed with people who have found that living with alcoholism is a struggle. Just about every meeting is filled.  People come in and are lost from a holiday season filled with drinking and out of control behavior.  They feel lost, angry and are struggling in their relationships with problem drinkers.  Sadly, this happens every year.  Some of the newcomers stick around for the miracle of recovery while others decide that they can control the drinking of another.  The merry-go-round continues.

I received an email from someone who was saying that it was difficult to live with active alcoholism.  And how hard it is when our culture seems to think that drinking to excess is okay and socially acceptable.

First off, living with active alcoholism was a nightmare for me.  And I know that even with Al-Anon, it would be impossible for me to stay in a relationship with active alcoholic drinking.  My struggle to rescue and enable is still very real. And that does more harm to the alcoholic in many ways.  I can feel the anxiety as I type this, thinking about what it used to be like.  If I were to have any peace, I would not again live with an alcoholic who is not serious about recovery.

As far as our society glamorizing alcohol, I see it a lot in social groups, although most of us now have realized that drinking every day is not only unhealthy but not sustainable. That being said, the young people I am around seem to revel in partying and drinking.  This is a college town so there are plenty who get sick from alcohol toxicity.  And I think to myself that there will be a place for them in the rooms of AA someday if they don't stop.  Sadly, because alcoholism is a progressive disease, they may not be able to stop.  Those who can't will keep it up until they are real alcoholics.

I remember what my wife's sponsor said: "If what you hear at a meeting drives you out, alcohol will drive you back in." I believe that is true for both programs of AA and Al-Anon.  I am glad that I stayed and have continued.  It isn't a solution for everyone, but it was one that I could embrace and where I found peace of mind.

Sending good thoughts to you.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thoughts at the end of 2015

I don't do New Year's resolutions. A year is too much to contemplate. When one is just about over, as 2015 is, I do like to look back and see where I need to improve.

My health is good and I ran, walked and exercised my way to 1,193.17 miles thus far in 2015.

I sailed my boat over 90 days and viewed the time spent on her as sacred, a chance to reset my mind and meditate.

I bought a horse who is the most wonderful creature I can imagine. I became a re-rider after years of not riding. It was a learning experience in many ways.

I made new friends, kept my expectations low and was glad that I did. Many of my new friends awakened in me activism that has become part of my life again after too many years.

I grieved the loss of several close friends and much loved pets. I keep their memory close.

I read reviling diatribes and insults that made me wonder about humanity. I saw so much tragedy in the news that my heart ached.

I continued on my path to recovery in Al-Anon through service, meetings and writing here.  Although the latter has become less frequent, I know that writing down my thoughts and reading yours has helped me.

I am not sure what 2016 will bring. But I am going to do my part to stay the course, make things a little better for others and be mindful of love and compassion as I go about each day.

Wishing you peace in 2016.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas greetings to you

Downtown fountain lit for Christmas.
Happy eve of Christmas eve to all of you.  It seems like Christmas with decorations and sparkling lights, but the weather is warm and filled with humidity. No solstice fire this year and no hearth fire either.  But it is all okay here. Warm days to go to the barn and ride. And a good few days on the boat last week were just what I needed. 
On the boat last week with great weather.
We are having another quiet Christmas this year. Just the two of us.  I had a few moments of sadness when I looked at old ornaments and old tags from presents given in year's past. I do miss those who are no longer here.  And I know that I will for the rest of my life. They have left a hole that can't be filled. And that's the way it is for all who miss loved ones. So I let the feelings flow through me. And the sadness passed.

For the first time, we are going to have our dinner on Christmas Eve.  And then on Christmas Day we are going to take a ham to the homeless living under the big bridge and gather with other volunteers to feed them.  We need nothing this year. We have so much.  And for me, doing for others is really what it's all about.

Later, I will take a meal to an elderly couple that I visit every year.  And they will have a good Christmas dinner while we talk about a lot of things that have been going on in their life and mine.  They like to hear about the horse and the boat adventures.

I remember my father going to visit his old friends on Christmas. He would take something, maybe a fruit cake, to the man who ran the store across from the farm where he grew up.  All of those people are gone now.  The farm is gone too, with the land gone fallow.  But I find that the older I get, the more I repeat the things that I remember from childhood--the deeds that I thought were kind and generous.  I like to think that I got the best parts of my parents' character.  And that connects me to them as I do those things that I remember them doing that touched my heart.

So I am wishing each of you a Merry Christmas, happy holiday, and season's greetings.  Whether you celebrate of not,  I hope that you have time to relax and just be.
All is calm, all is bright.