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. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Getting through the holidays and each day

It's the time of year when so much is going on.  I have spent so little time at the computer. I apologize for not reading blogs.  And because I am truly moving to a point in life that I no longer feel the need to pour out feelings on here, I have thought about moving to another type of social media.

I have Twitter that I use sporadically. Maybe it's time to jump into the whole Facebook thing. But then I think about the ugliness that seems to be prevalent there. We don't have it ugly in our blog world--at least from the point that we aren't ugly to each other.  This is a supportive community and certainly has given me a lot over the years.  I am most appreciative of that.

My stepping into more of an activist role in the community has absorbed a lot of time.  My standing passively by when there is so much injustice happening is not something I can do.  I view this as practicing the principles of Al-Anon in all my affairs, having courage to change the things I can and speaking my truth without fear.  I don't let the problems I see take over my life though. It is important for me to maintain balance.

Regarding balance, we have been invited to quite a few parties this year.  It is quite a change that I used to be nervous about going to parties where alcohol was present. Now C. and I can go without feeling uncomfortable.  Being able to enjoy social settings has made the holidays much more enjoyable than what would happen in times past when I was gripped with anxiety about my wife's drinking.

So many though are struggling with the whole holiday scene.  Here are a few things that we talked about at a meeting this week that will help during the holidays:

  • Remember the three C's: that you did not cause the alcoholism. You can't control it. You can't cure it.
  • Detaching myself from the situation. I have an escape plan, a Plan B, in which I remove myself from uncomfortable situations.  I may just leave the room and walk away or if a relapse would occur, then I know to call her sponsor. 
  • Doing service work and volunteering to help others. It is an excellent way to get out of your own anxiety and have a good feeling.  There are also meetings and often special events around the holidays. Even if you are traveling, there are local meetings that are being held.  Look them up and go to a meeting. 
  • Going back to basics when things get stressful continues to soothe me. I remember that I am powerless over other people, places and things. I am powerless over alcohol.  I say the Serenity Prayer over and over to quiet my mind.  I remember that I may have to break things down to small time intervals by just getting through the next 10 minutes of a bad situation. 
  • Not participating in blaming and recriminations helps.  I don't participate in the blame game. Again, the escape plan is useful. If things get out of hand, walk out of the room and calm yourself down so you can go back and enjoy your family.
  • Plan in advance for activities. Be aware and honest with what the circumstances may be. If you know it will end badly, stay away, leave or plan for different transportation.
  • Be careful and aware. Staying safe is important. Look out for yourself and seek out friends who are supportive. Refusing to get into a car driven by someone who is alcoholically impaired may save your life. 
If you have other ideas on what works for you during the holidays, please post them. I appreciate your thoughts because it is difficult to get through a time of year when expectations run so high.  Keeping my expectations low has helped a lot in not building resentment. 

Thank you for being here.  If any of you would like to share your experience, strength and hope by writing a post, just email me (sydlaughs@att.net). Wishing you the best. 




Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wedding anniversary and giving thanks

Tomorrow is a celebration for us--our wedding anniversary.  I won't tell you how many years,  but suffice to say that most people did not give us great odds in lasting as long as we have. I know that most of our friends in graduate school have been divorced at least once and yet, here we are together.

I'm not being smug because it has not been a smooth journey.  And I thought about divorce many times over the years. In fact, after every drunk episode, I wanted out.  I did what most people do who live with alcoholism, I keep hoping that things would change--that she would change.  And in the morning after a drunken night, I would believe the promises that she would be different and meant to quit drinking this time. And the years went by.

Even for a while after my wife joined AA, I did not give us much of a chance. But through patience, respect and growing love for each other, we are still together.  I am at the point in my life where I cherish every day with her.

A lady at my meeting last night has been living with a dry drunk for many years. They basically have little communication.  And she had been in tears at last week's meeting because she did not have the kind of relationship that she wanted. So I shared then that what I began doing that first year in recovery was hugging my wife and telling her more and more that I loved her.  And from there, we began to heal. That is how we interact now--lots of hugs and kisses and "I love you"'s.  It made a huge difference in our attitudes.

Last night the lady shared that she went home and hugged her husband after the meeting and gave him a kiss on his head.  She said that it made her feel good. She was learning that her pride kept her apart from her husband.  I suppose for me it was lack of trust that kept me from sharing my feelings. Sometimes it is okay to "fake it until I make it" to get those feelings back that have been so eroded by alcoholism.

So I have much to be grateful for as we celebrate our anniversary. It is Thanksgiving day too.  I hope that the day will be a good one for you no matter where you are or who you are with.



Friday, November 20, 2015

Life changes in the instant

It has been a week of contrasts. Going on the boat for a few days did as it was intended, putting my mind at ease and getting me into a relaxed groove that has lasted for several days.

And then last night, I happened to read on line more hatred spewed about the refugees fleeing from Syria and ISIS.  The amazing number of fearful people here in the U.S. who worry that they will be targeted makes me wonder how any of them get out of bed, get on the highway and drive to a job.  There are so many things that can take our life at any moment.  And yet we seem to be utterly terrified at the prospect of people from another country taking asylum in this country. It is baffling to me.

I heard last night that a friend just found out that he has kidney cancer and will undergo surgery in three days to remove one of his kidneys.  His wife was in Africa and flew home to be with him. And so as Joan Didion wrote: "Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant." This week has been one of lives being changed in an ordinary instant. And all that I can do is go about my life, keeping my days as usual as possible, reaching out to those who are having problems.  And loving as best I know how.

I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.Joan Didion

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Reset my mind

We had to euthanize our sweet greyhound girl this week.  I knew it was coming because she had kidney and heart disease.  We bought her a lot of time with trips to the veterinary hospital for fluids and medicines.  But eventually, the kidney failure was too much for her. We are both sad that she is gone but know that it was time.

I have been having a lot of flashbacks to childhood.  These are not dreams but happen when I am not highly focused on something. All of a sudden, there will be a vision of me standing in front of a bookcase in the old elementary school library, or me running down the dirt path leading to my cousin's house, or sitting on the stairs at my parents house looking out into the large front yard.

So many of these vivid flashbacks are occurring that I am wondering what it is about.  I have read that these can be caused by unresolved anxiety, or some form of PTSD.  But these aren't unpleasant memories at all--just very vivid and in great detail. I certainly would choose to be in the present and not have all of these thoughts about the past coming up and rushing through my head.  I asked my wife about it, and she said that she has dreams but hasn't experienced the vivid flashbacks that I am having while awake.

Sometimes I do wonder if I may not have inherited some of my family's tendency towards depression.  I hope not because it was a very hard road for both my mother and her father.  And it isn't any journey that I want to go on.

So I am going to stay in the moment by going on the boat this week. The weather is going to be cool.  It seems to reset my mind to go on the boat.  Right now, I am needing a reset for sure.

Sharing some photos of my greyhound girl when she was healthy and could run like the wind. I miss her a lot.



Sunday, October 25, 2015

Are you happy living with alcoholism?

I have heard a lot of people complain about living with an alcoholic. New comers come into a meeting, and most of what is shared is how terrible their life is because they live with a drunk.  And they are right.  Living with a drunk is pretty terrible.  In fact, it is sometimes like being in a living Hell depending on how abusive the drunk is.

If those who come into a meeting are lucky enough to hear something that is akin to peace in the midst of turmoil, they might stick around for more than a few meetings. The problem all too often is that the ears are closed and the mouth is open.  Listening is not something most of us do when we find an ear of another who is living with an alcoholic.  We want to tell war stories, talk about how awful we have had it, and generally unload all of our anguish and anger on others. And when no one tells us how to fix the alcoholic, we leave to head back to the salt mines.

I know how hard it is to listen when a person is in so much emotional anguish. And blaming the alcoholic is really easy and convenient. After all, aren't they really the cause of our unhappiness?  Would not life be better if they did what we wanted? We who are long suffering would then be truly free and happy in our own skin, right?

I don't know about you, but I don't know that I really ever felt comfortable in my own skin.  I am much more used to who I am now.  I still struggle though with awareness and acceptance of myself.  And because I am in a program of recovery that teaches me to take my own inventory and clean up my side of the street, I have gotten better.  I no longer beat myself up for my short comings on a daily basis or get mired in the self pity that would last for weeks, months, years.

I read blogs in which people struggle deeply with the alcoholics/addicts in their life.  They believe that the alcoholic is to blame for their unhappiness. I thought the same thing, until one day I realized that I was actually at fault also.  I was expecting everyone else in my life to do as I wanted because I had the answers for them.  I believed that I knew what was best for my wife.  "If only, she would stop drinking. If only she would love me like I love her. If only.......". Ad nauseum.

It took me quite a while to realize that my ticket to happiness was not about her. I stubbornly refused to embrace the idea that I was contributing to unhappiness in my life.  I thought that I was blameless until I finally got to a place where I could not longer deny my culpability in our failing relationship.

I know that people have to reach a point where the tipping point occurs. It is that point where you finally are so broken, sad, demoralized, and unhappy that you realize you are the one that needs help.  And that's when the alcoholic ceases to be the center of your world.  That's when you finally surrender and start working on your own life.

Plenty of people, like me, go for decades refusing to admit that they are the ones needing help.  I wasn't ready to stop trying to control and change another.  No way was I going to stop beating my head against a wall, even though it hurt like Hell.  So if you are still out there trying to change the alcoholic and are focusing all of your energy on him/her, then keep on doing it.  Eventually, one day if you are lucky you will finally realize that it isn't going to work.  Until then, you can keep recanting the same old stuff over and over about how awful life is with an alcoholic.  And have the pity parties with other people who are in the same sinking boat.

Keep on with that and see how things end up for you after a few decades. One thing that I am glad for is that I did surrender, and I did finally get into a program of recovery.  And so did my wife.  That is the miracle of the whole thing.  And what has happened for us is an incredible change in how we treat each other.  It took us a while to understand that changes don't happen overnight. But with almost a decade in recovery, we know that each day is a gift.

I know that there are other ways to find peace and happiness in your life.  Use every tool at your disposal.  I didn't happen to find what worked until I got into the rooms of Al-Anon.  I do a lot of service work and am willing to help those who want to work the steps or share their solution.  But if you decide that you have a load of caveats to recovery, then I suggest that perhaps you aren't willing enough yet.  I am working on myself every day.  And I am willing to help you along this journey of self-discovery too. I have found happiness living with an alcoholic. And I believe that the happiness is a daily reprieve from the sadness and anxiety that we experienced before we began our journey of recovery.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Some glorious days

Indian summer here with warm days and cool nights. We had a glorious time on the boat. All the usual things of relaxing, cooking, long walks on the beach, and dancing to some good music. 

All thoughts of anything bothering me go away when I am out there. I have long thought that I was made to be a wanderer in my soul--a sojourner looking for the next adventure. But my occasional days on the water will suffice. And when I am back on land I long for the simplicity of the boat. Nothing but the sky and water and sand between my toes. 

I am sharing some photos from this trip out. Short post here. Happiness of spirit. 
A companionway door that I found washed up on the beach. It belongs to a beautiful wooden boat that sank in the summer. Her name was One Love. Sad for such a brilliant piece of Hugh Angelman's handiwork to be lost. But I have a small piece of her safe at home ready for restoration.

The dinghy used to row to shore.

Sun setting on a glorious day.
Night falls

At anchor

Cozy and warm inside

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Courage to Change

I just returned home from the Al-Anon fall conference.  It was an inspiring event with excellent speakers for both Al-Anon and AA.  When I go to these conferences, I come away with rose-colored glasses firmly in place.  I feel peaceful and thankful for having a program of recovery.

In one of the workshops I attended, I heard how fortunate we are to be around others who are working on their recovery.  This re-affirmed that I do belong in the rooms of Al-Anon.  I also know that most of us who are there still have character defects that can arise again and again.  In the workshop about Courage to Change, we were asked to list those things that we could like to change about ourselves.  I wrote:

  • I would like to change my lack of trust in others
  • I would like to be less critical of myself
  • I would like to lose my fear of rejection
These old feelings have been around for a while--probably most of my life.  My lack of trust in others is something that evolved over years of deception and emotional abuse.  While I have a much healthier outlook today, I am still wary around those who I sense can hurt me through their gossip, jealousy or dissatisfaction with life.  I still believe in my intuition about whom I trust. 

Being less critical of myself has been a lifelong pursuit.  I have had a lot of success in several pursuits in my life, and yet, I still doubt that I am worthy at times.  I make myself step out of my comfort zone, teach myself new skills, pursue new hobbies, and tell myself that is growth.  But it also can set me up for a feeling of failure.  I am getting to that age where I don't really have to prove anything, yet I keep pushing myself to do new things---maybe because of the third item on my list of things to change.....

My fear of rejection.  This is a theme through all of my life.  I have days when I don't feel it acutely.  I am good at covering it up.  And then there are days when it wants to sabotage everything that is good, pushing me to isolate and fulfill my fear.  These thoughts are deep seated.  I know that if I am accepting of myself and am spiritually fit, the fear goes away.  So I keep working on the Face Everything And Recover definition of FEAR, instead of the F#*k Everything and Run part. 

This is not meant to be a bummer of a post.  I am sharing where my head is today.  I am grateful, working on my attitude of gratitude, and glad to have many options for my recovery.  And it is a beautiful afternoon to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Great October Flood 2015

It has been an interesting couple of days here. The city and state have been all over the national news because of the flooding from days of constant heavy rain. If you’ve seen any news report or watched The Weather Channel, you’ve seen our devastation.


We were very fortunate on the island. The road to our house is severely damaged. But our house and property remained un-flooded. Other parts of the area were not so lucky. The damage in some areas is tremendous.
Our major concern was getting to the horses at the barn to make sure that they were okay. I walked ahead of the truck to check for sink holes and gullies. The road has been eroded by sheet flow coming off the farm fields. In some places, the holes were several feet deep. 
After we got to the barn, we found some of the fields were flooded.  I moved horses around to put them in un-flooded pastures. Water in a couple of pastures was up to the horse's knees. 
Once the horses were moved, we went about feeding them their hay. They were glad to get it and a bit frantic because horses are creatures of routine.  I have attached a few photos so you can see their happiness at being fed. 
I feel as if my story is so minimal compared to those people who have been displaced, losing their homes and everything they own, aside from what may have been thrown into a bag or two and what they had on their backs.  I saw people with babies being raced into boats to escape the flood waters that took over their homes yesterday.
So it has been a surreal few days. I hear that the sun is supposed to peak through the steel gray sky tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing it. 
One of many road wash outs
A small lake in the big ring
Driving along the flooded road
Pond overflowing into the barn
Overflow of pond
Horses waiting on hay

My boy eating his hay