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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What I have learned in the last month

The weeks have flown by for me. It is nearly October and still muggy and warm here. We are still harvesting from the garden, but the fall vegetables are in and summer plants are just about done.

I have been involved with the group that is dealing with race relations in the aftermath of the Emanuel 12 atrocity (although 9 people were murdered, there were 3 others who survived but were traumatized).  We have regular discussions at lunch once a week, and I hosted another evening event at a restaurant.  Next week, I invited the City Police officers to join us to discuss how to improve relations between the police and the community.

It has been an interesting and enlightening time.  I have met men from the Nation of Islam and have heard about their views on how all white people are "devils".  It is hard to deny our violent past when it comes to Native and African Americans. However, I am also becoming a student of world history in which I realize that so many atrocities have been and are being committed by asians and africans too. Looking at history, the worst mass killings have been done by Asians. Ghenkis Khan: 40,000,000 people in the 13th century, all over Asia and Europe; Mao Zedong: 40,000,000 as well between 1949 -1976. He had people worship him as a god. They thought he was immortal. What a surprise when he died. World War II was also 40,000,000 -- and Japanese people are a significant part of the reason for that number -- both as instigators and as victims.

Certainly, in Africa, tribal wars have been occurring since we became Homo sapiens. However, because they were relatively small and within a smaller area, these are not well known. We DO know that in modern day, post-colonial African, some of the most savage wars known to man have occurred: The Biafran War (1966-70) -- 1,000,000 dead. The nightmare that was the Rwandan War -- within 4 months, the Tutsis had killed 800,00 of their fellow citizens, the Hutus. The horror in Liberia, where tens of thousands of people now live with only one hand: punishment if they wouldn't join the rebel army. The hellish Boko Haran, currently operating in Nigeria. The terrors of South Sudan, now spilling over into Ethiopia (primarily the Muslims killing the Christians). And let's not forget the Middle Easterners: Saddam Hussein -- 1,000,000; Ghadaffi -- probably nearly the same number. And the amount of TORTURE beyond comprehension by the instigators of most of these mass murderers is, unfortunately, well-documented. There is NO single "good" race. So what I have learned is we ALL have the potential for good... and, unfortunately, for evil...

And then I have been involved in more Al-Anon service work at the area (state) level.  That has been an eye opener. I know that we all have character defects, but let me tell you, getting involved in service work on committees at the state level has brought me to a whole new level of understanding.  I keep telling myself: Principles above personalities.  And I stay out of the fray when the emails go flying back and forth with unkind things being written.  I took on a task and am focusing on that, rather than on getting into a pissing contest.  But I can tell you that I have no further aspirations to do further service work higher up than the District.

And so when I feel my serenity slipping away, I take a short vacation on the boat. I returned a couple of days ago from a relaxing time on her.  I go off the grid, read and reflect.  And when I return, I feel ready to get back into this other life I lead in which I deal with people.

This time when I returned I listened to Pope Francis.  And let me tell you, if I were inclined to be religious, I believe that this man could convert me.  To me, he is a transformative person who is kind, compassionate, and, well--Holy. His humility is to be emulated. What a contrast between Papa and the political candidates we have thrust on us through the news media! I found myself in tears listening to Pope Francis.  He is a genuine person of goodness to me.

In other goings on, I continue to ride and enjoy my horse.  He is going to the dressage regional championships which will be a real treat.  I am going as his groom and support team--LOL.  Perhaps within the next six months, I will be showing him too.  The main thing is that we have a great bond. Even my wife loves him.  She has little experience with horses but her visits to see him, bearing gifts of carrots, are filled with joy.  He licks her and she kisses him. What more can a horse want?

Hope that you are all doing well.  I am way out of date with comments on your blogs. Living the life to the fullest here.  And I will catch up soon with each of you. Until then....

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Every day matters

Thank you for all the thoughts and comments as both C. and I had our ninth year in recovery.  I told my story at two meetings, and each time I have a different slant. In one I start from the beginning and in the next, I am starting at where I am now.

I remember the first time that I shared my story at a meeting. I had written down a few things I wanted to share. I didn't know how to speak from the heart then.  I thought that I needed notes to help me organize my thoughts. I don't do that anymore and haven't for several years.  I simply share from the heart, not feeling anything but gratitude for the progress that I have made in coming to terms with who I am and how I was affected by alcoholism.

The main message that I have is that it is so good to be living life without a huge amount of fear and anxiety.  I don't have active alcoholism in my life. It is a blessing.  And I don't focus much on the past anymore, not the bad parts of it anyway.  There is too much to do in the present right now.  I want to hold onto that as much as I can.

Today, I rode for several miles around the farm and properties near by.  It was a good morning, with a hint of fall in the air.  I see the cloudless sulfur butterflies as they move through on their migration.  Some of the trees are starting to change color as the days get shorter. The garden is still producing, but already we are putting in our fall and winter vegetables.  My favorite time of year is coming.

It seems that every day is one to cherish.  And as a blogger friend used to write, "Every day matters."


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nine years today

Today is my 9th anniversary in Al-Anon.  I have told you about all of these years right here. You probably know more about my life than anyone, except for my first sponsor and my wife.  I'm grateful that you have been with me on the journey thus far.

And it has been a good journey in recovery.  I can remember how it started out. That first year was confusing.  My wife was new to AA, and I wasn't sure whether our marriage could be healed.  We didn't trust each other.  It was a rough time.

Gradually, as each year passed, we came to realize that if we applied the principles of recovery to our lives, we could prevail.  I learned about compassion and just how much I loved her.  I realized that we were both damaged when we met.  And as I thought of her as a child, fearful of the emotional abuse from an alcoholic father and a mother who was affected by her husband's alcoholism, I came to feel so much love for her.  I realized that I was wounded too by my father's drinking.  And I came to love him more than ever, along with my in-laws, because they did the best they knew how to do.

So C. and I shared a common bond of children affected by alcoholism.  I knew her pain, and she knew mine.  We grew to be respectful and kind to each other, rather than having the old judgmental and contemptuous feelings.  And over these years our love has grown to where we are today.  Neither of us can imagine life without the other.

I am so fortunate to have found out who I am and that I have a lot of good qualities.  I am grateful for having met so many people whose paths I would not have crossed if not for Al-Anon.  I am glad that you have been along for the journey too.  We have written, learned, cried, laughed, and comforted each other in more ways than I thought possible. Thank you all.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Nine years for C.

We are celebrating 9 years of sobriety for C. this week. It's hard to believe time has gone so quickly. And life is better today in so many ways than it was nine years ago. 

am not going to write much but will share the last few days in photos. We are together in this life until the end. That is love. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A typical Saturday

A typical Saturday here.  Up fairly early to take the dogs for a walk, check on the weather (hot and humid), have a cup of coffee and a protein shake. Run some thoughts past my SO, telling her about some news on line and getting her thoughts. She remains my touchstone on most of what is important in life.

Taking my time this morning to get to the barn.  It has been oppressively hot with both my horse and me soaking wet after our ride yesterday.  I am going to the barn in a few minutes but am getting a late start today.  Still being lazy on a Saturday it seems.

The local regatta is this weekend.  Lots of people on the water, drinking and carrying on.  I have managed to miss this for the last 20 years.  I think I will get by with missing it again this year.

Later this evening I plan to go for a jog down the long dirt road.  Yesterday,  I waited until nearly nightfall to go for my two mile jog.  I count as I move along the dirt lane. It's an old habit and keeps me in step. Meanwhile, I look at the fire flies (still think of them as lightening bugs) who flash luciferase and increase in numbers as the night comes on.  I heard  something large moving in the forest. Probably a deer and not some predatory animal out to get me.  I carry a small flashlight to watch for snakes when I get to the darkest part of the wooded lane.

I am thinking this morning about more polarizing issues that have come to the surface, inviting us to choose a side. The lion *or* the people murdered in Chattanooga. The woman *or* the unborn child.  I believe that these are false choices. Can we not care about animal abuse *and* people murdered in service of our country, about the unborn child *and* the woman who feels backed into a corner by terrifying circumstances? And can we engage in respectful conversation with those who see things differently? These are serious issues that deserve more than a meme or a smug pronouncement.

My last meeting with the unity group exemplified the problem that not only exists between people of color and whites, but the absolute intolerance of those who think differently from us.  A woman came to the group who is a conservative.  A conversation on the Brady bill lead to several others in the group interrupting her and essentially shutting her down by telling her how wrong she was in her ideas about second amendment rights. It was rude to see how she was treated.  I spoke up, asking those who were most vehement to please let her talk.

Maybe our problem is that we have lost the ability to listen to each other because we are so entrenched in our own rightness?  I spoke with her afterwards and she said that she would come back if I were there.  Another woman I know has quit the group because she felt uncomfortable about being asked to let another talk without interruption.  I am reminded again and again that those of us who are working a program of introspection in recovery seem to be aware and accepting. It is still difficult to be out there among those who are not. Whatever...I doubt we will solve any problems but the view and the lunches are good.

And then there are the boys lost at sea off Florida.  What a sad thing.  I knew that they were gone as soon as the boat was found without them.  The ocean is a tough place.  How do you live with such a loss? No closure really. Tragically gone.

Well, I am going to get into my boots and head to the barn.  Nothing like horse smell to make me happy.

Hope that your Saturday is going well.