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. 

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.