Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Today I took this photograph of a blast furnace to my office. It is now displayed in a prominent place. I shared the story with several people, and now I shall share it with you:

I grew up in steel towns and with a steel family. My father was an engineer for a large steel company. He was quite a brilliant man and had a couple of patents on a new design of blast furnace (used in steel making). He traveled around the world for this company. In my youth, I knew the names of the steel mills, Clairton, Duquesne, and Homestead Works in Pennsylvania. Ohio Works in Youngstown. South Works in Chicago... I could go on and on.

By the 1980s, the town I grew up in was all but abandoned, the steel mills were silent. They no longer belched smoke, which in steel-mill culture is devastation. I was taught from the time I was an infant that when there was smoke in the air, it meant that men were working and families had food on their tables. This sounds like another century, doesn't it? Well, it was.

By the 1990s, my father was in a nursing home. Above his bed was a large framed photograph of one of his blast furnaces. I asked him how he felt about all those steel mills being gone, all that work, all his life's creative efforts went into - all gone. The blast furnace in the photo was gone. I thought this would be devastating for him.

He sanguinely said that he earned a good living and had a good life. He really didn't care if his creations lived forever. He did what he enjoyed doing and made a living doing it, beyond that, he wasn't much interested.

I often think of this. It astounded me at the time. Now, I am striving toward getting this attitude down. I can have pride in the quality of my work while I am doing it, but I need to let go of what is beyond my control.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am working for a wage. That I get paid the same whether I get my way or not. Whether "they" listen to me or not. Yesterday I was absolutely beside myself because I was told we were going to do something the wrong way based on someone else's recommendation.

Well, today I confronted what I needed to confront and found out the other person lied. I exposed the other person for lying. Life is too short to try to make nice with people who lie, so I am not going to do that. And if there are repercussions, I will deal with them. I am willing.

But it is not all that important. Because in 50 years, not one soul will know what happened at work today. But I will have to answer for how I have behaved. And I want to be able to answer those questions easily.

The framed photo of the blast furnace needs to stay in my office for a while.

I thank God and my father for this lesson today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Maybe this photo is in poor taste considering the terrible flooding going on in other parts of the country, if so, I apologize.

I am too tired. This looked like the first pretty photo in my photo library... hence, I picked it.

I failed to mention that I had a migraine yesterday, came home from work at noon and spent the afternoon in bed. I feel wiped out today. I went to see my physician this afternoon to tell him that I am having a great number of migraines. We came up with some strategies.

And I will have an MRI of my foot.

Right now I am just wiped out. I am waiting for my b.f.'s phone call and then I will go to sleep.

Tomorrow I will get up early and go to the swimming pool. Then I will go to work and deal with an extremely difficult situation... that I did not handle well today.

Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired... these things an alcoholic should avoid. I am tired enough to make me angry. So I am TA, or AT. Not LH, or HL.

I believe that God can do some of his best work while we are sleeping. I will trust that he will work on me while I am slumbering tonight. Perhaps I will wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and generous of spirit. I can pray for those things.

In the meantime, I can thank him for the things I know I am grateful for.
A very short list would start with:
My sobriety
Those lovely crickets outside serenading me
A soft comfortable bed
A family I love enough to worry me
A job I care enough about to react poorly about
And on and on and on....

Monday, August 29, 2011

Eighteen Years Ago - and Today

On this day in 1993, my father drew his last breath. I had been sitting at his bedside for weeks, and I decided I finally had to go home. I had a job and a husband waiting for me. On that morning, I got on a plane from Dubuque, Iowa to Chicago. When I got to O'Hare, I called my sister and heard the news from my brother in law. My dad had died at approximately the very moment when my plane took off. I then got on a plane to Denver. I got home and stayed home. I did not go to my own father's funeral. I had been gone, like I said, for weeks, and needed to get to work. It was hard to miss it, but it was easier too. There was horrible controversy about my dad's final medical care and there was a family split... I consider it nothing less than miraculous that there are no lasting rifts among my brothers and sister. We all get along beautifully now. I got a box of paperwork from Iowa last week and when I looked through some of the legal documents, it brought back some of that anger and pain. But it is long ago. And far away.

On this day, in 2011, my daughter went to the court house with the man she met 6 weeks ago and got married. I didn't see any reason to express my displeasure to her, since the deed is done, so I told her "congrats," "I like him" (which I do) and "please take this seriously." Oh dear Lord. She then posted on facebook that I approved... which I don't. Oh well, who really cares if I approve or not. She is 32 years old - the age I was when I got sober and was going through my second divorce. He has been married once - for 16 years. I cannot imagine how they could think it is a good idea to get married after 6 weeks, but they did. I wish them all the best. Weirder things have happened than happy marriages after a short courtship.

Years ago, I went to the funeral of a beautiful woman, the wife of one of my AA friends. In her eulogy I heard that they had eloped after a very short courtship - some 60 years earlier.

Odds are not good though.

But odds were not good that she would get sober over two and a half years ago, but she did. Odds were not good that I would get sober and stay sober, but I did. Odds were actually not good that either one of us would be alive to have this conversation, but obviously, we are.

If I had gotten MY WAY in this life, it would be a miserable little picture of a crappy little life. But one day in 1984, I turned my will and my life over to the care of God (as I didn't understand him) and nothing has been the same since.

So, I shall just pray for the best and know that the best can happen - without my consultation or help.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Another Week

I once had an art teacher who said we find shadows so pleasing because they take away the differences between us. We all look the same in shadow. This photo was taken on Saturday morning... it is me and some of my friends from the running group.

This morning there was a new man at the meeting. He said he got drunk and woke up with a tattoo on his neck. That he knew this was the end of his five year relationship because she said if he ever got a tattoo on his neck she would leave him. I kinda think he did that on purpose... but what do I know? Sometimes it seems the new people make the most sense in the room. He made a lot of sense and I hope he stays sober. There was another new guy there who talked about how grateful he was, and I thought about how lucky his sponsor is.

I spent the afternoon with my daughter, daughter-in-law, and grandbaby. We ate, talked, and laughed. We picked up the baby and gasped with delight with each one of her tentative steps, and her attempts to wave. We were overjoyed at her surprise when she tasted a root beer float for the first time. It was a good day.

I am going to try to post at night on the blog this week. I cannot show up late to work every day and expect to feel good about myself. This may run counter to all popular culture, but I have found that I have self-esteem in direct relation to how esteemable my behavior is. It just feels a whole lot better to show up on time than it does to arrive at my leisure and hope nothing dramatic has happened in my absence.

Being sober is good. The grace of God is a wonderful thing.

Sunday Morning

I got to witness this beautiful sunrise yesterday morning. Along with my friends in the running group. AND I got to only go 5 miles! That felt like a little hop, skip, and jump. I am very ready for the long mileage to be over... at least for a while.

You know, we as human beings are ever changing. Yesterday I wrote of a sponsee in a sort of negative light. She is a beautiful human being, she has been sober for 15 years, she has "worked" her ass off in this program. Reading what you read yesterday, you may have gathered that she is just a pain in the ass. Not so, dear reader, not so. She is someone as important to me as someone in my family. She has hit a very difficult bump in the road and is not reacting well - at all. But sometimes we do that. I would be a poor sponsor indeed if I decided that she didn't meet my "criteria" at this time and dumped her. I pray to God she will get over this obstacle in her path, and I will be here for her as she tries.

I remember my father telling me that life changes a great deal as we go from year to year. I didn't believe him. I was having great difficulty with one of my brothers. He had set about to make a fortune in his early adulthood, and he did that. It seemed that he would always be on top of the world. My father told me that fortunes change. And they did. Dramatically.

Last night as I was waiting for my date to arrive, I was perusing facebook (seriously? blogger never heard of fb and thinks it is a misspelled word?) - I saw a comment on a friend's page and couldn't believe it! It was a woman I sponsored 20 or more years ago. I immediately sent her a friend request, and she immediately accepted it. I looked at her photos, and unfortunately, it looks like she returned to drinking. When that happens, I always hope that somehow the person was not an alcoholic after all, and they are perfectly happy drinking. I hope that is the case. Or even better, I hope she is not drinking and that the photos are just misleading. But I got to see photos of her grandkids who look about the same age as her kids were when we were hanging out. I got to see her youngest kid, who was the most gorgeous little baby, who is now in the Marines.

Life really is short, isn't it? Just long enough to decide to love - or not, to make a positive impact in others' lives - or not. To strive to do God's will every day - or not. To stay sober - or not.

I think I shall endeavor to stay sober today, and I hope you all do too.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


That car was parked next to me at the grocery store the other day and I thought it was funny.

I have been feeling like a used car salesman lately. Trying to convince people they ought to want to be sober. It is a losing battle, one not worthy of engaging in.

Our Big Book says: "If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it - then you are ready to take certain steps." That's a pretty powerful statement right there. IF you want what we have... not let me convince you of why being sober is a wonderful thing. And are willing to go to any length to get it... any length, no conditions, no reservations. Then you are ready to take certain steps... the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Not steps toward healthy self-esteem, not steps of declaring other people wrong and you right, not steps of self-indulgence.

A woman I sponsor texted me last night at 7:30 and asked if I was available. I told her I needed to be in bed in a minute because I had to get up at 3:15 this a.m. She texted me back that she needed more time than that and that she was getting into her car - "either to go to the bar or to an AA meeting" - she'd decide when she got there. Well, I know when I am being manipulated, but I called her anyway. She has been my sponsee for a long damn time and I love her. We talked her way to an AA meeting. We talked a lot. And I made her promise not to drink or kill herself last night.

But she persists in doing something that is endangering her very life. I don't know how to help her. I don't think she even wants help. I think she wants an audience for the train wreck for which she is on a direct course.

Do you think I slept well last night? Nope.

I will leave here in 15 minutes to meet up with my running club... in the shirt from the race last week... and I will be happy to see some healthy, happy people at 5:45 a.m.

Now she is texting me.... Oh I really need the help of God here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Living Life

I made a beautiful grilled vegetable pizza last night. Yumm.

I am so tired this week. Grateful, grateful, grateful it is Friday.

It is the week after a race and I am not depressed. That's good. And unusual.

Found out this morning that my son is coming home on leave in October. My daughter and I will be in Maine for most of his visit :-( His original plan was to come home in November. Maybe it will be better for he and his wife to have less people around... that is the only good thing I can think of about this.

I have been late to work every single day this week and it looks like today will be no different. I just cannot get myself moving.

It is OK. Somedays are stellar and some days are just pretty ordinary - and that is still very good.

Praying for the safety of all those along the path of Irene.

God bless us all.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Living in the Sunshine

I have had too many big days, all in a row. A week now. Seven days. I need a come-straight-home-from-work-and-get-into-jammies night. I need to not talk to anyone (except God) tonight.

Behind all the other-people's-drama going on this week, I have had a tiny heartbreak myself. I called my sponsor and talked to her, she quietly understood me (thank God for that). I got a box of stuff from my late step-mother's house and imagine my surprise when I found she had a file on me. Letters I wrote to my dad were kept by her, with notes she had made in the margins. It reminded me of the heartbreak of losing my mother at a young age and within the year having her for a step-mother. A conversation with my father was no longer possible. She inserted herself into everything. And now I find the letters I had written in an effort to reach out to my dad and communicate just with him were taken and interpreted by her. And kept for 40 years!

I am going to buy myself one of those firepit things for the backyard and have a little bonfire. I will burn those things as well as my journals. I do not want my children to have to go through my crap after I am no longer able.

I have no hard feelings for her. She had a terribly sad life. She had two children, both profoundly retarded (sorry if that is not the correct term at this moment) and institutionalized. There were no letters from her children in this box, those children (my age) never wrote a letter to their mom. She drank herself into oblivion every day. I wish she hadn't needed to take my father away from all of us, but she did. And true to nature, when she did that, she essentially lost him. He was sober 7 years when he married her, but within 3 years he was drunk, never to get sober again. She would call me in the middle of the night, drunk, and lament, "this is not the man I married." No, it wasn't. I think of my father's last 17 years, in a beautiful home, the thick draperies closed all day long, with the two inhabitants living an alcoholic hell. The phone calls reporting broken bones of all sorts from "falls" and all manner of mishaps we alcoholics understand only too well.

But this is ancient history and not my life.

I am a sober woman. I live in a humble little house that is wide open - no secrets. People come and go out of my house - my kids, my grandkids, my friends, my sponsees, and now a boyfriend! Although I do make mistakes, it has been years since I have done anything I am ashamed of. If I were looking for revenge (which I am not) I guess I could just say:

Living well is the best revenge.

I can live well today because I am sober and have God in my life.

And I do not have to be defined by my past. I can use it to good purpose, but I am not defined by it.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday in Late Summer

This is the chapel in Vail where I went to Mass on Saturday night. It was very simple, and very beautiful.

I have spent the last two evenings with a sponsee who is having great difficulty surviving her life. It is heartbreaking as I have known her for a very long time and have never seen her like this. Sometimes I wonder if there is any limit to the cruelty we can inflict on one another. She has been on the receiving end for long enough to just about take her out. But she is sober, and she is still alive and trying.

Tonight I will hear the fifth step of another sponsee. It is always an honor to be able to hear a fifth step.

Sometimes sobriety feels like a happy lark, full of laughter and unbearable lightness. Sometimes, like these, it feel infinitely grave, full of life threatening danger. But we walk through both kinds of days, one foot in front of the other. We stay sober.

And when we get to the other side, we say "Whew! Wasn't THAT something?!"

By the grace of God, we stay sober.

Monday, August 22, 2011


A year ago today, I spent in utter despair over an desperately ill alcoholic friend. If you would like, you can read the post from that day here. Today, I attended the meeting where she celebrated one year of sobriety. I actually came back from Vail a day early so that I would be there. I just love this woman and I am so thrilled that she is sober.

When I got to the meeting, I had a bit of a sick feeling. The room was packed. She had flowers and cards. I worry that sometimes we over do these first birthdays. I have seen a few who never came back after that day. I pray she will be there on her 366th day as well as her 365th. Because there will be 24 hours in tomorrow as well as today.

I met with one sponsee this morning and one sponsee tonight. I am so grateful for these women. What an honor it is to be allowed into someone's life to that extent.

Tomorrow I will go back to work. I took today off. It turns out I really needed the day off. I am so sore from that race! And the migraine lingered into this morning. It is now gone, thank God.

So, that's what I have for today. 24 beautiful hours to stay sober in. And I am looking forward to my next 24 hours tomorrow. By the Grace of God I will go to bed sober tonight and wake up sober tomorrow. I hope you all do too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Always glad to be home...

I wish I had waited a moment to pass the "share the road" sign because that wasn't supposed to be the main subject of my picture - but it sure looks like it is.

The race was beautiful this morning. The weather was good, although I did get a sunburn. The course was supposedly "flat" - if that was flat, I would hate to see a hill. It was maybe the most difficult half marathon I have ever done. I spent most of the time along side another woman my age who also agreed it was the hardest half she has ever done. She has done a lot more of them than I have. But it was good.

It was an all-women's event. It was really done well for a "girlie" event - sometimes those are so over the top I can't stand them. I have to say that I had "a moment" when I was crossing the finish line. They had music blasting, and the song playing happened to be "I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor. That song always gets me a little - but to hear it as I was finishing a difficult race made me CRY. Dammit.

A very handsome fireman put my medal on me after I finished - I was beside myself, it was too much! And then I sat with my friends on the lawn in a park. When I realized they were drinking quite a few of the flutes of champagne given to finishers (I took the flute, but not the champagne), I decided to leave.

Yesterday they had asked me to join them in one car as they drove up to Vail. I thought about how much money it would save me, I thought about how much fun it might be. But then I thought about one little rule I have always tried to adhere to in my sobriety - Never Go Somewhere You Can't Leave. And I said I would just drive up myself. Oh, Thank God. I don't know how long they sat there drinking champagne, but I know I would not have liked to have been in the car with them afterward.

As it was, I got to drive home, a sober, happy, tired woman.

When I was on my way, I got a call from the moving company from Iowa, they were on the way to my house with a table and a box of things - from my dad's house. But that's a whole different story... maybe tomorrow.

I'll sleep well tonight, and I hope you all do too.
xxoxoxoxoxo, MC

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day before race day

I'm packing my bags for my trip to Vail today. One of my friends from the running club is meeting me here after her run. She will leave her car and we will head out in mine. We will meet another bunch of us at a mall up in the hills - for some shopping and lunch, and then make our way across the pass to our hotel, race expo, dinner, etc. What fun!

You know, I feel I need to say that I only have my own experience, strength, and hope to share here. I have only my own story. My hope is that my sharing of my own experience, strength, and hope is helpful to you - or someone. But I can't change my story to make it more palatable to anyone.

This post is bringing me down, man. So, I will go paint my toenails blue, to match my running dress, and get ready to get the heck out of here.

Woo Hoo! My 10th (and maybe last?) half marathon tomorrow!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


There are many beautiful things in this world once you stop drinking like a pig and open your eyes.

Today I talked to a couple of friends who told me such beautiful stories, my eyes welled with tears. My friend from Ethiopia who is happily married to a woman who is "strong," he said, strong like his mother. My friend who told me her elderly mother is afraid of leaving her alone when she dies.

I met my new beau for dinner tonight. We both still had our work clothes on. He looked so handsome. And dinner was so nice. And the few sprinkles of rain in the hot, hot evening were so, dare I say, romantic? as he walked me to my car. Oh, it is a lovely, lovely thing.

Tomorrow I will get up early enough to get to the 6:30 meeting because a friend is speaking and he asked me to come. I am so blessed to have friends who care enough to ask me to attend a meeting where they are speaking.

Life is so so so so good. God's grace has no bounds.


I slept until 6:30 this morning - which is just crazy. I don't even sleep that late on the weekends! I am just bone weary. It has been a long summer and I think I am ready for it to be over. I have a race this weekend, and hopefully that will pep me up a bit. I will be staying in a lovely hotel in a lovely Colorado resort town, and that is going to be nice.

I have had every second of my life scheduled for a while now. I don't do well with that. I really need down time. I should have a few seconds to myself this weekend.

I am also super-frustrated because my phone is not working right. My fella called me last night at 8:30, and the phone did not ring. The sound of a voice mail woke me up at 3:00 a.m. This also happened on Friday night. It is very hard to plan to get together when your phone doesn't work. I went to the AT&T store on Saturday and got a new SIM card, thinking maybe that was the problem. It wasn't. One of my friends called last night and she couldn't hear me - I tried to call her back but wasn't able to get a call through at all.

I think it might be worth the penalty to ditch my contract with AT&T and go back to Verizon - I absolutely never had a problem with them in the 15 years I was with them. But then, fickle me, I decided I HAD to have an iPhone and switched to AT&T - just months before Verizon got iPhones.

Sorry for having no coherent message today. I am tired and frustrated. And you know what? The sponsee who calls me a lot always gets through... so I guess that is good. This morning she left in the middle of a meeting to call me. She was whispering.

I am grateful I can be the sober woman on the other end of the phone when it rings. I am grateful I can be relied upon to be me - every single day of my life. That is a good thing.

A few years ago one of my friends said this to me. "Do you know why I absolutely trust you Mary? - Because you are the same person every single time I see you or talk to you." That was high praise indeed.

The Grace of God is seemingly infinite.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Distant Past

My paternal grandmother. She was born in 1883. This is a photo of a photo and the clarity is not good. It is still pretty.

I got a letter in the mail from my brother tonight. I hate to admit that when I saw it, I thought "this can't be good news." But it was, kind of. He sent me photocopies of letters he had gotten back in the early 80s from my uncle. My uncle had done extensive work on our family tree. I had never seen these letters and they had a lot of new information - to me. I found his closing in one of the letters very touching, it said "I remember your mother by name at Mass every day, and in my Office and rosary. She was a wonderful woman." Yes, that's MY mother he's speaking of. Oh, and yes, he was a priest. He died in 1984, a few years after writing these letters.

I often think of this uncle in one-dimensional frames. He was intelligent, talented, prolific, brilliant... but I remember him for the things he did wrong. That is his legacy, unfortunately. Well, maybe not... he wrote some books that have been resurrected on Maybe in time he will be remembered for those books, and not the other stuff. I don't know.

I went back to with the new information I have. I filled in some blanks.

And being an alcoholic who has spent a lot of time thinking about alcoholism, I am struck by something.

Out of all the relatives, on both sides of the family, it appears there was only one line that was alcoholic. On my mother's side, there are prominent citizens, all the way back to the Revolutionary War! On half of my father's side, there are what appear to be good, solid citizens. Veterans of the Civil War, etc. And then there is my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born, the husband of the woman in the photograph. He was a metallurgist and was quite wealthy before the crash of 1929. His family is all "sketchy." They came from England, but scattered to the ends of the earth. His father died in Australia.

I just think it is odd that for all those solid people, I managed to be somehow genetically attracted to the flakey side. Not that they were all that flakey. They were successful, but in weird ways. All of the other grandparents families lived in the same town for generations... not so with this one line. They were all over the place.

Anyway, it is too late to be writing anything. But I had lunch with my daughter today at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant. We splurged and had Vietnamese coffee - and now I am sleepless when I should be sound asleep.

But I am sober. And I will wake tomorrow, no matter how tired, without a hangover. And for that I am eternally grateful. The grace of God is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday a.m.

Did I tell you all that I have a race (half marathon) on Sunday? That it is in a lovely mountain resort town - think Gerald Ford. That it's a girlie race, complete with feather boas, tiaras, and roses? Yes, I am looking forward to this. I am driving up on Saturday and staying in a nice hotel. A bunch of the ladies from the running club are going up, I think we shall have fun.

Do you think some people are just wired to be miserable? I have been working with a woman for maybe 9 months now. She has been sober for more-than-a-few years. She is a very unhappy person. I was terribly depressed for my first quite-a-few years, so I thought I understood. But I am beginning to think I don't. Every thing that I have suggested to her, based on my own experience, has failed to bring her any gratitude or happiness. Not even little glimmers of either. I have gotten so I dread picking up the phone when I see it is her calling. It gets exhausting trying to help her "reframe" things so that she isn't panic stricken, devastated, fearful, and unhappy. We are now meeting once a week and we will get through the twelve steps (not her first time) and I pray it will make a difference in her life.

But it makes me wonder. Even though I have a true case of major depressive disorder, the program of Alcoholics Anonymous enabled me to live happily - most of the time. It is work, because my mind defaults to really unhelpful thinking. But I believe you can train it to get out of that devastating rut. And my own experience is, thanks be to God, that I have been able to do that without the use of medications. I am so grateful for that.

OK, I have got to get out there and do 4 miles before work. What a wonderful thing this is!

Monday, August 15, 2011


My daughter and I made pickles yesterday. It took all day and the end product is 32 jars of garlic dill pickles - some pints, some quarts. My house smells like heaven - dill and garlic. Maybe I just think it smells like heaven because it is a smell of times I have loved in my life. I have loved making pickles, year after year after year. I haven't made them now for I don't know how many years. It is so much work! But with my daughter's help, it was OK. They are my son's favorite... we will mail them to him in a week or so.

It's Monday, I need to be at work by 8, but that won't be happening. I decided that getting a few miles in on the treadmill trumped all this morning. So, I will be there at 8:30 instead. Which is OK. I worry about this, but my bosses don't... I have had three bosses in the last couple of years, and I always have to have this conversation about my hours. "I'm always training for a race, and some days I need to do a lot of miles before I come to work... so some days I am here at 7, and some days I am here at 9 . Is that OK with you?" They all assure me that they know I put in a lot of hours. Maybe it is the alcoholic in me that worries that I am slacking - and everyone knows it!

I haven't been a slacker for a very long time now. And when I look back on my years of active alcoholism, I know that was so much more work than actually doing what I am supposed to be doing. Oh all the time spent on excuses, guilt, rationalizing, lying, and remembering all the lies. It is so so so much easier to be sober and live an honest life.

But I guess you don't know that until you know it.

Thank God I know it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Morning

Someone brought me flowers again last night :-)

This morning I've been to an AA meeting where I got to see a young family man pick up a chip for 9 months. He told the most beautiful story about his 4 year old son. It was something that will stay with me all day. It was so nice to see someone who is staying sober and seeing his life change. What a beautiful thing.

And my daughter is on her way over. We will spend the day making pickles. She thought my son, her brother, in Iraq, would enjoy some of his mother's homemade pickles. She is right. He will. I am glad she thought of it. And I am glad she wants to do this with her mom.

Life is good. Sobriety is good. God has been so kind to me.

xoxoxox, MC

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday Morning

It is the time I am normally getting done with my run and hanging out with my pals. I was looking forward to having the day off, but right now, I miss my normal activity. On the way to the meeting this morning, I saw some friends meeting in the park, in their neon jackets and running shorts, and I felt sad.

It was nice to be at the meeting though. I don't normally get to go to the Saturday morning meeting. I saw some folks I don't see anymore and that was nice. I got to stand outside and talk to a sponsee for a half hour after the meeting and that was also nice.

There were some folks raising their hands at the meeting, as there usually are. I wondered if anyone suggested to them that they not just "keep coming back," but to not drink, ask God for help, get a big book, a sponsor, and get to work. Those things will bring about the psychic change which is necessary if you are to stay sober.

Ah, but what do I know? I am just an old lady sitting in the meeting. Just one sober alcoholic.

Grateful as can be for the Grace of God, because by the Grace of God I get to be sober today. Baking a pie, making iced tea, ironing linens, and getting ready for a wonderful dinner tonight. Oh, it is good.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What a week!

Son of a....

I just hit return and published a post with nothing in it... I have done that before.

This week has been a little bit wild. I have been busy every single minute of every single day. And will have another day just like that today. I am a little bit tired. But I am a lot a bit grateful for a full, sober life.

Since I am no longer training for a marathon, I am now officially tapering for my half-marathon next weekend. It is good when the miles decrease - and I guess that is a good indicator that I am doing the right race. Normally, I would think it is a bad idea for the miles to decrease. I am a bit burnt out on the whole thing right now. Maybe next week's half marathon will re-enthuse me (but I kind of doubt it). But it will be fun - it is in a mountain resort town, and it is an all female race - complete with pink feather boas and tiaras. At the finish, you are presented with a rose and a flute of champagne. I will skip the champagne, and LOVE the rose!

Last night I did one of my favorite activities, only with a new twist. I love to watch TV "together" with someone who is not there. Usually on the phone. But when you are on the phone, you really have to mute the sound and just "watch" and talk. However, last night I watched and listened to the TV and texted comments back and forth with my fella. It was fun.

For now, I am going to the pool to swim a half mile before I go to work. It is good. By the Grace of God, I am a sober, healthy woman who gets to have a full, active life. And that, my friends, is nothing short of miraculous.

"The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that!" -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 153

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Long View

This photo is from the drive on Sunday - obviously at such a low altitude, we were still under the tree line!

I heard an advertisement yet again on the television this morning. It grates on my nerves a little bit more each time I hear it.

He says: "This is not a twelve-step program. This works."

He says: "I know, I was a drug addict for ten years, and now I'm not."

I did a little bit of research on this joint, and they charge $67,000 + a month for their "cure." They frequently need a person to stay longer than a month. The owner of the place states in an interview that people frequently need to mortgage their houses and max out their credit cards, but then they are "cured." But he also states that 30 days of sobriety is a "cure." Interesting. No follow up, no meetings, no help after you are gone. You're just "cured."

I find it irritating because of the people who need help desperately and don't have $134,000. laying around the house and the ability to leave their lives for a month or two may actually believe that "twelve-step programs" don't work. That they either need to cough up this money or die. And our beautiful fellowship does not argue with them. We avoid controversy. We don't express opinions on outside issues.

So, since I am a member of AA, I shan't argue.

But I shall say:

Twelve-step programs do work.
Twelve-step meetings are full of people who are clean and sober (and 30 days is considered kind of new in our world - not cured).
Twelve-step meetings do not cost anything.
You can still keep your job and family and go to meetings and get the help you need.

Sobriety is good. Having a program and fellowship full of people is something I wouldn't miss for the world.

Thanks to the Grace of God.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


Who would believe this photo was taken about 40 miles from my suburban home. Weird.

Do you know what I did one day this week? I noticed my high school yearbook sitting on a book shelf. I picked it up and wondered where all those great looking blonde girls with straight teeth went. Thanks to Facebook, I can now find out things like that. I looked up the homecoming queen, the star of the play, the prom queen, etc... and saw that they got old (and some of them fat) just like me! That was probably evil, but in the scheme of things, not too terribly evil. And it was fun.

I still have a cheesecake in the oven, and therefore cannot go to bed. Tomorrow night is my night to bring dinner for my friend undergoing chemo. We all send out e-mails telling each other what we are bringing so that we don't repeat. I failed to do that last month, and I would like to skip it tomorrow. Everyone else is making all of these uber low fat skinny meals. Oh, not me. My friend is skinny as a rail and needs to gain weight. If I cooked for her every day, and she was able to eat it, she would gain weight like crazy. How can I tell them that I made her corn and chicken chowder (with real cream and butter), will purchase a baguette tomorrow, and obviously, the cheesecake is in the oven.

If I was really sick would I want to eat broccoli and brown rice? I don't think so. But I could be wrong. She loved what I made last month, so I will just keep with the comfort foods. I can't think of a time more appropriate for them.

I'm grateful I get to cook for a friend tonight. I am grateful to have a friend because at the end of my drinking, they were in short supply.

To quote my sponsor: "Life is good on the sober side." I think I shall endeavor to stay there, and I hope you all do too.

On Life's Terms

Unless you have ever found yourself at 14,000 feet elevation, I don't think I could describe the air - the glorious, thin, dry, oxygen-free air. It is a giddy feeling - unless you have hiked to get there.

I am just devoid of ideas this morning. It has been a rough couple of days. But I have to remember that these rough days are because I love people and that can never be bad. My son and daughter-in-law are in pain over friends shot down over the skies of a foreign land. Two of my relatives are waking up in hospital beds this morning, post heart procedures done yesterday. They both are reportedly fine.

And then there is the economy. The last time the stock market tanked like this, we ended up closing half of the hospital. At the last Governing Body, the board seemed to suggest that if times got tough, closing the hospital is on the table.

It seems like a million years ago, I walked into that hospital for my job interview. I decided at that time that if I got the job, I would like to stay there until I retired. When I told that to my boss later, she laughed at me. It is now 17 years later, and I still have the same goal. But it may not come to pass.

I just know that I will be OK. With a diminished 401K, and with diminished many things, it is still OK. I am sober and God is in charge.

"Job or no job - wife or no wife - we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place dependence upon other people ahead of dependence upon God. Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." -- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 98

Monday, August 08, 2011

Driving off the Edge of the World

Yesterday I got to experience a drive on the highest paved road in North America. At over 14,000 ft., it was amazing. I have to tell you, I was terrified. The road is relatively heavily traveled, and it was very dicey when there was a car coming in the other direction - and sometimes a bicyclist on the side (which as you can see, is non-existent) of the road. When we got to the end of the road, we got out of the car and I giggled like a child - before I realized there was very little oxygen in the air. We took photos, and some of them are beautiful. I may post them here this week. But this morning, this photo of driving off the end of the world seemed appropriate.

Today is my son's 35th birthday. I may have been focused on the fact that my kids are now having birthdays that were crises to me at that age. I may have focused on many things prior to yesterday's news. The conversation I had with my daughter-in-law yesterday changed all that, and put things into perspective.

Although the news has told us that helicopter in Afghanistan was full of an elite crew of Navy Seals, there were also other people on that flight - the flight crew - and they are now dead. They were "citizen soldiers" who served along side of my son and daughter-in-law. She lost a friend, and he lost a friend. They are both devastated. My son may be coming home (from Iraq) for his friend's funeral. My son has lost friends in other wars in other places, this is my daughter-in-law's first experience of it.

I remember when my son was born, I would stare into his perfect little face, with his perfect little eyebrows and his perfect long eyelashes, and wonder if he would ever have to go to war. I prayed that by the time he came to manhood, we would somehow get past the need for wars. I am a member of the "vietnam generation," and it never occurred to me that he might actually choose to go to war. But that he did. He left home at 17 to join the Army. By the time he was 20, he was a Veteran of a Foreign War. On his 30th birthday, he was on his way to Iraq. That war changed him. He lost some friends. He got a lot older in one year. But he was relatively unscathed, considering he survived the worst year of that war. Now he is 35, he is in Iraq. His beautiful young wife and baby daughter are here. It just seems to me, in my Pollyanna mind, that he and his wife and baby ought to be together and not mourning the loss of two of their friends. But what do I know?

Today, at this moment, my sister-in-law is undergoing a quadruple bypass surgery. My brother is having a cardiac cath later today. I am praying for both of them. I lit candles at church yesterday.

My heart is heavy this morning.

But I can still place myself in the care of a loving God who has carried me through all of this life... and know that he will lovingly carry me and my loved ones through this time as well.

And I know that a drink is never an answer for me. For an alcoholic, no matter how long sober, this is a miracle. And I am grateful for it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Someone brought me flowers again last night. <3

Today we are heading to a 14,264 foot high mountain. So, maybe this will be my 14er, finally. I never could climb one, although I attempted it twice. I got to around 13,000 feet both times and just had to bag it. Sad. This one has a road all the way to the top, so it is highly likely that I will make it :-)

So, I have a sponsee who is beating herself up without mercy. I talked to her this morning and asked her to please talk about herself like she would talk about someone she loves dearly and doesn't want to hurt. For me, I visualize one of my children. She does not have children, but she loves several of them. This means she cannot say "I am such a mess," "I'm an idiot," I'm stupid," etc. She can say "I am going through a challenging time and I am upset," "I may have made a poor choice," etc. She is going through difficulty, but she is sober - and for an alcoholic to stay sober is a big deal - always. We need to remember this every day. And thank God for it.

I have so many people to pray for today, and although I am sorry for the difficulties that people are facing, I sure am grateful to have so many people to love. My daughter-in-law lost one of her friends in Afghanistan yesterday. She is hurting.

Thank you God I can see outside of the bubble of self today. That truly is by your grace, and not my work.

Friday, August 05, 2011

A rose by any other name...

Is still a rose. And I love me some roses. I have a bunch in bloom again. I picked this one tonight while I was outside taking my laundry off the clothesline. In a few moments, I will put the rose beside the bed, and lay my head down on a clean pillowcase that has dried in the fresh air. There is nothing better. Well, maybe there are a few things better, but this is a pretty good thing.

Tomorrow I shall get up at 3:00 a.m., and drive to meet my running club. I am only doing 10 miles, which sounds like a literal walk in the park. I am looking forward to it. I have done not one mile this week. My foot was swollen from my 19 miler last weekend, plus I have been totally fried on this whole thing. It will be good to get out tomorrow.

I am having a bit of difficulty not getting upset about worldly events. I just had to turn off the news when I heard the latest. I guess I can reiterate the Serenity Prayer and deep down know that no matter what, I will be OK. I always have been. I have been poor before, and it wasn't so bad. Maybe the whole country will be poor, and maybe it will be good for them too. I just wish the politicians who put us in this mess would be getting poor along side us, but they won't. And that kind of rankles.

I don't need to do this tonight. There is a beautiful rose by my bedside, and clean sheets. I am sober, I am healthy, happy, and loved by God and a few of my fellows. It is all good.

"We can believe that God is in His heaven and that He has a purpose for our lives, which will eventually work out as long as we try to live the way we believe He wants us to live. It has been said that we should 'wear the world like a loose garment.' That means that nothing should seriously upset us because we have a deep abiding faith that God will always take care of us. To us that means not to be too upset by the surface wrongness of things, but to feel deeply secure in the fundamental goodness and purpose in the universe." -- Twenty-Four Hours a Day, July 16 Thought for the Day.

Gratitude for Daily Life

I have been thinking a great deal about gratitude lately. Mainly because I have two sponsees in crisis and gratitude seems to be lacking in their lives. I probably could take partial responsibility for that - I guess I should be reminding them every day. But they are both sober over five years and I would expect them to be in the habit of gratitude.

I found my first gratitude list in my old journal from 1984. From my current perspective, it looks like a list of what I thought I should be grateful for. That's OK, it started a habit. I remember a life-changing gratitude list made, at my sponsor's request, when I was sober about two years. My car had just been vandalized, my car stereo stolen. All of my cassettes were stolen as well - with the exception of several Talking Heads tapes. Even the cop agreed that the thief obviously had no taste in music! The sponsor asked me to write a gratitude list. I sat down, really kind of mad at her for suggesting such a thing, and started this list. Here's the gratitude list as I recall it:

my dining room table
my bath tub
my bath tub is built-in, so no one can steal it
I am so easily entertained.

The last item on that list really changed my perspective on life. Prior to that I hadn't realized I really could be happy with simple things. After that, I focused on the simple things that I enjoyed. Focusing on things really does magnify them - joys or problems.

  • Today I do not have a migraine. Praise God. Yesterday I was able to come home and sleep in a cool dark bedroom with a ceiling fan.
  • - I bought a book to listen to while out on my 19 mile run on Saturday, and I have found that I love listening to books - especially this one, Water for Elephants, which I have managed to avoid because I thought it sounded silly and trite. Listening to a book is a good deal when it hurts to open your eyes.
  • I can avoid the temptation to look at my 401K to find out how much money I lost yesterday - because I am sure to lose more today.
  • Today is Friday, I have a list of things to do at work today and if I get them done, it will bring a great deal of satisfaction.
  • Tomorrow is Saturday and I have so many exciting things to do tomorrow, I could barely sleep last night! I have to remind myself that I can only live one day at a time... but it is nice when I have to remind myself of that because I am too excited about things in days to come!
  • God's mercy seems to have no bounds. I have a life today that is a result of His mercy, if I got what I deserved, it would be nothing like this!
  • "ctrl i" will make italics, and I seem to like them today.
Have a nice, sober day everyone. If you are not in the habit, try a little bit of gratitude today. It really makes a difference. (And I think God is partial to people who thank Him regularly)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Migraine and Gratitude

Do you know how difficult it is to transcribe those letters when you have a migraine? I commented on a few blogs this morning and had to do the WV over and over again because I could not get it right.

I have always been afraid I would wake up one morning with a slight memory failure. The memory lost would be all my passwords. I would be able to do nothing. I would not be able to use my computer at work. I would not be able to close my garage door. I would not be able to get any money out of the ATM. I would not even be able to pay my bills! In the good old days, I could use the same password for everything and there was no danger of forgetting. But now, we have strong passwords, that must be changed often... and I have to write them down. There are little post-it notes with strange words on them all over my desks at work and at home - and in my daytimer. If I had that mini-stroke, I would not know which notes belonged where.

I have a friend who had a terrible accident years ago. He had a serious brain injury among other serious injuries. After the accident, his wife stood at his bedside, wondering if he would live. She told me that once she thought he would live, she was worried he would not remember that he is an alcoholic. And that he would not remember the blessings of his sobriety, and what he needed to do each day to keep them. But he did not forget. He is still sober. And he is still grateful, every single day. Every single day he proclaims "This is the best day of my life!!!" And he means it.

I think sometimes we think that gratitude is a feeling. But it isn't. It is an exercise. Those gratitude muscles need to be worked, so they get strong and stay strong. And just like exercise, once we are in the habit, we couldn't consider skipping it. I don't want to skip gratitude. No matter what. Can I be grateful for a migraine? probably.

I think today my life's password will be:
gR8fully s0b^r.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Knock, knock, knock - POLICE!

At 12:50 a.m., I heard quiet men's voices very near my bedroom window. I was just starting to wake up and wonder who and what, when I heard the knocking at my next door neighbor's - and then the shout "Police!" I came to my window and heard their exchange with the girl next door... the girl who now lives alone since her parents have abandoned their house. They were looking for her brother, the young man who was last led away in handcuffs on another sleepless night in June. Do you know how hard it is to go back to sleep after being woken like this? They searched the house but didn't find him. Oh, please dear Lord, let these people move away. I have lost more sleep over this young man than all three of my children, from infancy on, put together.

Last night I had a long telephone conversation with one of my sponsees who absolutely astounded me when she casually threw this little line into a sentence - "the longer I stay sober, the worse my life gets." I asked her if she thought it would get better if she had a drink. She said no, but I wonder how it is that a sober person would say such a thing. And, of course, I asked her.

She is dismayed that she isn't making more money. She is dismayed that her husband doesn't make more money. She is dismayed that her lawn is looking bad. She is dismayed that she doesn't always love the people she works with.

This is a woman who was at death's door 6 years ago. She could no longer WALK. I won't go into more details because I don't have the right to, even though you don't know who I am talking about.

I don't even know how to respond to that, except I am glad we weren't eyeball to eyeball, because I might have taken her by the shoulders and shaken her.

Sobriety is not about having a high-paying job. It is not about having a nice house, car, husband/wife, lawn, and stuff. It is about 1. (NUMBER ONE) staying sober - no matter what. 2. Matching calamity with serenity - that means things don't always go our way, but we learn to deal with life's problems. 3. Trusting God, that he will care for us, and may sometimes take us to places we hadn't wanted or expected. 4. Learning to think of others rather than ourselves. 5. Being grateful for our sobriety because we remember what it was to not be sober. (this list is not necessarily in order)

I could go on and on. But I won't.

I think this sage advice works well for us:
Happiness is not having what you want, it is wanting what you have. (Rabbi Hyman Schachtel)
People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. (Abe Lincoln)
"When a job still looked like a mere means of getting money rather than an opportunity for service, when the acquisition of money for financial independence looked more important than a right dependence upon God, we were still the victims of unreasonable fears. And these were fears which would make a serene and useful existence, at any financial level, quite impossible." -- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 121

I think I am going to make up my mind to be happy today and try to bring what I can to my workplace to make it a better place. God will help me with this, if I ask Him.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

IF you are an alcoholic

You may not get a chance to come back and raise your hand. That is just the truth. AA detractors call that hyperbole. OK. I have been to enough funerals to know it is not. You will note that there is a very important caveat there - IF you are alcoholic. Which, unfortunately, I think is only about 50% of the people regularly attending AA meetings.

When I got sober, I was 32 years old and in pretty good health, except for the damage done by excessive drinking - and a world class case of depression. When they said "to drink is to die," I thought that was a bit of an overstatement, because I was not dying. It took me a while to realize I WAS dying. I was seriously suicidal a LOT of the time. I drove a car drunk every single day of my life. I was doing other things that could easily have gotten me killed. My life was very dangerous and I didn't even know it. A good friend told me that alcoholics of our age were probably not in much danger of dying of cirrhosis, but we were in danger of dying from cars, guns, knives, husbands, wives, etc.

Over the years, I have seen alcoholic friends die of cars, guns, knives, husbands, wives, etc. Plus some pretty obscure physical conditions that would likely not have killed a healthy person. This has given me a pretty healthy respect for the disease of alcoholism. And a sincere desire to do what I can to recover, and to help others to recover from alcoholism.

I hear the cute phrase "we don't shoot our wounded" when a person returns from drinking. That's great. I don't think we should shoot our wounded. But, more importantly, don't you think as a fellowship we should do what we can to prevent our fellows from getting wounded? It may feel good to welcome them back so lovingly... but what are we doing to help them from getting into that position in the first place? And what is the message we are carrying? Keep coming back. Great. Then what? There is NO recovery in keeping coming back. It is meaningless.

IF you are alcoholic, you will likely need to do some stuff to stay sober. It is all detailed in the first 164 pages of the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. A sponsor can help you with it. It WILL keep you sober IF you do it. Not READ it, DO it!

If you are not alcoholic, you can do whatever the hell you want. You can get away with it. You do not have the sword of Damocles hanging over your head like we do. I would ask you to please not "help" real alcoholics though. You do a lot of damage with your watered down program. It does not work for real alcoholics. If someone is telling you that you can customize the program to fit your needs or your beliefs or lack of beliefs, they are lying to you.

Our entire program is summed up nicely in this paragraph on p. 164 of the book of Alcoholics Anonymous:
"Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the Spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny.

May God bless you and keep you -- until then."

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Term "Relapse"

When I lived in Washington, I heard the story of a woman who had been sober for over 30 years. She is now deceased, she died sober. She got sober in the late 50s. Not HER late 50s, but the late 1950s.

She had gone to the same meeting for her entire first year. There were only men at the meeting, but they kindly took her under their wings and treated her just like anyone else who came to the meeting. And she stayed. And got sober. When she was sober for a year, they went "traveling" to a different meeting in another town. (When I lived there we still did that, it was great fun to load everyone up into a couple of cars, vans, SUVs, and head out together.)

When she got to the meeting in the other town, she was terrified by what she heard. They talked about "slips," or drinking again. She had never, in her year of sobriety, heard of such a thing, and it scared her to death! She had gotten the impression that once you got sober, you just stayed sober - no one ever mentioned to her that there was another option. She was scared stiff for a week or so after this meeting, but was able to come to terms with it.

Now we have an entire industry dependent upon alcoholism, addiction, and various and sundry other problems for their daily bread. They have made the term "relapse" more common and acceptable to use when an alcoholic drinks again - I can't speak to the other problems, because I don't have them.

I read the blog of a new guy who is wondering what constitutes a "relapse," is it one drink? Or a full blown binge? Is it a month of drinking day and night? I think it is a reasonable question, but it is unfortunate that the question comes from attending AA meetings. I did a little internet search and learned that "relapse is a part of recovery." Wow. The person who said that obviously (to me) has a financial stake in relapse.

Our original preamble said "the only relief we have to offer is absolute abstinence, the second meaning of AA." Absolute, total, complete. No drinking. If that doesn't appeal to you, you are probably not ready to get sober. If it sounds like heaven on earth, step right up!

Alcoholics Anonymous is for people who want to get sober. They have to make that decision before they get here. We don't convince anyone. Booze does that better than the most eloquent spokesperson. You will note that there is no step that says we wonder if we are alcoholic or if we are really done drinking. That must be done before we start step one. It is the prerequisite.

Let me just state that although many alcoholics do drink again after they come to AA, it is not required. It is entirely possible to come to AA, if you are done drinking, and stay sober, without relapse. Dorothy did it back in 1950-something, and people still do it today. Relapse is NOT part of recovery.

If you want to get sober and stay sober, you can go to meetings where they don't speak of "relapse" as if it were a normal course of events, get a sponsor, and work the steps. Amazingly enough, that all works and people stay sober. Happily sober - because they want to be sober.

I thank God for the divine inspiration of the program. I thank God for the people, the fellowship, of Alcoholics Anonymous. I thank God that I have been set free from the prison of active alcoholism. And set upon a course of recovery. If you are an alcoholic like me, that is a really good deal.