The Best Kind of Before and After

You know that photo? The one you kept because it’s a flattering shot, but you don’t really like looking at it because it also contains memories of hidden but unpleasant emotions? The one in which you’re smiling on the outside but crying on the inside? You know that photo, right? Go get it. (We’ll wait.)

I have a photo like that, too. It was taken on a trip to Catalina Island the year before I quit drinking, around the time that the urge to isolate was becoming overwhelming. We were hosting a number of guests at a happy hour in our condo before taking our convoy of golf carts to town for dinner (visitors drive golf carts, not cars, on Catalina – such a fun vacation spot!). It was the first day of the trip and everyone was excited, and in the photo (below) I am shown raising a glass to our guests.

Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside

Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside

My eyes are hollow in that picture, and behind them is an unhappy person. I want everyone to leave. I am dreading the days ahead with all these people; people I like, people I respect, people I want to hide from. I want to be alone so I can do things my way. This whole week is messing with my routine, my perfect cycle of when and how and why I do everything.

My hair is full, my arm doesn’t show the wobbly bits, and I am wearing that scarf I bought in San Francisco. By all accounts it is a nice enough picture, but it hurts me to look at it. It brings back so much sadness.

So you have your photo, and I have mine, and we agree that it was taken during a time when our outsides did not match our insides.

Now find (or take) another photo, a more recent one that shows how far you’ve come. A clear-eyed picture that represents freedom from that pain. A sober joy photo. A picture of authenticity.  (If you’re tech-savvy enough, spend a moment combining them into a side-by-side image. If you’re old school, a cork board and two pins will work, too.)

Before and After

Keep this before-and-after collage as a reminder of where you came from and why you love your new life. Look back at it when you start to wonder if you could moderate, or when someone asks you if it was “that bad”. Remember that you had the inside knowledge then and you have it now. The rest of the world may say we haven’t changed – they saw us smiling and toasting, they now see us still smiling. But only we know the rest of the story.

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Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

I had a lot of concerns when I quit drinking, and one that loomed largest was falling asleep.

My pattern was to go a hundred miles an hour all day, then skid into home and pour a (fishbowl-sized) glass of wine to relax, a second glass to unwind, one more to ensure a good rest.  Maybe another after that (plus the top-ups in between) because I really really needed to make sure I slept. After all, I had a million things to do the next day! How could I even consider removing that cog from the machine?

I told myself the wine played a key role in my successful routine: wake up, drink coffee, work hard, drink wine, fall asleep, repeat. Honestly, it worked for a while – back when it was only one glass before bed. As years went by it took more and more wine to be effective, until it clearly was no longer a winning cycle.

I clearly needed to make a change but kept asking myself: if I don’t drink, what will happen when I go to bed? I knew instinctively that sleeping pills – or any pills – would not be an option for me. My addictive personality had revealed itself enough to make that obvious. What else was there? How could a warm cup of chamomile tea do the work of several large glasses of wine? It seemed preposterous.

To my enormous surprise and relief, I sleep much better once I quit drinking. There have been occasional sleepless nights caused by stress, by age-related hot flashes and night sweats, and by my monthly migraines – problems that wine would have made worse, not better. In the morning, I was tired but thankfully not hung over.

I have come to realize what was at the core of that old urgency for sleep. I understand now what it was I feared as bedtime drew nearer and I’d reach for another glass and then another. It wasn’t just the dread of “not sleeping”; I feared the quiet moments alone with my thoughts.

As a child I was taught to saw prayers at bedtime. I loved the ritual, the tuck-in and kisses from my mom, the warm feeling that God was happy I’d prayed, the safety and comfort of it all. As I grew older, I learned The Lord’s Prayer and concentrated on each line, reflecting on how it related to events of the day.

I continued this practice into adulthood and the pause after “forgive us our trespasses…” grew longer and longer as it seemed I had a growing list of confessions to make. My feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame grew, and the ritual of bedtime prayers became less comforting. I began to distract myself with busy-ness all day but when it finally fell dark and quiet, I came before God feeling utterly unworthy. I overcompensated with hard work and accomplishments, but it didn’t ease the pain I felt at my core. Bedtime prayers withered into long moments of self-loathing, sometimes hours of silent tears as I revisited failures and weakness from the days, weeks, and years before.

No wonder I dreaded bedtime. No wonder I drank to numb myself.  Wine didn’t help me face God; it let me avoid myself. I learned to drink just enough to shut off my brain seconds before my head hit the pillow. Often it worked. When it didn’t, I had more to feel badly about.

I braced myself for restless nights when stopped drinking, but the relief I felt crawling into bed sober gave me enough peace to fall right asleep. Honestly, recovery can be exhausting at first as the inner dialogue feels like arguing with a toddler for hours on end. (I want a drink! No. I want to drink! No. I waaaaannnnnnaaaaaa. No, no, no!) I was dead tired.

I see that my addiction had hijacked my prayer time as a way to perpetuate my need and reasons to drink. I once again pray at night; sometime it’s as simple as “Thank you.” If I feel myself slipping into a spiral of negative thoughts, I remind myself that it isn’t really prayer. I imagine God face-palming and saying, “This again? I forgave you the first time you asked. Move on!” And I do. I move on. I move on to gratitude, to praying for my kids, to remembering all the small ways I saw God’s goodness that day.

I save my forgiveness requests until daylight, and I trust that once is enough.

Of all the freedoms that recovery has brought into my life, this is one of the greatest. The physical benefits of sleep are tangible and fuel my zest for life. I am no longer afraid of quiet moments with myself. In fact, I now treasure them.

If you need help to redesign your times of reflection, check out “Help Thanks Wow” by Anne Lamott (a wonderful writer whose reflections on life in recovery are powerful and funny).

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The Time Parade of Passing Glances

I used to move through life guarding a secret.

If a stranger locked eyes with me I’d wonder if they saw my soul and knew my shame. Hope would shimmer fleetingly that they might save me from myself, but then some primal reflex would pull my shoulders forward to protect my heart as I escaped.

Later I changed my life and a furtive happiness clung to me.  I feared my fragile self would become visible before its time, so I kept my head down to avoid notice.

Now I am learning to walk in my truth. It’s an oddly freeing, like having empty hands when I’ve left my phone at home, or driving one of those cars that doesn’t need keys to start.

These days I smile at those who meet my gaze. My instincts are outward, not internal. If I see eyes of sadness or shoulders shrouded in shame, I send out kindness.

Don’t worry fellow traveler. I don’t know your secrets but I do see your pain. I see you. I see you and I wish you well.

One day, when age and frailty give weight to my words, may I be so brave as to speak such things aloud. May I have the courage to lay a spotted shaking hand gently on the forearm of a stranger and offer wise words peace and strength.

 

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Sweet Disaster

I should know better.

I’ve been singing the wrong lyrics to “Wildwood Flower” for nearly a decade. I reposted an inspirational quote that gave credit to Russell Brand instead of Gandhi, and made a fine mess of my manicure trying to recreate some “easy” nail art.

Again and again I am reminded that certain corners of the internet are not exactly reliable, and yet I fell victim again last night.

Blame it on the snow, but I felt like baking. And by baking I mean assembling premade ingredients scrounged from my pantry, because (again with the snow) I didn’t want to drive to the grocery store. I recalled some “Almond Roca Bar” thing-er I’d had once that seemed simple enough so I searched online and voila! Recipe downloaded, ingredients gathered. Let the baking begin!

Now the only thing worse than an untested recipe is an untested recipe with substitutions; and whimsical adaptations are a fatal culinary flaw to which I am prone. This is partly because I suffer from Dunning-Kruger effect in the kitchen, and partly because two of our kids have nut allergies. So my interest in converting “Almond Roca Bars” to “Pumpkin Seed Roca” is understandable, although I admit it doesn’t have quite the same mouth-watering ring to it.

I boiled together butter and brown sugar, thinking that nothing could ever go wrong with those two ingredients involved. Pouring it over the graham crackers in the pan was a bit alarming, since there was so much liquid the crackers began bobbing and dipping like drowning sailors, but I quickly doused them with handfuls of pumpkin seeds (measuring is for babies!).  The whole thing looked a bit suspect, but I was undaunted.

“Almond Roca has chocolate, too.” I said knowingly to my daughter-in-law, who was watching with skeptical concern. “I’m going to sprinkle a handful of chocolate chips on top.”  Then, getting my money’s worth from the cable bill, I finished with a flourishing move I learned from The Food Network: course sea salt, poured into one hand and sprinkled with the other from high above, like blessed pixie dust.

I popped it all into the oven and began anticipating my family’s ardor. The baking was done just in time for The Bubble Hour – recorded live via the standing Sunday night phone call I take in my upstairs office – but the squares needed to harden for a few moments. I didn’t have time to serve it myself and would miss witnessing the delighted reactions of my family to this decadent treat.

“Go ahead and help yourselves once it’s cooled, but save me a piece!” I instructed, confident that they’d eat the whole pan if I didn’t remind them otherwise.

After taping the episode (fraught with technical problems by the way  - please hang in there past my opening gaffes and you’ll hear some amazing guests share strategies on surviving the holiday season), I descended to find half the pan untouched.

“It was a little sweet,” they said, each chiming in with further descriptions.  “And gooey.” “Messy!” “Crumbly.”

I looked at the sugary jumble in the pan. There was no resemblance to the glistening bars I was originally inspired by. I racked my brain. When had I originally eaten those? Who had made them? Ah, my sister – the one who makes hand-dipped chocolates. I could suddenly picture an old recipe in her handwriting, and wondered if it might be filed in my blue-with-ducks recipe box (circa  1989 bridal shower).

Soon I was holding the original (delicious) recipe and comparing it to the offending downloaded version. (In no way did I consider my own adaptations could have been the problem – clearly the issue was fundamental and not a simple matter of embellishments.)

My sister’s recipe used twice the amount of cracker crust and half the butter and sugar, a combination that (as I recall) resulted in crisp squares with a thin glaze of sweet crunch. My pan was essentially lumpy fudge best eaten in small quantities with a spoon. Utter failure.

Uneaten Pumpkin Seed Roca Glop and the long forgotten recipe I should have used

Uneaten Pumpkin Seed Roca Glop and the long forgotten recipe I should have used

There are so many lessons here. Don’t go looking online for what you already have at home. Trust your sister more than some stranger. Take ownership of your mistakes. Measure and be sure. Easy does it.

Certainly as a person in recovery who had to quit drinking wine because there was never enough, I should well know that “more is not better”.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, dear readers.

Meanwhile, I’ll be searching for ways to repurpose this glop. Perhaps if I add some oatmeal it will suffice as topping for a nice apple crumble. At any rate, this time I’ll call my mother for advice.

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The Ass Cramp Epiphany

Major ass cramp yesterday.

The Mister and I hopped into our old pick up and headed to our ski cabin to check on the renovations. A nice Saturday drive, plus I’d negotiated a stop for cheeseburgers on the way out of town. We were about to pull onto the highway when I got a call from one of our boys.

“Hey, I have the day off work,” he said. “Are you and Dad up to anything interesting?” My heart swelled with joy to know that my 20-year-old son wanted to hang out with us on his day off.

“We are about to hit McDonalds and go check on the cabin. Want to ride along? We’ll buy you lunch.”

“Definitely!” he said and I turned to my husband. “Things are going to be squishier than expected but the good news is that our kid wants to come with us.”

As we detoured to pick him up I rearranged my belongs in the confines of the pickup and slid to the centre spot, propping my feet onto the raised hump of the floor. Suddenly my purse seemed unnecessary – why did I bring that and why is it so huge? The only place for it was between my feet. (Thank heavens the truck isn’t a stick shift!) My clip board and paint samples were essential and must not get dirty, so I perched them carefully against my leg. My knees were just below my eyes, but it was the only option to create space for a third passenger. Discomfort was overshadowed by the pleasure of my son’s company.

Soon the drive-thru presented additional challenges, as balancing lunch is near impossible when one’s legs are at a 75 degree angle. Again, I focused on the delights of a junk-food treat and ignored the alarming messages coming from my torso and legs.

Everything’s fine, I’m okay! I have a cheeseburger, the Mister on my left and my son on my right. The sun is shining and we are driving to the mountains to check out this great project. I can manage. Pain began announcing itself but I had to ignore it. We had a lovely trip otherwise, all four hours of it.

Once back home, both fellows jumped out of the truck but I remained stuck. With my legs still folded into an unnatural position, I rolled sideways onto the seat and slowly extended my feet forward. I was well aware that this was a less-than-attractive move but I had no choice. I was the Tin Man in need of oil. I wiggled and shimmied off the bench seat and out of the door, praying my legs would hold me upright once I hit the ground.

“Everythings fine! I’m okay!” I chirped with relief as I landed, but the others were already walking away.

“Remember to lock it” my husband offered over his shoulder, a necessary reminder because I always forget that this base-model pickup has manual locks and have left the passenger door open more times than I can count.

As the evening rolled around I developed the deadened pain of the dreaded Ass-Cramp Hangover (a.k.a. ACH). ACH isn’t officially listed on webMD or the Mayo Clinic site, but I know from experience that it is a debilitating condition.

While watching tv, I couldn’t tolerate another moment of discomfort and jumped up. I threw myself forward at the waist and dangled my torso, feeling a sweet release as muscles pull out of their knotted grip down my back and behind my legs.

‘OH MY GOD!” I shouted alarmingly. “THIS FEELS FUCKING FANTASTIC!!”

My husband tossed me a deadpan gaze. Does anything surprise him?

“Oh  God, oooooooh God,” I moaned almost sensually. “Oh this iiiiiiiiis incredible.” He continued to stare with growing interest – who could blame him? I was putting on quite a show. Good thing our son had gone home.

I leaned further forward and put my palms flat on the floor in an awkward grandma version of downward dog.

“Get over here and DO this!” I commanded. “You can’t believe how good it feels. Seriously,’ I gushed, “when was the last time you even touched your toes? It’s wonderful! You’ve GOT to DO this!”

It occurs to me now that an upside down pose can’t be attractive for my aging face, even when flush with near-orgasmic pleasure. My sparkling eyes may have looked dangerous from his vantage point.

The Mister responded from the sofa with one word: “Nope.”

What a metaphor for life. We contort ourselves painfully to endure situations that legitimately justify discomfort.  It can take all forms: The hated job that pays well; the rude relative that mustn’t be offended; the convenient coffee shop that never gets orders right.  The older we get the higher the stakes, and the more accepting we become of inevitable pain. When we move in opposition to discomfort, the relief is so joyous we want to share it with everyone.

(Join my church! Join my recovery program! Try these vitamins! Meditate! Pray! Floss! Buy these moistened butt wipes! )

But seriously, when is the last time you touched your toes? What everyday childhood pleasures have been forgotten, and what is stopping you from enjoying them right now? When was the last time you looked for shapes in the clouds or broke into a skipping trot?

I urge you, I dare you.

Take a moment in the shower to pull your lathered hair up to a point above your head. Peek into the mirror and see how it looks.

Stick a straw into chocolate milk and blow some bubbles. (For that matter, when did you last order  chocolate milk?)

Buy yourself a KinderSurprise at the market checkout (American friends, you might have to Google that – I hear rumours you’re deprived.)

Twirl until you’re dizzy, hop up the stairs like a bunny, do ten jumping jacks in the kitchen.

Jumping, hopping, and being goofy feel good in a way we have forgotten to enjoy. I guarantee every one of these things will make you smile. Avoid that zany “look at me having fun!” mode just do it for your own pleasure. Say hello to those primitive impulses you stuffed down during adolescence as you tried to appear “grown up”; go back when you felt fully safe to be yourself.

Because oddly enough, everything I have learned about being an authentic person involves stripping away the layers of protection I built around my younger self. I stopped doing things that felt good and made me happy because I worried what others would think.

We can’t stop life from giving us ass-cramps, and life shouldn’t keep us from rediscovering the simplest of joyful remedies.

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Does Brene Brown Flip Off Roosevelt?

I shouted for joy the day O Magazine announced Brene Brown as a regular contributor. Dr. Brown has become a household name in my recovery community, where her shame research, approachable writing, and presentations have connected deeply with a population that knows shame all too well. Yet her work is intended for everyone and to land a gig with Oprah means her message will reach most of the planet.

Shame is pervasive and Brown has opened a topic for conversation that needed air, one that stays hidden by virtue of its own existence. To expose it as a common experience with predictable origins, patterns and outcomes is a gift. Brown’s work gave me insights I could never have achieved on my own because I was too busy protecting and denying parts of myself deemed too humiliating and disgraceful to acknowledge. I was too ashamed of my shame to speak of it, but Brown did that for me.

Of the stacks of books I read and reread to inform my self-managed journey, Brene Brown’s “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)” is by far the most resonate. Her phrases have become woven into my own vernacular and turn up here in my writing; shame identity, resiliency, vulnerability.

Brown’s array of work has not only given new insights, she has reminded us of solid existing wisdom and added a fresh take on old gems. Take, for example, Roosevelt’s famous “Citizenship in a Republic” quote (more commonly referred to as “Man in the Arena”) which has long been a staple of graduation ceremonies and locker room rallies:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

The speech from which this passage was taken is a full 35 pages long and written over 100 years ago. Roosevelt’s audience was a large group of scholars, court ministers, and military officers (therefore, mostly powerful males) at the University of France in 1910 and his message was one of nation-building. Women did not even have the right to vote at this time, so it is safe to presume that Roosevelt was not overly concerned with their interpretation at any rate.

That Brown should resurrect this gem as a battle cry for women seeking personal empowerment is both forgiving and defiant. Certainly Roosevelt would be surprised to know that a century later his “Man in the Arena” imagery be given new life in a world so utterly changed that women are not only powerful, bur also free to challenge conventional thinking and stigmas.

Regardless of back story, we are reminded that to live an examined life, to be willing to address and correct problems – be they addiction, disordered behaviour, unhealthy personal relationships, or other outcomes of our maladaptive coping strategies –   is to be “in the arena”. Better to struggle and fail than to be the critical bystander.

This is at the heart of so many struggles for us in recovery. What will others think? How will I fit in? Who will understand me?

How many of have said this in early recovery: “I don’t want to be like other alcoholics – they’re losers, I’m not.” Guess what? That’s the sentiment of the critic in the stands. The minute we get honest and start working on ourselves we are in the ring, shoulder to shoulder with others who look a whole lot more like us once we view them up close.

Reading Brene Brown’s work felt like a series of fireworks for me, as one new insight after another exploded into my understanding. Just as she dusted off a hundred year old speech and gave it relevance, she also gave me tools to see that long-standing beliefs I held about myself as “true” we really seeds planted by someone else’s words and behaviours. Her work not only helped me identify the origins of these beliefs, but also powerful tools to change them.

In case you have had your head down and so far missed hearing about this amazing scholar and her brilliant work, here is a teaser – the TED talk that started it all, “The Power of Vulnerability”:

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en

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Confronting Fears: Is My Secret Out?

Walking into a crowded room has always made me feel self-conscious; doubly so when that room is full of business acquaintances, competitors, customers, professional associates, old classmates and a sprinkling of new faces. In this small city, most any event is comprised of such a mix. No one is ever anonymous here.

Where to start? Whom to greet first? Do I laser in on the individual I’m speaking to, or break eye contact to acknowledge each person that passes by and pats my arm, nods, or waves from across the room? How do I prioritize the people I do want to connect with and avoid the ones I detest?

My strategy in the face of social anxiety has always been to dress sharp, wear heels and stand tall, move with as much physical grace as possible, and pretend that my insides match my outsides. This winning combination has gotten me through everything from high school dances to charity galas to block parties; however in the past I also had the help of a glass or two of wine to pass the evening (and more at home afterward to restore calm). Now with several years of sobriety under my belt, I must rely fully on myself and manage differently.

Last night my husband and I attended an annual industry event, a scene in which I once figured prominently but stepped back from last year.  The group hosts monthly dinner meetings and we were faithful participants for twenty years. Apparently, our absence has been noted because walking in last night caused a mild flurry of attention.

Note: Attention is the enemy of the socially anxious so if it must be endured, I do everything possible to ensure it is of the positive variety – hence the focus on appearance and poise.

Further note: I just realized that the word “poise” is now somewhat tarnished by the bladder control product of that name. My computer suggests alternatives are “composure,”  “dignity,” and “self-assurance”.

The first person I greeted was a city politician. I said a warm hello and extended my hand (firm handshake = confidence) but he waved it away, saying, “Give me a hug! It’s great to see you here!” (Uh, okay. A hug? At a business event?) It wasn’t a creepy hug, it was a happy, kind one but it threw me nevertheless.  He asked how I am keeping (great, thanks). Then he tilted his head and asked with sincerity, “Everything okay?” I literally took a step back and tilted my own head in return. “Yes…wonderful.” “Yes…?” “Yes.” After a brief pause, we exchanged have-a-great-evening‘s and backed ourselves out of an odd moment.

I spotted my husband chatting at the cash bar and headed in his direction. (Bee-lines are another tool in the belts of the socially anxious.) He handed me a glass and whispered, “Tonic and cranberry. I watched the bartender make it.” (I love this man. He knows I am cautious to accept a drink I haven’t seen poured in case it contains alcohol.) We chatted and greeted and worked the room; it gets easier as I get into the groove. By the time we sat at our table, I’d gushed, “Hi! How are YOU?” “Good to SEE you!” “Hel-LO!” at least 25 times and was noticing something unusual. People seemed to be responding, “How ARE you?” with a strange inflection. Also a lot of, “How are things?”; innocuous words usually but again, was I hearing a certain tone?

Gah, I’m too sensitive. Or am I? My husband had coffee the day before with a supplier who told him there were rumours about us, presumably related to our recent down-sizing. My husband responded, “If I had a big ego I’d probably care what people say” and changed the subject. (Again, how I love that man!)

I count on him to keep me grounded, so during dinner I quietly asked him, “Are you noticing something weird here?” “Yes definitely,” he said, winking. Just then yet another person approached us, squatting awkwardly between our chairs and gripping our shoulders for balance. “Good to see you two. How ARE you? How are THINGS?”

My head spun momentarily. Have they found out about my blog, my alter-ego UnPickled? Is word circulating that I am sober, and did the boring truth get stretched and embellished? Do they think that being lower-profile is out of shame and not by choice? Do they imagine it was me and not the market that caused a change in our business plan? Have they concocted a “rock bottom” scenario that is completely opposite to my experience? Do they even care about the truth? Do they realize my sobriety is nothing new, that it’s been years now?

I sat back and looked around the room. Instead of seeing faces, I saw lives that have been intertwined with mine in various ways for decades. I saw men who, over the years, had left their wives for a woman at work. One, two, three of them; all within sight, all of them single again after their new relationships ended badly. I saw a competitor whose most senior employee had recently jumped ship – in fact, yes – there he was sitting with his new employer. (Ouch, what a betrayal.)  I saw another competitor’s GM who is obviously disguising a baby bump, confirming gossip I’d heard weeks earlier. (She will be hard to replace! They’re seriously so screwed!)

We’ve all taken our turns being the story of the moment. As casual observers of each others’ lives, we feel just familiar enough to guess the details when short on actual facts. Soon enough someone else becomes more interesting and attention shifts en masse.

I smiled to myself, realizing this new understanding represents enormous growth for me. I don’t need to suss out rumours, control the message, or announce my truth. Time will show that our business changes were savvy, our lives are happy, and that we are just passing through a transition stage as time marches on.

Funny thing. I felt the strain to which I am so accustomed to in those dinner meetings lift from my chest. I felt myself morphing into the wise matriarch of business and family and yes, even felt a sense of maternal affection for the people in that room.

I am slowly trading my false armor for authenticity, a much more resilient garment. It still feels novel, though, and I’m often surprised to discover it’s there – like looking for the glasses I’m already wearing or trying to find the keys that are right in my very own hand.

I have dreaded for years the titillation that knowledge of my secret recovery journey might cause among this crowd. Last night I faced the possibility that the word was out, and calmly responded with compassion.

Why compassion? Because I realized that this group will need some time to catch up to a “new normal” that I myself took years to accept. Whatever they have heard, clearly it has exposed a gap between the utterly competent and admirable “outside” image I’d created and the human reality underneath. Whether they respond with pity or glee is reflective of their characters, not mine.  I’ve been just as guilty of spreading gossip-as-news; and sadly realize that I wasn’t always kind. I’m learning. They’re learning. We are all just moving through life.

I am curious to see how the next event goes. Will walking in become easier for me? Will I be greeted with regular how-are-ya’s instead of the head-tilted-how-ARE-you’s? Perhaps by next month the focus will have shifted to that baby bump across the room; surely by then it will be too big to hide.

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