Save Yourself

So I took some flack on my recent post, “Hosting a Pastry Chef: A Silver Lining from my Past.”  A mutual acquaintance of C. contacted me…and quite bluntly, I don’t trust him, or his motives.  C. had even told me in one of our last conversations before he violated his probation and went back to prison, “If he contacts you, just ignore him.  I’m sorry he’s bothering you.”

Well this individual thought my post wasn’t honest in fully disclosing all the details and specifics about my using, and that I was judging C.’s recovery/sobriety.

First, the irony of the two statements was lost on him.  He thought I was judging C’s recovery, and yet then…he turned around and “judged” my recovery.  Enough said.  I have only my HP to answer to.

Second, it was not my intention to make it sound like I was better than C., or less than.  We both are recovering addicts.  Relapse is part of my story.  The bottom line is we only have today.  And that’s enough.  Full stop.  So, if it came across to others as if I was judgmental, let me be clear:  I’m human, C’s human.  I’m not perfect, nor is anyone.  I don’t consider my recovery better (or worse) than anyone’s.  The only standard I have is my own, and I only have today to worry about.  Full stop.

Third, while at this time, I choose not to have this person (or others from my past…) around because of the risk that I will use again, or allow myself to be taken advantage of…that doesn’t mean these guys are bad people, or beyond hope of change.  So the door is always open to reconnection in the future, if I feel that the risk has reached a reasonable point – and that I’m more confident in my recovery and choices.  So, if C. or any others ever read this and wonder “is the door closed?”  — absolutely not.  (Now, I may not choose to let you stay here in the future, based on my experience and self-awareness of what I’m able to handle.  But, that doesn’t mean a friendship is out of line, or that I don’t care and want the best for you.  But, my trust must be earned back through actions…)

Lastly, my post was completely honest.  There was nothing false in any of my statements.  Having said that, I don’t necessarily have to disclose every detail, every timeframe, every nuance for a story to be “truthful.”  There are aspects that are private, that are relevant in other situations or audiences, and again: see the earlier comments.  I have one to answer to: my HP; I do not compare or contrast my recovery to other’s.  It’s not better or worse.  I tried to stay focused on facts, and lessons that I took away from the experience – including especially (his gifts, passions, and things I learned from him.  But the facts also included lies, deception and being taking advantage of (which clearly means that I let myself be taken advantage of).  As my mom always said, “it takes two to pick a fight.”  So, I’m neither blameless, innocent or perfect.  But, this was my story – my insights.  As a friend one shares:

“All of my stories are true, and some of them actually happened.”

The real lesson in these stories (as I share more…) is that I can only save myself.  The Serenity Prayer reminds me:

“grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change (usually other people, places, things…), the courage to change the things I can (me, my actions, my beliefs), and the wisdom to know the difference.”

As I love music and see certain songs as gifts from the Universe to guide me and remind me of experiences, or Truths, let me close with a clip from my friend (!) Garrison Keillor and Suzy Bogguss, a frequent guest on his radio show (and many of her songs have touched and moved me…hmmm).  This goes for C., M., J., G., and others who I’ve tried “to save…”

Hosting a pastry chef: a silver lining from my past

There’s the expression, “if life gives you lemons…”  Well, sometimes the decisions I have made in my past while using drugs or trying to save others in early recovery were more akin to inviting lemons into my house to stay for a while.  And to be accurate, I have at times been under the illusion of doing the latter (saving) while  stuck in the trap of the former (using).  Self-deception is the one of the most dangerous places for this (or any) addict to be…

Let’s just say – I’ve learned my lesson and will not be extending an invitation to “friends” to crash here, recover here, or anything remotely similar.  This needs to be my safe haven, and so far, my ability to help others in my home have been disastrous.

Having said that, I’ve often said “If ever I were to write a book…”  Well, why not share some stories here?!  Because after all, these weren’t bad people…just people making bad choices.  They, like any of us, do have gifts to offer the world.  And in many cases, I’ve learned something from them. As an empath, I’m often been able to see something worth saving, even when they can’t see it for themselves. [Likewise, of course, I can’t see it in myself at times…especially during my own using days.] I’ve often thought – if the world could just see and celebrate your “name his gift,” or “name his passion” or “name his talent”  — there might be hope for them to turn around.  [And in my own dark days…if I could see the same in myself, hope for me to stay true to my path.]

So, here is my…
Silver Lining Series – Story #1.  The Pastry Chef.

When I first met C., he struck me as confident, mature and a “winner” as they say in the rooms…someone who would make it. So years later, when he got out of prison and sought my help in finding support, a healthy living environment, and resources to get back on his feet, I shared as much current information from my network as I could. He seemed to take to it, doing the legwork to connect, get into “rehab,” and find work. As I talked with him, I discovered he was an experienced pastry chef…a baker…and that struck a chord with me. I could see his interest in getting back into that work, in perhaps even starting his own business. The future seemed promising…

C. needed some transitional living (days…) to wait out his intake for a local treatment facility and extended halfway house/program. I invited him I to my home. During his brief time, he and I shared time baking…and he taught me things about quick breads, the “chemistry” behind some baking techniques, and the value,of weighing vs measuring (European vs. American style recipes :). We even took one of my moms ‘s “mainstay” recipes – Banana Bread – and experimented with approaches, ingredients, and technique…literally “benchmarking” my normal way of making it with his “training.” And let me tell you…there IS a marked difference. Hands down, his baseline was better tasting and especially better looking. And then he built on that – adjusted some ingredients, like the sugars, and added a touch of spice…and transformed the recipe to yet another level. Amazing. So I now have a new and improved version on mom’s recipe…a gift from his time and his passion.

For that experience and that gift, I’m grateful…

I hope he makes it. I wish I now had more confidence than hope…as my one boss used to say, hope is not a strategy. Setting aside the spiritual gap in that thinking, there are dark clouds on the horizon…the lemonade is at risk of being spoiled…

I also learned that coupled with his outward confidence and “get go” came compulsive lying, manipulation, and a lack of authenticity. Those are challenging bad traits for anyone to have, but for an addict…they can be deadly. He took advantage of me while also sharing his gifts…and in the end, our friendship crumbled. He was recently re-arrested on violation of his parole, and his back in jail/prison.

Still – he’s not a bad person.  He’s not a liar or manipulator…those are labels I try to avoid (just like “good” or “bad.) Again, he’s just a man making bad choices – and I’ve been there, done that.  It doesn’t make us good or bad people.  But, his behaviors weren’t consistent with his words — and I value honesty and truthfulness in my friendships.

Like many home comers, he’s likely influenced by the “system” and the old habits and people he clung to.  Again, I’ve struggled at times with the same battles…  I’m not judging or condemning him.  In contrast, I’m really trying to celebrate and shine a light on his talents, his passions, and the growth and learning I gained from our time together.  But, he was here for a reason or a season…for now, that season is on pause…hopeful and optimistic pause, but pause nonetheless.

I hope he does make it…because he has much to offer the world. Like we each do…no matter how dark the clouds can get, they should never let us be fooled into believing otherwise.

But I am also reminded of the words of my first sponsor. “Most of us won’t make it.” Many of us won’t?! “No, most of us…”

Here’s to you C. May you find yourself before it’s too late…before this ugly disease takes you out. You’re worth it.

Pray until I’m blue in the face…or…let go!

For most of my early recovery, I’ve “carried a torch” for some close friends and family. I think I’ve shared before in my blog how I’ve carried the burden to pray for them every morning and during every moment of silence. Four are using buddies from my past or from my relapses for whom I carry a particular burden – admittedly, probably a burden of guilt for my part in their relapse or addictive behavior. But, I figured that it was still a good thing to do.  But, I’m coming to realize it might be the right thing, but not for the right reasons.

Last night, I had this dream about one of the friends I pray for who is going through some difficult events in his life, albeit without drinking or drugging.  At the end of the dream, he committed suicide and “seeing” the act of him slitting his wrists woke me up.

I woke up very sad and very scared, in tears.

I started praying for my friend.  That’s all I know how to do.  I realized I’m so helpless.

As I laid in bed pondering the dream, I thought about the topic at tonight’s meeting: surrender. It’s not a sign of weakness like general society would lead me to believe, and like I chose to believe for most of my life. The paradox is we get power when we surrender.

I still wrestle with how I best help a friend in need – a newcomer to recovery – a member of my home group who is struggling. How do I reach out the hand of Recovery without being pushy or co-dependent, working someone else’s program? I’m afraid to get it wrong and hurt someone in the end.

I reflected more on some recent events where my attempts to reach out blew up in my face, causing someone to get angry with me and resentful. As I work through my feelings that come with this rejection, I realize I’m sad at losing a friendship and angry for being misunderstood. But I also realize that at the heart of my reaction is a fear of rejection – a concern or worry about what people think of me.  Which also means that the corollary must be true — I was on some level seeking acceptance, hoping my actions would be appreciated by others and “win me favor” with them.

That tells me my ego is still in the way, still present in my prayers or my actions.  I still think somehow that it’s me…my actions…my words that will make the difference — that I’ll save them!  It’s similar to taking pride in the results of my recovery, somehow thinking that it’s my strength or actions that are getting me through the tough times.

That’s not how this works.

It’s not me.

Sobriety is a gift.

As long as I think it’s me, my ego gets in the way — and yea, I should be afraid! Left to my own devices, I won’t know what to do – I will hurt others – I will make bad decisions for myself because of my illness and addictive mind.

And yet, the true beauty in my recovery is in surrendering.  Letting go.  I’m not responsible for the outcomes — just doing the next right thing for the right reasons.  I’m not responsible for other people’s success or failure — in recovery or anything else for that matter.

I can pray until I’m blue in the face and ask for my Higher Power to help someone find freedom.  But, really in doing so, I’m implying somehow that their Higher Power isn’t already looking out for them and that somehow, my prayers – or my actions – are going to “tip the scales” and make the difference between success and failure, life and death.

So are the prayers for them – or are they really for me?  Am I somehow motivated by guilt because of my part in their story? Or, perhaps by a desire to be in control — to “play God?”

As I prayed and meditated after the dream, I came to a new understanding.  I don’t need to pray for these 6 people by name EVERY day, at EVERY meeting – as I have done, with some (self-centered) (egotistical) pride if I’m completely honest!  In fact, that’s working against what I need – which is to surrender them, to let go — and then to know that my Higher Power is in control.  In that, I can know peace.

It doesn’t mean that prayer doesn’t work or have value.  And it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t reach out the hand of recover when asked. But, as I pray for them today, the motivation is still very self-centered.  If I can learn to let go and surrender, that is where the true power is.

At the heart of this realization is a more profound understanding of surrender and what it means. And, in that growth, I believe I’ve been given permission to turn them over to His care. So with that, I will cease praying for them ’til I’m blue in the face…and let go.

Sobriety is a gift.  It’s not the result of my actions, or my prayers — for me or for anyone else.

What I’m responsible for is doing the next right thing for the right reasons — and letting go of the outcomes. I’m responsible for working on my spiritual condition – my relationship with my Higher Power.  The rest is up to, and because of, Him.