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$20 bags or minibar wine

As my plane landed back in Florida on Sunday afternoon, I was greeted with the news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like every other recovering addict I know, I felt sick. 2.5 million people die each year from a disease that I tend to forget about. Every so often I am slapped back to reality. This was one of those slaps. It was as if someone was grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me, saying,  It doesn’t matter that you have been sober for over 17 years, you are still a drunk and a drug addict. You are one slip away from your kids finding you on the bathroom floor. Even while I write this , days later, I can feel the heaviness on my chest and a lump in my throat.

Later that same day, a friend of mine posted something on Facebook which read:  I’m not sure which is more sad, the death of PSH or the small bottles of wine that I keep for cooking that I can’t stop drinking. I wanted to respond to her that these events are equally devastating, that I understood how she felt, that I had been her. I know what it is like to have no control over the substance I am putting into my body. I have lied, cheated, and stole among many other things to get the next drink or drug. But I didn’t. I didn’t respond. I was tired from my trip. The next day the post was down.

I struggled with reaching out to her. It’s not that she doesn’t know that I am in recovery. Everybody knows I’m in recovery. It’s not that I didn’t want to help, I do. I’m not sure why I hesitated. I think it’s a part of me pretending that I am removed from the messy stuff now. It’s funny that this realization makes me closer to the messiness than ever. I sent a private message and I’m hoping to hear back. Either way, I have put the offer out to her. I hope to be able to tell her that she has a chance at another life if she can stay away from the small bottles one day (or minute) at a time. Because that’s what it feels like sometimes, like a whole other life in the same body. I want to let her know that although life has many challenges, everything is manageable when we give up the drink and the drug. I want to show her that there is a huge support system available 24/7 for the times when the urge is stronger than we are. She doesn’t need to do this alone.

As it says in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous, this disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful. These words are as true to me now as they were the first time I heard them. As a person in recovery, I make choices each day that are either leading me towards a drink or away from one. I am grateful that I have made it through another day and that I have plans tomorrow that will continue to lead me away from taking that first drink or drug.

keep coming back

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In AA gatherings, when someone conveys an air of know-it-all, we often say, “Keep coming back.”  This is meant with love and humor, knowing that the more people come, the more they grow and change.What I thought was truer than true in my first year of sobriety has dramatically changed over time. From my experience, I assume I will have yet another point of view before too long. I have learned to become more patient and tolerant and to become more inclusive. There was a time that I didn’t even want these qualities. I didn’t know this way of life was an option. I listened, though, and kept coming back.

I find this happens in yoga, too. People come into a class with their own ideas of what exercise and fitness is about. They don’t need an instructor to tell them how quickly (or slowly) to move and they certainly don’t want to be told how to breathe, or heaven forbid, sit still for a minute to notice the breath! I love these people because they are me. I am reminded of where I have come from and I want them to keep coming back so that I may witness this journey in others. It is such a beautiful thing. And like the caterpillar, they don’t even know where they are headed or how gorgeous it will be to emerge as the butterfly.

Earlier this week, I had a woman in class who, despite my gentle promptings to slow down, pushed so hard during the first half of the class that she exhausted herself and had to just lay on the mat for the second half of the class. As we were cleaning up, I mentioned that I noticed how hard she was pushing herself. She smiled and said, “I don’t get to exercise during the week, I need to fit everything into this class. But don’t worry, I’m Type A–it’s fine.”

My reply: “Keep coming back.” And I will, too.

Balancing tip–Avocados. Incorporating avocados into my diet has helped me to stay on track. Because they are fatty tasting, avocados seem like a treat. Each serving contains monounsaturated fats (the good kind), vit K, folate, potassium, vit E, lutein, magnesium, vit C, and vit B6. My usual way to eat them is super simple. I cut up a whole avocado into large chunks, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with pink salt, and indulge! You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about avocados at www.avocado.org.

the daily reprieve

With the news of Whitney Houston passing, I am reminded once again of how lucky I am. Addiction knows no boundaries. Color, gender, and creed have no power over the substance. I need this reminder. I am sad about the passing of a woman who clearly found at a young age what she was born to do. For a time, she was an example of how one person could shine so brightly without compromising their dignity. Although I was never a huge fan of Whitney’s, I always appreciated her amazing talent. And as someone who grew up in the 80s, her music is part of the soundtrack to my life. The disease of addiction doesn’t care. It shows no favoritism or partiality. Addiction doesn’t take into consideration a loving family or good job. Left alone, addiction leads to jails, institutions or death. The only escape that has worked for me so far is to not take a drink or a drug, one day at a time, for the past 15 years. It is not a cure. Just a daily reprieve. Alcoholics Anonymous has taught me that I can do anything for one day. This has not always been easy or fun. I wasn’t promised fun. I was promised, if I followed the suggestions, to never again have to feel desperation over a substance controlling my life. That is what I have received.

I remember feeling like I had no options. That people must have been lying when they said they hadn’t had a drink in 5 years. How could that be? Did they ever have fun? There must be something wrong with them. Little did I know just how much was wrong with me. I found in Alcoholics Anonymous what I have never been able to find anywhere else: a community of people who understand who I am and loved me anyway, a group that loved me when I wasn’t able to love myself, strangers that became friends and carried me through the first little while when I didn’t think I could stand on my own. To this day, I count on A.A. to be there when I need them and they have never let me down. I am a little ashamed to say that over the years, I have stopped giving back as much as I did before. I am hoping that in sharing this here, I will be able to possibly plant a seed for someone who may need it. There are always options.

It seems odd to now give a nutritional tip, but here it is: Tip #4-try something new! Next time you are in the produce section, pick up something that you have never tried before. Maybe some kind of squash or different green than you usually buy. We get into habits with our food and there is a whole world of fruits and vegetables waiting to be discovered. It doesn’t matter if you end up liking it or not. The point is to bring awareness to your food choices. Many of us operate on autopilot and miss the magic of appreciating what nature so freely provides.

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