Smoking Open Lights

20190223_145531 9I’ve just realized that I’ve made it for ten years without smoking tobacco or any other substance this past month. I used to count them, but this year it somehow crept up on my unexpectedly.

I most likely wouldn’t be able to come to not smoking at all if thirteen years and nine months ago I didn’t make a conscious decision to quit… drinking. Weird? No anymore, not to me anyway.

I came to the recovery fellowship and I’ve learned plenty of skills. As the result, I’ve quit drinking which would not work if I didn’t acquire a certain program of thinking and being, a life style that pushed for a healthier life in spirit, body, and mind. Thanks to that, I managed to see clearer some other unhealthy things that I did in my life, behaviors that didn’t help, such as isolating and judging others. A couple years after, “doing” the Steps, I came to the realization that I could quit smoking cigarettes with the help of the Steps wisdom since nothing else worked. This worked out successfully, as some other things. Some didn’t, but that’s life. I keep trying and among other things, I keep saying “thank you” when things work out, whether it is small or large.

“Thank you” is something so easily said, as well as “sorry” or “how are you”, and I think often we don’t really think about it, as we say it to others, or when they say it to us. I try to think about it lately, though. There are lots of things to be grateful for, even if life is not working the way I would prefer it did.

In the Fellowship I was taught to be grateful for every day. It worked when I tried it in my morning prayer. Yet I still resisted being grateful throughout the day. I was happy for sobriety yet I often resented people around me. My first couple years in sobriety were of solid sobriety but at times I felt miserable, because… well, I don’t really know why, but I think I was not there spiritually as much as I could have been. What I decided I’d start doing is saying thank you to people who did the jobs that I knew I would never do successfully. They did their service and I paid for it and I’d say thank you. Within less than ten days my outlook on life started changing for the better.

Soon after that I started working at a homeless shelter. There I met people who were angry about everything, dissatisfied with anything, and it used to distress me, but with time I learned to think they were not having a good day lifetime long. There were also people who woke up and said thank you to anything, to every little thing others did for them. I felt connected to these people, and years later I wrote a novella about that spirit of open-mindedness and gratitude for life.

I don’t think I’d be able to come this far in life and doing reasonably well if I didn’t push myself out of the dark room and allowed myself to have a different life. I used to isolate so much I’ve become a professional isolationist and procrastinator with a diploma hanging on the wall. Even in an active community of recovery with so many things happening, with so much positivity and vigor one can still live a stagnant life. I could have easily slipped through the cracks in these rooms if it wasn’t for the man named Ted. He not only welcomed me into recovery, he also gave me a good kick in the butt to live my recovery actively, and he did it with a cheer and I appreciated that. Years later our paths separated due to disagreements which is still upsetting to me, but I hope he is doing good and maybe one day we will be talking again.

Ted had a vibe full of life, and that vibe infected me, wanting more of life than just living sober. It brought forth the fruits of labor that was sober living, joyful life of recovery that keeps going on, like a wheel turning. There are many people in rooms of sobriety that I’ve met over the years. I am grateful to them all and I hope many others that are in need of help will be able to open their spirits to gratitude and trust to the world wide fellowship of AA and as the result will heal and expand their lives for much better than they ever knew was possible.

instead of a diploma, enjoy the front image that was taken by me. the punctuation (or the lack there of) game made me capture the sign and then inspired me to write this. so, thank you to whoever designed the sign ignoring the (un)holy laws of English punctuation and those who put the sign up.

The Bumpy Ride

linearHe walked out of the dark room too fast for his own good

And he walked into a wall that I couldn’t believe he couldn’t see.

He walked too fast so on the way he tripped and fell, and he kept crying that his knee hurt

How I resented him!

After all the talk, all the teachings, he still kept doing some strange, unimaginable crap

That was not in the plan.

Years passed, as I watched those like him, failing miserably,

Until I realized that the plan I expected them to succeed accordingly

Was mine, not theirs.

Their lives were theirs, not mine, and such were the expectations.

Everybody’s got their own journey,

And the journey of recovery is not a straight line.

There should be signs all over the place along the track of recovery:

“Expects bumps, setbacks, and redirections!”

Some truly unpredictable situations can happen on the way,

Because life happens.

Sometimes the elevator breaks, and you have to take the stairs to the next level.

Yet though climbing up is exhausting,

We can focus on the idea

That recovery is a road

To pursue a life of fulfillment and hope

And it is worth fighting for no matter how bad the setbacks may seem.

Recovery is not a condition of being healed.

It’s a movement from A to Z and it is truly your own.

I try so hard to remember this when I look at them now

For I remember how I walked and how I fell, and that sometimes

It took a while to get up and walk straight.

I didn’t get all the lessons right away,

But eventually I worked out a plan that suits my journey,

More realistic, and more successful.

I try not to judge them on their success or lack thereof

Because their life and progress

Is none of my business,

For what can I know

Of where they came from and of the depths of their pain?

All I know is my own wounds

And how to tend to them,

No matter how bumpy is the ride.

the image was copied from thank you.

Yes, You Can Write

painFor me writing is like breathing air, just as vital. I started writing stories, poems, connected ideas in my early teens and never stopped.

Also, writing became as easy as breathing air, although I don’t think I took it for granted, because I was always dedicated and practiced writing endlessly. No, I haven’t mastered it, and I still haven’t written a bestseller, but words are laid out easier these days, and ideas come out clearer with less effort. So, if I am asked if I write well, I answer that it’s up to them to decide, but it goes well, and it goes effortless more often than not (I better not jinx myself here).

Having said that now, I must admit I’ve met quite a bit of people who said they cannot write. Cannot write for the life of them. I met the majority of these people in recovery program where I was the counselor and they were the clients, and the conversations were about writing down thoughts, frustrations, resentments, and keeping a diary. I pressed on the importance of letting out the negative, the overbearing and lasting sorrow, as well as desires, ambitions, unrealized plans, and hopes for the future. I suggested to submit all these to paper. I urged my clients to write and keep the positives, to jot down and save the negatives that are good to refer to and compare “then and now” experiences to witness the progress of recovery. I proposed putting down particularly nasty ideas that they’d want to say to others and after all was written down, destroy it so it would be out of mind, out of sight, and out of the room.

And they just wouldn’t do it. They said they would try. They wrote down relapse prevention plans OK, but they wouldn’t write down a diary or destructible material. Because they couldn’t write.

Which struck me as odd. Granted, some people don’t get enough schooling for whatever reason, and then whatever education they did get, they didn’t have a chance to practice it. But people who did get it, they wouldn’t give it a try either.

I carried that in my head for a while, as one of the usual wonders. And I still kept meeting people in recovery, at work or not, that said they couldn’t write like me, although they never read whatever I wrote, because I am really not that famous yet : ) To me, writing is just… what? You take a pen and start jotting stuff down. OK, these days most people type. No problem. You type, adding a word to a word, because you still have to get your resumes and shopping lists done, right? So, you can do that. You come up with an idea, and you just follow up with it, one thought clings to the other, and the tale of whatever you want to discover starts unfolding. It may take you half hour or three days, but something comes out on the paper, or on a digital document from under your fingers and there you go. How hard can that be, I mused, no matter what you write, an essay, a poem, a ten-sentence summary of your life?

And then I had a conversation with a person who had to confirm that all the people I talked to about writing were in recovery from substance abuse and addiction. And she pointed out that people who go through recovery are not there because their life was so great and she reminded me how much does that have to do with childhood and teen trauma. This person said that people who are enslaved by addictive and destructive behavior most likely were talked down to, get bullied, so often in the family when they were young. Statistics prove that. These people were told they (or sometimes they wrongly perceived the message) that they are worthless, dumb, and good for nothing. Many of them would have witnessed terrible and nasty things happened to their family and/or they were taken away from their families. They wouldn’t do good in school, in relationships, at work, etc. How often would they blame themselves to be the reason of what was happening to them? What kind of understanding of self could they get out of that? Whatever skills and talents they may have acquired through the years, they may have given up on them. And if they never were encouraged to seek and develop such skills, they would never come to see themselves as good at anything, including writing down a ten-sentence summary of their life.

I thought about that, how lucky I was to have a better life and being able to put my ideas on something where I can keep them and make sense of my world through doing so. Was I taking things for granted until now?

At least now I think I can understand people a little bit better. And yes, I will still encourage them to write.

the front image was copied from thank you.


life startsThe whiskey I quite liked in high school was called Teacher’s. I only tried it twice, but somehow developed love for it, and the memory of that affection somehow remained for two decades. In them days when the cult of Teacher’s whiskey stood strong, I didn’t like teachers, or instructors, or professors. I couldn’t stand school and classes. I was pretty much forced to go to college right after school so that I would avoid serving in the army.

When I’ve quit drinking, I’ve realized studying was becoming easier. I’ve developed more interest in subjects I was studying, and I started having more conversations with my instructors, and hey, I started liking the teachers a bit more.

The more I went through the recovery and life alongside it, the more I was becoming teachable. And that doesn’t mean I was taking shit from those who cared to give it. I’ve learned to listen and keep listening even if I felt like I really had to say something, to support or to oppose the speaker’s point of view. I’ve learned to retain and analyze what I heard or read, and to recall situations that may have had something to do with what I’ve just learned. I’d see the patterns between the past and the present, and if it called for it, I’ve allowed myself and often forced myself to learn from the mistakes I’ve made.

I would never have stayed sober even for a year, hell, for a month, if I didn’t listen to a group of strangers in the strange room one summer evening. They taught me something that I’ve never considered would work. I had nothing better to propose, so I pondered the lesson they taught me and took it to heart to act on it. What followed was the path of hard work of changing my lifestyle and attitude to the world around me, but with that I’ve acquired freedom and true joy from living that I didn’t have much of prior to that.

After I graduated with the three-year college degree that thanks to my alcoholic adventures took ten years to receive, I went to school two more times and the last time I somehow managed to graduate with honors. I am still amazed by that one. But I kept learning outside of school as well. I learned from the things the strangers kept speaking in the recovery meetings.

One day I learned about creating a healthy routine that started with making your bed every morning. Having that done would mark one accomplishment on the map of the day even when I really didn’t want to go and get things happening. I proceeded with creating more of a healthy routine and that keeps me in check and my mind clear.

Another day I was walking my dog in the neighborhood by a wall with a graffiti on it that said “Life Starts When You Say Yes.” I will be honest, I resented that one. It was in bright colors and it read too optimistic even for my liking, like a person who smiles all the time to the pointed you’re considering punching them in the teeth. Yet the more I passed by that graffiti, the more I pondered the message. I realized that it rang very true in almost everything in my life. I’d see a challenge, either stumble on it or see it passing by, and when I accepted it, interesting and positive things started happening. So today I’m writing about it. I must have allowed myself to accept being teachable one more time.

The message is kind of smells of making a new year’s resolution and I’m not making one, haha. But I think what I’m doing is I’m giving myself a very feeble promise to keep trying new things when I face them. New stuff, different things, man, I can’t stand that. Something in me just revolts in situations like that. But… It’s like you’re in a training for work with a bunch of people most of whom you don’t know and then they ask you to join in groups and discuss stuff at hand, and write stuff down on posters. Each time that moment comes, I hate it. And yet when we do get in groups and share experience and possibilities, it almost always comes to interesting ideas and good conversations. I should remember that.

Sometimes I feel like I have grown into an old and conservative fellow. But I remind myself that I can be teachable when I want to, and sometimes I really have to be teachable when I don’t want to. The last time I did that, the universe has saved and changed my life for the better (see the written ramble above). So I gonna keep trying to say “yes” more often than in the past.

the rights for the artwork in the provided image belong to the unknown street artist. thank you.

Veiled Opportunities

notexitThere are all these signs. On the walls, on buses, on TV, in the papers. Some good ones, some better ones, some crappy and misleading. And many deep ones, many that make you think and wonder. I saw a new one at the work place weeks back.

“Things don’t happen to you. Things happen for you.”

Talk about deep ones, hey. How does that wise vase work?

Crap happens. Loss takes over. Tragedies crawl in and linger. Abuse of all that feels good and/or should stand strong and untouched breaks through and demoralizes. The dark suffocates the light and there seems to be either no end of misery or no sense of why would it ever happen, whether to the good people, or to the people in general.

Really, why? Well, hell knows, someone would say. Shit just happens. Or…

One very smart, but not very happy German said once “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Then a fictional villain extraordinaire paraphrased: “what doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger.” But whoever posted the “happen for you” sign was way ahead of these two, or simply learned from them. Isn’t it more smart to be positive about things that wallow in infinite grieving and self-pity? Yes, grieving is important, but to keep swimming in the black lake, never allowing yourself to come on shore? I don’t think so.

So… things don’t happen to you. OK, I understand that some things do happen to you, disasters and death of loves ones, that seems too much and too great to see anything positive in, but still… things happen for you. To overcome. To learn something. Maybe not right away, because the pain is too much. Yet still, you and I and them, we learn how not to give up, how to stay on and not exit, how to cope, and a mass of time may pass and then we look back…

Yes, we look back and we see the wisdom, sometimes harsh truth, but if we take it for what we saw it before, that sharp punch of doom that knows no mercy, then we will learn nothing but that gods hate us. And if we did try to overcome, if we wanted it, and we looked for a better time, if we (important word) allowed us to have a better time for ourselves, then we will see the things for what they are, the possibly veiled opportunity to benefit from. And we will learn even better. From a mistake, or from a tragedy that wasn’t caused by us, or from a strange event that made no sense, and we will move on. And we may get way better. The crap that happened has done so for our good. I know you don’t like that perspective. I used to dislike it a lot, and who knows what else is coming my way. And yet, it is usually all good. I just have to give it time to see it in a different light.

the front image was copied from and altered by me. thank you

Can’t Hear a Thing

cartoon7151Among things we as humans do, such as move, produce, preserve, and copulate, there is one more thing that we can do really well, and yet often fail at. It’s communicating.

Funny enough, in the world of today where communicating is recognized as vital, and with many different ways of communicating are invented, starting with education of languages and lectures on body language, and ending with phones, faxes, and whatever else they’ve invented lately that I’ve missed, we fail to communicate so much.

And that’s amazing, considering that we communicate all the time. When I write this, you read it, so I’ve communicated to you what I think and feel, and whether you agreed or disagreed with it, you can’t help but receive the information that I’ve shared. When you stand in front of me and talk, I hear you, but I also read your face expressing how you feel about what you’re saying, and I can also pay attention to your hands and the rest of your body reacting to what is being said or what you really thought. We share that information and most of us are inherently good at it.

And yet, so often we communicate and not pay attention to what was communicated to us. So often we listen, but we don’t hear. And so often we don’t even try to listen, just pass by, thinking something else is important. I am guilty of that. I can be so lost in thoughts that I am lost for words when they need to be said. Whether it is to say that I agree, or to say I’m sorry, or to provide an insight, often I just seem to think there are more important things to pay attention to right at that moment, and I ignore others. Or sometimes I am so lost in my thoughts that I miss or misinterpret what’s being said and make wrong judgements of it and come to negative and upsetting conclusions.

I read a story by Chuck Palaniuk, the author of Fight Club, where he wrote that you only get people’s attention when you disclose that you are diagnosed with or dying from some incurable disease. That’s when people start really paying attention to what you’re saying and how you are feeling.

It is at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that we really listen to others. We hear their stories, we think about how it relates to us, we express empathy with our nods and smiles, and after the meeting we talk, we discuss, and often go somewhere to talk about it some more. It is a system that works well for decades. It is not unique though, because people do that on a regular basis. People talk, people solve problems by discussing it. Only in AA meeting we discuss something that, if left unspoken, may literally destroy person’s life. That’s why we make sure we give a word to a newcomer, even if they don’t feel like talking in front of strangers.

The fact that this fellowship exists is a great thing. Over a decade ago it saved my life, just like for the last 80 years it was saving lives of thousands. But I can’t help but wonder if there could be less reasons for AA’s existence if we, the humans in general, could originally communicate better.

What if we could talk without being hurtful so that we wouldn’t cause people to look for a potentially dangerous outlet, such as drugs and alcohol? What if we didn’t produce so much alcohol that we needed to advertise it so rampantly? Remember, advertising is communication too, just as a movie you watched, or a book you read, only TV or Internet ads provide short ideas faster and with a shock value that successfully affects your mental faculties, promising you desires to be fulfilled. A powerful language to present ideas, and dangerous at that.

Could we advertise more ideas of hope and kindness than what to buy, where, for how much, and where it is less expensive and move convenient? Would we improve our lives with more products… or with more hope and understanding that we should care for others? So often I realize that it is not what we say to others, but how we say it that has more lasting effect, negative and positive.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if these questions can be answered. Thus, I focus on what’s at hand and stay sober and go to my AA home group meetings. Communication is power, and AA is based on communication. Without, it AA won’t work. We speak, we listen, we share, we read recovery books, and when we pray, it is communication to, isn’t it?

So now that we are afflicted, since the failures of communication already happened to plague us, let’s try to connect better. Maybe let’s do a better effort to listen to those that need to speak, with our loved ones (especially with them, because we may think we had a perfect connection, but we’re so often take it for granted), with our friends, with strangers, on a bus, on a street, in a group, even if we have no time, or desire to do so. Somebody’s life and sanity may depend on it.

I guess, I have to start with myself. Writing this is only the first step of dealing with it.

image copied from thanks.