Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gratefulness & Keep The Focus On Yourself

Being grateful. What a word.

It was shared by someone I like in an Al-Anon meeting last Thursday night. Being grateful. He said he had car problems before the meeting and it was why he was late.

He has a nice car. I have seen it.

He said the old person, would have been cursing and angry. As the tow truck appeared, he called an Al-Anon friend to get a ride. And he said, he was grateful that the car had not broken down and had given him no problems for 27,000 miles he has had the car. It was a new approach to his thinking. And that this would not have happened without Al-Anon.

Interesting perspective.

Be grateful today Joe. You have;

A beautiful child. Who can be a little or a lot - "precocious." (some would say "spoiled").
You have a nice life.
You have money in the bank.
You are healthy.
You are working.
You have two arms and two legs.
You can see.
You can hear.
You have nice rented house.
You have food in the refrigerator.
You have true friends - a network.
You have a Higher Power - one you never knew you had.
You have a sponsor.
You have a blog site that you can share and possibly help others at the same time you are helping yourself.
You have a program. And without it you would be crazy, or worse.
You have tools. Meetings, books, slogans, friends, sponsor, and more.
You have a great mother, sister and brothers.
You have a laptop.
You have books to read, a library card, and the it is right down the street.

And on the list could go.

I am truly blessed, as long as I stay focused on myself. And I think this is truly the meaning of "focus on yourself;" It is being grateful. Focus on yourself and what you have - not what you don't have, can't be or what you think others are "doing to you."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Time Last Year - Dark and Dispair

I remember last year - the two days before Thanksgiving, a day that I believe I was hitting an all-time low, it was a depression.

I felt hopeless and despair. I felt I was all alone. It was the worst feeling I could feel. My wife did not tell me when she was leaving for her parents home for Thanksgiving. And when she was ready to go, she had the car packed and barely said "Goodbye."

I stopped her and asked if I was supposed to go. It was the year I discovered her drinking - closet drinking - and I felt I was worthless, and no one cared. I felt my wife had abandoned me and our child and only did what was convenient for her and appearances with the neighbors, her family and her parents' friends.

I was living a lie.

I wanted her to say, "Yes of course. Please come. You know you are always invited. You are crazy to even ask if you should come."

I got - something to the effect of "It's up to you." It probably was not as bad as that, but that it what came through my filter into my head.

When they left - my child and wife - I sat at my office desk in my home - wanting to fall on the floor and cry. I wanted to curl in a ball. I think I did actually fall to the floor. I called my brothers and my sister. No one answered.

I think I did not have a sponsor yet - as this was the time I really needed one. I wanted to talk to someone, anyone, about how all alone I felt. It was one of the worst times in my life.

A Year Later
I am grateful that I am in recovery. I realize the effects of this disease are not recognizable to many people outside the program. And this hurts me to some degree, because I have to rationalize and explain what happened - only because I am going through a divorce.

I would not have to explain - if I wasn't going through a divorce. My wife and her lawyer are just trying to make me out as the unhappy husband. Oh yes, the unhappy, controlling husband.

I laugh now when I hear I am controlling. I was to some degree - as controlling. I wanted my wife to go back to work, exercise, and take care of things and not leave everything to the last minute. I wanted to house clean, food in the refrigerator and food for our child. My focus was on her - for sure. My world orbited her - as if she was the sun. I moved my orbit from Mercury - to one of Pluto. My orbit was cold and dark, and distant.

Today, I still orbit her, when I slip. I try to get her to see my side of things. And she can provoke me with a simple word, and then I fall right back into the orbit again.

But . . .
Today I have a program. I have new life. I have new friends. I feel worthwhile. I know while this divorce is not for everyone, it was right for me and our child.

I know - a year later - that I am here for a reason. A year ago, I never would have predicted a divorce. Sure, I thought about it. But actually do it? No way.

Today - I am even praying for my wife and her Higher Power to make a connection. I am praying for me and my Higher Power to make a connection. I am praying less for what I want or deem as right and now praying for guidance and praying that others receive guidance as well - but not from me, but their HP.

What a difference a year makes.

I am grateful for Al-Anon. It has helped me bring me sanity. And give me a new life.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Birds of a Feather

I picked up a favorite little series of books I took with me to this home this morning. It's James Allen's series starting with "As A Man Thinkth."

His second book in the series is "The Path to Prosperity."

In the section "Making Judgment of Others" his writes;

"And as we clothe both events and objects with our own thoughts, so likewise do we clothe the souls of others in the garments of our thoughts.

The suspicious believe everybody to be suspicious; the liar feels secure in thought that he is not so foolish as to believe that there is such a phenomenon as a strictly truthful person; . . .

. . . On the other hand, those who dwell in loving thoughts, see that in all calls forth their love and sympathy; the trusting and honest are not troubled by suspicions; the good-natured and charitable who rejoice at the good fortune of others, scarcely know what envy means; and he who has realized the Devine within himself recognizes it in all beings, even in the beasts.

And men and women are confirmed in their mental outlook because of the fact that, by law of cause and effect, they attract to themselves that which they set forth, so come in contact with people similar to themselves. The old adage, "Birds of a feather flock together," has deeper significance than is generally attached to it, for in the thought-world as in the world of matter, each clings to its kind.

Do you wish for kindness? Be kind.
Do you wish for truth? Be true.
What you give of yourself you will find;
The world is a reflex of you.

The greatest discovery to me is "We become what we think about." A variation of this is, that is also powerful is, "What we think about, we attract."

This little books was written a 100 years ago, way before the book and video "The Law of Attraction."

I hope you find peace today and tomorrow. Live in today and think and be what you want to be.

Have a great weekend.

Here is a link to James Allen's works: http://www.jamesallenlibrary.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=1

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just for Today: I Will Stay Intensely In The Present

I look around, my big, rented house is empty of people. Have lots of furniture, from my premarital days, pretty nice furniture, no big AT&T spool tables, food in the stainless steal refrigerator, which I bought from the last rented house for a great price, because I am a negotiator and cheap, my car starts, and I had a great nights sleep.

No one is "out to get me." There is no one outside my house with a gun. I have zero debt. I have my health. I am very, very fortunate.

What Happened?
So, what is wrong? You would say, in all candor, "You are an idiot for worrying." You might not say the word, "idiot," but you should and, frankly, you would think it.

Damn, I was spinning out of control Monday. I was spinning out of control a week ago. Everything I learned in Al-Anon seemed to evaporate at certain points and intervals.

I repeat; So, what went wrong?

My Mind Took Over - It Became A Cruel Master
My mind. My mind took over. I was a slave to my mind. I said before, "The mind, a cruel Master, but a good servant." I allowed my mind to become the Master. I did not use it as a tool.

Well, as I look back, I did not exercise (running/jog is my thing), and I did not sleep well.

The sleep thing was the biggest issue. Not sleeping allowed my mind to take control and govern my reactions and responses and my worries and fears GREW in size.

The Edges of Serenity
I look around - having had a good nights sleep - and I feel - well - very fortunate. I feel grateful. As I type those words, grateful and fortunate, and feel them, I also feel a peacefulness, maybe feeling the edges of the place where serenity lives.

I am rereading a book, The Power of Now. It is not CAL approved literature, but it has a lot of good tools that reinforce Al-Anon's tools - or vice-versa.

Intense Presence
The words on page 55 - bottom - "Intense Presence." I am drifting from the writing of the book now into my interpretation . . . When things go wrong, things that trigger fear etc. etc. I become unconscious. I react from the past. I cast my past on the future fast and I become last. I think of people, places and things that can harm me rather than for what they are, and all this thinking is not reality. But my body reacts, and the adrenaline flows, and the emotion comes up. My emotion is my body's reaction to what it believes is happening because of my thoughts. Even though nothing has happened, my brain is causing my body to emotionalize its defensive mechanisms.

One trigger, in this case my soon to be ex-wife's attack through an email, and my lack of sleep and just the pressures of a divorce, a move, a new job, the economy, all in the background, is amplified. And I play into the email trigger by responding with an email, and a follow up phone call which turns into a dozen conversations with someone who can push more buttons.

She knows all the buttons to hit. She is my qualifier. She is like a concert pianist - she can hit the right keys - and I jump. I realize now I am dancing with alcoholism - again. But I have provided the piano. And I am the one dancing. She, well, she is somewhere, in a car, driving, laughing her buttooski off. She got me to react and she got just what she wanted. And - I am the one that allowed it to happen. She is probably a good person - it is the alcoholism. She has buried the alcoholism in her mind and this is what bothers me too. I need to stop trying to play with an inferno of fire and just leave it alone. Instead, I remind her of it. Why? I know why. But why should I try to convince her? I am "going to the hardware store for a loaf of bread." This is an Al-Anon quote. This is my obsession, as I have learned in one of the free pamphlets from Al-Anon about our "disease."

Just for Today I Will Practice Intense Presence
Just For Today - I am going to practice INTENSE PRESENCE. I am not going to allow my mind to drift into the future or past. I am not going to feed these two time devices with anything else other than "distant observation."

I am going to see if I can remember this. I am going to visualize myself in a row boat on a lake, rowing away from shore, and observe from the boat what my mind is trying to grow when it occurs.

A Row Boat - (Or A Life Boat?)
The row boat thing comes from a negotiators book I read years ago from Harvard Negotiations Class. I cannot recall the name of the book right now - but it was a great book. Let me look on Amazon and come back to you . . .

Found it: Getting Past No. Like I said a great book and an easy read.

Intense Presence. I will not identify with my negative thoughts. As soon as I identify with the thoughts, I give the thought more energy and my body starts reacting. If I observe, it takes away the time (past and future) according to Tolle - author of the Power of Now. If I can step out of the time dimension - the thought loses power and I become intensely present.

Let's see if I can remember the rowboat and rowing away from the thought and just observing it from afar. Maybe it is my lifeboat. Interesting thought Joseph.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Pause Button and Fear

Rereading Tolle's book the past few days. Trying to stay present. Trying to understand how I am identifying with my fears and how this identification with my fears is creating havoc for me.

So, when I identify with what might happen - that is - the bad thing(s) that might happen - I lose serenity. Here's what I do;

I begin visualizing the drama that might play out. I imagine people in a room, talking or arguing, and it comes around to me, or about me. Some where, some how, I am criticized. I become, . . . , "less than." This pisses me off. And I react.

My reaction is usually tenseness. A tightening in the solar plexus. Shoulders tighten. I forget to breath.

I then leave the present moment and build escape routes in my mind.

A True Story
This happened at work yesterday. Before I went to work, my soon to be ex-wife sent a shit-eating email to me. I was "threatened." [As I write this - I realize how ridiculous this is; I am threatened by a freakin' email. Are you kidding me?!] I reply back. I barrage her with everything I have. I am typing furiously. I become the Shakespeare of modern day emails - my email has both attack and defense. It goes; "If you think this . . ." and "Do really believe you are not delusional and . . . "

Well, this isn't what I really wrote - but the jist is the same.

Fortunately there is this gap - a space now in my mind. It is a pause button. Albeit, a very small button. The pause button allows me to remember this "x" on the email - upper right. You know, the one that closes the email. I look. I pause again.

"But it is so well-written, this email.", my little ego says. "Send this. Send this" my ego chants.

Microsoft and the "Draft Option"
I am paused. I press the "x" at the right hand side of the email, It comes back with the option, "Do you want to save as a draft?" type of option. I click "draft" - essentially saying - "Save this for later." What it doesn't say, but it maybe implied is this: "For at this moment you are a moron and a lunatic. When you are better tomorrow - you can send it - if you decide to."

What happens is; I will not even read it and probably never delete it. This is just in case I need some more fiery words and beautiful attack prose. I have about 20 drafts now, sitting there, waiting to be reopened, reread, reused and sent.

Thank God or my HP for allowing me to get a "pause" button in my life. It is a small pause button, but it one just the same. And thank you Bill Gates and team for allowing me to save the emails to a Draft folder.

How-Freakin'-Ever (Or I was almost good)
How-freakin'-ever, and I do mean "how-freakin'-ever" - I did talk to my soon to ex-wife. I called her. I was like a moth to a flame.

My conversation drifted into parts of the netherworld. I brought them there, because my ex-wife knew where my buttons were. And of course, I would not be trespassed against by her insults. So, I - the King of Fear - and the Prince of Rejection - put up the barricades against the assault and placed all the troops along the fortress walls. Waiting with my slings and arrows to fire. And that they did. My slings and arrows are now pretty good at aiming. I know that the knees are weak and I can attack there. The adrenaline was coursing through my body, I was in "fight-mode" now. No turning back, no disengaging, you still have that shit-eating email you read, and that is underlying the defensive posture you are taking right now, so fire away!

Shit - she hung up on me. Hmmm. Must have wounded her. Adrenaline still flowing. Maybe call her again and fire the words I have saved up from previous draft emails.

Okay. In reality - my mind does not think like this - the "building the barricades" thing and the "slings and arrows" thing is really the caffeine this morning - and in truth another part of me that hopes you will think I am funny, witty and smart. And then there is another part of my - hoping you get the drift and relate to what happened to me. This is the "I hope I can fix you part of me." [Jezz, how many parts are there of me?]

Back to the story.

I was engaged, and damn it, it felt friggin' good. I was clear headed and articulate. I engaged with the precision of a brain surgeon.

Ed - The Dude
Another pause button. It comes in the form of "I wonder what Ed would say?" Ed is my sponsor. He is cool. A cool dude who I trust. He is a smart dude too. [Why this dude thing? I have no clue.]

I call my sponsor. Finally. "Hey Ed. Need some help here. I am addicted to the adrenaline. I am clear headed. I am not angry. I am precise. I need for you to help me to stop."

Ed answers. He asks me questions. This is like hitting the needle on the record player - if you remember this. To those too young - it is ejecting the CD from the player essentially.

He always calms me. I laugh at myself. He says, "Where is your serenity?" [This one gets me now. I am programmed to aim for serenity - aim is the key word].

He says, "Call someone in the program, call me, journal, but what the heck are you doing calling her?" Well this is not an exact quote. But he says, "you are fighting with alcoholism. You are wanting her to recover, why?" Basically I have this sad and logical excuse, "Weeellll, to save my child." It is lame. I know now that it cannot be done.

Another excuse lingers; "I have a crazy wife - soon to be ex-wife - who is blaming me for her drinking, tells me yesterday that her friends say 'If I were married to Joe, I would drink too.'"

When I reminded her, after that rediculous statement she made, that her friends loved and adored me, because I was sooo funny and that they always asked if I was going with the group, she got pissed off and hung up.

And of course, not letting sleeping dogs lie, I called her and asked her; "So, which friends actually said this?" - as if I would get an answer - And then I did the ultimate - I said, "If you are saying this, and really believe it, you are NOT in recovery."

Getting Recovery - Pause to Stop
Yepity depity. I was in true form yesterday. I was unproductive at work part of the day - But, I was fully engaged.

My sponsor. My sponsor. My sponsor. He is a pause button for me.

PAUSE. Better yet; STOP. I need to build I new button. A STOP button.

A Little More On Where My Fear Is Coming From
Anyway, our mediation date was set up and changed and now set up again. For those who are not familiar with mediation date, this is the last ditch effort to dissolve the marriage and spilt stuff up and get on with a new life as amicably as possible. It is the last ditch effort before a true court date. My fear is I am dealing with an alcoholic. And this alcoholic knows how to obfuscate and deceive. I feel she is not facing the music and she is making me out to be the bad guy. And that makes my fear rise in my chest and head. I am not the bad guy here. But some how, she knows how to get me thinking that maybe I am.

Hope this helps you to see what is running through my head - at least what was going on yesterday for me.

One More Thing - Steps 1 & 3
I need a break. I need another Step 3. Oh, by the way, my sponsor said many things, but he said, "Sounds like your life has become unmanageable. Have you gone to Step 1 and Step 3 yet?" He also said, don't go and make amends when I asked "Duh, should I call and apologize?" He said, "No. You are jumping all the Steps if you do. They are in sequence for a reason. Do Step 1 and 3 - you already believe in a HP. He has already acted in your life. Use your HP again - today." Great advice. I need to follow it. All this advice and it is soooo for free.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Being Tired

I cannot sleep for some reason. And when I wake up, I have this little pounding and heaviness in the back of head.

Why can't I sleep?

I routinely wake up at 3AM. One eye sees the clock and I roll over trying to sleep.

I sleep moderately for about an hour and a half. Then I am up. My problem is lately I have going to bed around 10:30 or 11PM.

I used to hit the hay at 9:30PM. I know, you are thinking, "why sooo early?" Because my morning is my private and quiet time for learning and centering myself.

I need to work hard on getting some sleep. Need to research this and get back to my regimen.

Why I am posting, or blogging about sleep? Because I think it is a direct cause of my latest round of fears and worries. Or at least it exacerbates them. I don't react well to my soon to be ex-spouse's emails or her phone calls. But yesterday I did. I was proud of myself ,as she was screaming at me that I needed to get my stuff out of her house. I was calm. I explained that she was doing all the talking (screaming) and what she was saying was she quoting me. It was interesting because what she was doing was quoting what she thought I was going to say - even though I couldn't say anything because she was doing all the talking (screaming). I was calm and pointed this out to her. Then she hung up on me. I was on the cell phone in the lobby of my work place. So, I did the natural thing, . . . I called her back. Duh. Dumb move. Getting sucked into a verbal battle is easy to do for me. My response to the "flight" or "fight" thing is to "fight." I am an excellent verbal jouster. Or at least I was. And I was proud of it. Now I am trying to build into my repetoire of skills, the "flight" thing.

Fortunately, when I called back, she refused to pick up.

But as I look back on the conversation (the fact it was not conversation - she was screaming) - maybe I should have pressed the little red button on my cell phone and not wait for her to hang up. Yes. That would make me feel superior. The word superior did not come into my thouht process yesterday when I thought about this alternative action. But getting the thought of "upper hand" did come into my thinking.

I am tired and this thinking comes into my head when I am tired.

Also, I find I eat when I am not hungry when I am tired.

Last, I say things more readily, without thinking of the consequences when I am tired.

I am going to exercise my tail off today and this weekend. I am going to tire myself out so I can get some sleep. AND I am going to take a long nap tomorrow. I read you can't catch up on missing sleep. Then I heard from a friend that you can. Anyway I am going to try it.

Also - I need to run and go to an Al-Anon meeting. I will go today at the noon day meeting.

Peace to all. Sorry about not posting this week .... I have been swamped

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Quick Post

Pressures. Some we cannot avoid. Read my previous post(s) - I was down and out in Beverly Hills (I don't live there though - just a metaphor or whatever they call it).

I need to remember to do the things that bring me serenity. Avoid the things that don't.

Ask yourself, "Will this bring me serenity?"

That's the ultimate question.

I got further off kilter the other night trying to engage my ex-wife in a conversation around "why it was wrong to tell our child there is no such thing as Santa Claus." I tried to convince her I should have been consulted. When that didn't work, I then launched into a "I should have notified after she did it without consulting me." Hellllooooo?! Knock knock on your forehead - is anyone home in there?????

What I wanted was not to be made insignificant. But even though she did this Santa thing - it was me who decided to feel insignificant.

What was I thinking? She was going to make me feel better with all my convincing? Duh.

Hoping you all make it a great week. And if you have a choice - Aim for serenity!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Give Yourself A Break Today - And Me Too

Okay. I had a tough couple of days. What happened? Let's review. First, before I go into what I think I did "wrong" that had my head spinning, what did I do right?

Well, here is the one thing I did:

I called a friend - a strong friend - who had an alcoholic wife and divorced her. He said "Joe, look at what you've accomplished. You moved out of a bad situation. You got a new job. You don't have to travel anymore. Your new job is new and therefore has pressures. You are going through a divorce and that alone can be tough - but the alcoholic is making you think that there is not a problem with her, but it is with you and you are sensing everyone thinks she is just fine. This makes you a little crazy. Then you are helping raise a child whose mother is not - let's face it - a normal mother. You have to be the person who says "No" and you have to be the disciplinarian. Your spouse told your child - without consulting you and not informing you that she did, that there is no Santa Claus. And that made you feel unappreciated and maybe non-existent. It also says your child is passing from one stage of life to another. Then you have your child this week - and she/he is stressed probably because she/he is moving again and she/he acts out. She/he comes home from school and you have to figure how you are going to get off from work to be there when she gets there and not let that interfere with your work or the perception of how you are performing your work. Then you had to transfer the electricity, water, garbage pick-up, phone service, cable, gas, Internet and the rest of the services over to the new house. Then you had to buy - negotiate the price of a washer and dryer and refrigerator from the old house in order to have one in the new house. Then your child says this new house "smells" like dog poop - even though it is an upscale house - and she is smelling the new cherry cabinets installed and mistaking that as an awful smell, and then your internet service and phone service isn't working. Then at work, you are told you have to probably fire/lay-off some one who is not performing and the previous manager left that for you to do . . .

Gee Joe - why are you stressed? And, oh by the way, you didn't sleep well and you did not have time to go running this week.

Again - why are you stressed?

Helllllooooo? Is any body home???? You are stressed. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK! You are HUMAN!!!!!!!!

It is okay to make mistakes, to live, to feel bad. But don't beat yourself up.

Okay - I started off with the sentence at the top -saying let's see what I did right. I guess what I wrote was - what is happening.

I was stressed. What I did right was I called and spoke to this person who listened to me and then repeated it back to me in such a way that I could see what and why I was feeling "low."

It's good to have such friends.

I needed to talk to my sponsor - but I didn't have the courage to talk to him yesterday for some reason. So I called this friend - a really good friend. He is not in Al-Anon but has a deep spiritual belief in God and he reminds me that God has a plan. And my fears and worries of things that might happen, that if these things do happen, may be blessings in the long run. Just like things have worked out before - these worries may become the best things that could happen to me and my child. I worry that the judge will give custody to my wife and I will only see her 2 days every two weeks.

This is a horrible disease. My wife is sick and in denial, and not getting treatment. She is paranoid and blames me for everything. She calls me names and knows how to manipulate people into thinking she is perfect and fun and the good person. While I know it is the disease and my worries - I know I have become a much different person and I am seeing a peaceful side of me I have not seen in a long time.

But when I try to talk to my wife - exwife - wife in limbo - esstranged wife - whatever she is - about our child - she gets angry and defensive. I want this divorce to be done but most of all I want my child to be safe - and free from this disease. It is why I filed for divorce in the first place. I seem to have forgotten about that. So has my wife. She is making everyone think I was "just unhappy." AND I WAS. But now I see it. It is only second though to my child's safety. And I don't mean physical safety only - I mean mental well-being.

But I can control only what I can control. My thoughts, and my reactions, and my behavior.

I cannot help my wife. I tried -the other night - to explain that she is going to have to help me discipline our child and that statement set off a firestorm of derision and hate. Maybe I was wrong in seeking out out help from her. But our child had used some strong words and I wanted to see if our child was using these words at my ex-wife's house. Well, that was a mistake to ask that - I see it now.

I was also pissed off that she told our child that there is no Santa. We have a big tradition of certain events happening leading up to Christmas. Anyway, that hurt me that I wasn't consulted, nor informed that our child was told. I was caught off guard when my child asked me if I would tell her the truth about Santa. I said that I believed in Santa. Our child then told me what mom had told her. Pissed and hurt - I was. That lumped on top of all the stressors was the icing on the cake for me.

Anyway - I hope you can give me courage, wisdom and hope with your comments.

I know "This too shall pass."