Monday, June 27, 2011

Sober floating, Sober camping

Photo's top to bottom; THANK YOU district 14 for another wonderful Sober Float, our campsite, Niobrara river valley, river just down from campsite and last my camera shy dog Sweetheart.

My friend Wendy rode up with me, her fiancee Jeremy drove up in his car with a sponcee. We had a really good visit up, part meeting, part fun conversation. Jeremy's sponcee did his 5th step on the trip up. I enjoy roadtripping with fellow recovery people; always talk about what it was like and what it is like now, plus personal insights, lots of laughter and a bit of open heart seriousness.

This was the first 5th step Jeremy had done with a sponcee, it was wonderful to hear and see the effect it had on him. It is truly beautiful to watch people grow in recovery.

We made it in plenty of time to set up camp, have a chili supper and make the 8:00pm meeting. There is no time limit at camp out meetings, it goes on until everyone gets a chance to share, which is really nice; there were 34 people at the meeting. After the meeting with started the bonfire just as a thunderstorm started rolling in. While the others retired to their tents, I tended the fire and waited for 2 other cars to show up. Tending the fire in a gentle rain was a great time for me to do some mediation and feel nature. In one of the cars was my daughter Mich and her new boyfriend, by midnight they still hadn't shown up. There is no cell phone reception at the campgrounds, so I drove a couple miles out of the canyon to call them. Call it God or Karma but I met them just as they were turning onto the road. Once they got to the site, Mich quickly set up the tent, telling bf, who is not a camper, what to do to help, something I found quite amusing, yep she is my kid.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and beautiful. After the tradition breakfast of breakfast burritos, I fry the meat ahead of time and scramble the raw eggs so all I have to do is fry the mixture up, then warm the tortilla's, quick and easy breakfast everybody likes. We got to the launch site at 9:30am. One guy from Kearney, Francis, with about 18 months sobriety ventured the 200 miles on his own, he was a virgin to the whole AA camping and Sober Float experience, he decided to step out side his comfort zone, took the chance and showed up. Francis was going to float on this own but I suggested he tie up with us which he did. We tied 6 tubes together with a cooler tube in the middle. The cooler held, water, Gatorade, smokes, lighters and cameras in a plastic container. The water temperature was brisk but not freezing. There were 4 relatively newcomers tied with us, we shared about ourselves, lots of laughs and perspectives. An hour and a half into the float we stopped at Smith Falls, the biggest waterfall in Nebraska, something like 100 ft. Smith Falls is a common stop on the river, place to use a bathroom, have a picnic and see the beautiful waterfall, stand under the freezing water. For sober alcoholics it is also a great place to get a flashback of what we were once like.

The river is crowded with plenty of people drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages. Some are very loud, others just mind there own business and drink. At the falls, you get to watch people stumble along, listen to stupid alcohol induced conversations, things we use to do. Some of it was sad, like a few young women who were drunk out of their minds, it was only about 11:00am. Nick and I talked about how many light weights there were, how we drank so heavy a 12 pack had little effect on us. This isn't bragging, this is the sad truth of where our addiction took us. Watching others drink on the river is always a good reminder of why we can't and don't want to drink again. Even Mich and bf who are not active in recovery, they still drink, noticed how much better it was to float the river sober.

We landed at the half way point, campground for Sober Float around noon. There is a lunch of burgers, hot dogs, salads and such provided by district 14. After lunch most people get back on the river and do the 3-1/2 hour float which concludes the days floating. I had been in the second half of the float before, it is just as beautiful and peaceful as the first half. This year I decided to forgo the second half, go back to the campsite, clean up dishes, gather firewood and then take a drive along the river and also go into the town of Valentine for ice, plus wanted to call Teresa (new girlfriend) and talk to her, I missed her not being able to come. Mich's bf said he had enough sun for one day and stayed back as well. I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride with me and he did. We had a nice visit while driving, stopped at a scenic lookout. He mentioned he was glad he came, he had never experience this beautiful part of Nebraska before. I didn't talk to him much about recovery, figured he was surrounded by people living in recovery and the message would come through loud and clear without a word being said.

Evening brought a potluck supper and another meeting. One of the guys from Kearney who lives in a three quarter way house, brought his little sister up, it was her 12th birthday and his present to her was tubing and camping, he shared how this was one of the best things he had done in his young life and was so grateful he was clean and sober. The final count for Sober Float was 54 people, many of them newcomers. I think I got as much out of the newcomers being there as they did. It is a joy to watch people realize they can have fun in recovery, to experience "we are not a glum lot, we insist on having fun"!

It started raining once again after the meeting. This time most of my group took a 25 mile road trip to a casino in South Dakota. Me not being a gambler stayed behind, built a big fire and once again took time to mediate. I also laid down and read for a bit, then got a good nights sleep. The gentle sound of rain on the tent was just the right thing to hear while following asleep. Next morning we started a roaring fire, drank a couple of pots of good campfire coffee and loaded up. Another storm move in just as we finished loading. I had a different person ride back with me and again it was good conversation.

We got back to Kearney at 2:30pm. Teresa came over and we had a nice visit while I put things away. My relationship with Teresa is growing, we have much more in common than I did with Lady B. We have common taste in music and movies, both like to read and also our drinking and up-brings are similar. Both come from families where emotions were not expressed with the exception of anger. I met her boys on Tuesday and we really hit it off as well. I will write more on this later.

My yearly journey to Sober Float is something I really enjoy. I love the peacefulness of floating down the river, spending quality time with the God of my understanding. I enjoy the fellowship, the love, laughter and support. It is a time of mindfulness and reflection.

When we got back, Wendy, who is not a tent camper but stepped outside her comfort zone, Jeremy bought a nice tent, even had a battery operated ceiling fan in it, trying to make the experience of sleeping in a tent more comfortable for her, said we need to do another camp out. In the past Wendy and Jeremy have stayed in cabins when we camp, so she has been a part of the camping experience. Anyway, she said she missed not having our bonfire meetings, meetings among our small group of campers, close friends who really open up sitting around a fire surrounded by nature. It was decide we would have a camp out later this summer at a state park a few miles south of Kearney. This will allow others the ability to join us without having to drive very far, be easier for those of us who work second shift or Saturday's. I thought it was really cool she was the one who brought up the idea of camping again, usually it is Jeremy or I who instigate this.

Well friends, this has taken my a week to write. Today is the 4th of July. I am taking my mom and Angel to my home town for the annual parade this morning, I haven't been to the parade in a long time, mom and I will enjoy the parade seeing old friends and Angel will like the candy and abundance of horses. Today is also Angel's 3rd birthday, so this afternoon we are having a party for her. Angel has been a special gift from God to me, she has given me a chance to grow in more ways than I can count.

Peace Love and Light

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Keeping Gratitude Alive

A couple of weeks ago I bought a copy of the AA Grapevine collection book called "Spiritual Reflections II". It is a collection of articles from the Grapevine magazine about peoples spiritual experiences. I have read the first volume a couple of times and was glad to see a new one out. I like to hear about others experiences in recovery and life, whether it is an article in a magazine, something shared at a meeting or posted on a blog. The reason "he not busy being born is busy dying" is one of my favorite phrases is; I always have more to learn in life, more to reflection on and more changes to make. If I stop growing spiritually, I will die spiritually, I will become bitter, more egotistical than I already am and a self absorbed asshole who isn't servicing the Divine purpose of life.

One of the writers talked about "keeping gratitude alive". She was saying it wasn't simply enough for her to make a gratitude list, she said she could get complacent with the list because it was routine and she realized she wasn't putting gratitude in action during her hours awake. I liked this and thought, wow another thing for more mindfulness daily reflection.

Yes I am happy a large portion of my day but do I reflect on this happiness as gratitude or do I just accept it as part of life?

I have a habit of saying "thank you" to whatever Divine power there may be when good things happen during the day; a green traffic light when I am in a hurry, remembering something at the right time, a accident prevented which could have created a mess or slight injury, a notion on a better way of doing something thus saying time and money. These are acts of gratitude in the moment.

I love watching the birds eat out of my feeders, I need to remember I am blessed with eye sight to see this. The other morning I heard the black birds making a racket, so I went to the window to see what the fuss was about, figured they were picking on the starlings and finches again. One black bird was taking sunflower seeds to it's mate who was a few feet away bathing in a puddle of water, I can only imagine one was telling the other to hurry up with the food. I was privileged to witness this and have the mindfulness to notice the beauty of nature.

Keeping gratitude alive for me means, acknowledging the gifts I have been given. To understand my head is clear enough to really see things in life, to feel things and to know I don't have it so bad. My knees have been really hurting me the last week or so, instead of complaining I need to be grateful I am still able to do my job, even with a knee brace, others are less fortunate.

It is true nothing in life is permanent and I shouldn't become attached to anything in life. If I lose what I am attached to, I need to still able to remain peaceful even in the face of calamity, mindfulness and mediation are the tools for this for me. Not saying I don't get upset but after careful reflection I can bring myself back to the impermanence of life, it might take a few days for this to happen, it all depends on how soon I am willing to let go of the attachment. Yet I need to feel in my heart a since of gratitude for the wonderful things in my life, for the gifts and not as my sponsor says, minimize too much. I have to work on finding a balance with being humble; to share beauty and insight as a gift, I have been given the gift, I can't take credit for it yet I need to share it and take complements gracefully from others and not minimize my part in the gift, if that makes sense.

The first half of this post was written prior to go to my Sunday morning home group. Bring Fathers day and also due to the death of Clarence Clemons, I was already in a sentimental mood. I was reflecting on my dad and how I missed him, reflecting on how much joy the Big Man brought to the world and also what keeping gratitude alive means. I shared how it is automatic for me to feel gratitude at night when I get home from work and go for a cold bottle of water or ginger ale, how to me this is such a great change and how the obsession to drink alcohol has been lifted. What has really kicked in the last couple of days is the realization I naturally do this in the mornings too. When I was drinking if I had a few hours of idle time prior to work I would start drinking beer or wine. My eyes were teary during the whole meeting because I was filled with such gratitude over how my life has change and how the obsession has been lifted. The thought of drinking in the morning is completely gone, I had forgotten how bad I was and how I couldn't have any idle time without having a drink in my hand. I share easily about a lot of the damage and severity of my active alcoholism but the reality of morning drinking never really hit home until Sunday morning and I couldn't hold back the tears. I was blessed my sponsor was at the meeting for a change, I told him of the experience and also a close friend. My sponsor told me this is the an act of gratitude I really need to share with others, we are never to old or to young in recovery to hear about others experiences.

Saturday evening I had my friend over for supper, she is the one who's son in dying. Earlier in the week I had debated asking her for supper. I realized I needed to ask, there seemed to be a connection, and leave the decision up to her. Yes she is going through a really rough time in life and after putting her life on hold for a few months has started to doing things for herself. So who I am I to think she didn't need my company and someone to talk to. I told her honestly I had mixed emotions, but realized I was enabling her in the grief and reality process if I didn't reach out. We had a really good evening. We have a lot in common, lot more then Lady B and I did, but I had to have the relationship with Lady B to understand more about me and relationships. We shared laughter and she shared tears, we shared commonalities of alcoholism. She was looking through my music collection, identifying artist she liked, when she said the Indigo Girls I was shocked. The Indigo Girls are not very well known in this part of Nebraska, they aren't commercial and are radio stations are very much geared toward commercial artist, even the classic rock stations. Don't know where this relationship will go but for now we going to start building the friendship. When we talked Sunday afternoon I told her of my concerns about rushing into things too fast, how sex can really mess things up and cause a lot of emotional pain if it is too soon, she agreed and told me she was a bit relived to hear this. We are both sharing about ourselves from the heart, I feel this is the best way to start a relationship. Any how thought I would let you in on this.

Well I need to get in the shower. A buddy is coming over to set up his new tent and water proof it. Friday we are headed up north for our camp out and river run.

Prayers, blessings and love to all!!

Peace Love Light

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Not Much to say, well maybe??

Last Saturday and this Saturday have been fellowship days. Last Saturday was the state reunion. This is an event were the delegate gives his report from GSO, it is also 3 days of speakers and fellowship. I wasn't certain I was going to make it, didn't know until Friday night if I had the day off or not, so my expectations were not very high. I enjoy the reunion because it gives my a chance to visit with people from around the state who I only see once or twice a year. The beauty of doing service work is I was allow to meet some really wonderful people in AA from other cities and towns, I cherish the times I get to visit with them for a few minutes. I hardly ever get to see my sponsor anymore, last Saturday I was able to visit with him for a few minutes and be reminded of why I truly admire this man and his outlook on recovery. He is a man of few words but when he speaks he cuts the fat off hog and gets to the point, in a very leveled headed and pragmatic way. A couple of months ago he went to South Dakota to attend a conference on Native Americans and AA, he said the problem is plain and simple, we are prejudice. AA's are just as guilty of pushing our way of doing meetings on Natives as all white people have been about pushing the white way on Natives, in other words, AA is doing the same missionary and cultural change bullshit as everyone else.

My favorite quote from the speakers comes from a dear friend of mine who said "treatment centers are the appetizer, the program of recovery outlined in the Big Book and meetings are the main course."

Today the local Al-Anon's had a hot dog and ice cream social to celebrate 70 years of Al-Anon. It was nice to visit with people, some I haven't seen in a while. One was a lady I have been milling over trying to see if she wanted to spend some time with me, we talked and she told me to call her sometime and we would go do something. A friend of mine was the AA/NA speaker, on the outside she comes across as a tough nut but she broke down in tears a couple of times talking about her neglect of her daughters who she loves dearly, it was powerful and I could so relate. AA's tend to make jokes about Al-Anon, one of the speakers did this last Saturday, and I don't appreciate it. I have a lot of respect for anyone who has lived with a sick person and become sick themselves, granted part of their make up is co-dependency and people pleasing, just as we are obsessed with alcohol, these women and men have had to change their way of life just as much as we have. I think it is great when people start taking care of themselves, focusing on their own suffering and take action to become better humans, even if it doesn't always make other people happy. Emotional recovery is emotional recovery and I applaud anyone who is on this path. It is the Al-Anon's who have taught the AA/NA's about enabling and people pleasing, how we are just as guilty of kissing ass in a relationship at the expense of our own emotional well being in order to not rock the boat.

I am really starting to appreciate how getting fired from my last job was a good thing with positive outcomes. Mich could have survived the breakup with the boyfriend without me being only a couple of miles a way but it has brought us back together as a family. Carter is now a Papa's boy, the other day I walked into the house and Angel came running up to me as usual and Carter was right behind her crawling as fast as he could. Little toad is in the stage of messing with everything, I have finally surrendered keeping my CD's in alphabetical order because he just pulls them out again, we try and catch him before he goes for them but he moves very fast and you can't watch him 100% of the time. He understands the word "no" and is good about stopping what he is doing when you tell him "no" but like all toddlers he is persistent to play with things he isn't suppose to. Angel has just been potty trained and makes a point of announcing when she has used the potty. She has also proclaimed herself as my little helper, she helps me fill the bird feeders, tries to help me in the garden and grabs my tools and fixes things. If I was still living in North Platte working at the old job I would be missing out on these wonderful things and having Mich hang around the house because she enjoys the company of her old man, that and he has internet service and she doesn't.

I also realize I was neglecting my recovery some in North Platte. I wasn't into fellowship there and never found a home group. My job was 8-10 hours a day of working with mental illness and by the end of the day, I just wanted to spend some time alone. Spiritual practices keep me from picking up the first drink and also reasonably serene. Coming back here has brought the fellowship of other travels back into my life, the joy, laughter and heartache we share together. I am back to be committed to my Sunday morning home group, a place I belong with people who know me inside and out.

Doing manual labor again has also been good for me. At first it was the humbling experience of not being in management. Then it was the joy of realizing I don't have to worry about anyone but me, no emails to reply to, no one on one talks with employees about their performance, no issues with my honest appraisal of things being taken the wrong way; certain aspects of honesty are not appreciated by people who don't work the steps or live a spiritual life, duh. The heavy lifting has gotten easier, I surprise myself in being able lift, spin and lift again 45 pound parts for hours at a night. I am still looking for work in inventory control or basic purchasing but for now, I am alright with what I am doing.

Other than my garden doing really good in the pots, not much else, well there is but I won't bore you with it. I am grateful as always to be sober and enjoying life, for the people in my life and the experiences I have, experiences which allow for change and more awareness.

Hope all in enjoying the summer!!

Peace Love Light