Shadow Boxing

In AA, as we work Step 4, we look deeply at ourselves to illuminate those things that we need to change or work on. I’ve also heard this called “shadow boxing”. Because it is the darker parts of our hearts and souls where these things reside. In the shadows…

This process is important. For many reasons. It is shining a light on our darkest parts so that we can see them more clearly and so that we can begin to grow in new ways and new directions. Because once those shadows are in the light they have less power over us.

It is said that in the midst of great loss, failure, and struggle we move from unconsciousness to a deeper awareness and consciousness. We feel an inner freedom. We find grace. And we see rightly. From darkness to lightness. A spiritual awakening.

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Our souls grow best in the shadowlands.

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In the light, there will still be shadows. But now they can reflect truth and radiate compassion for others who also have shadows. They allow us to love and be loved. They are what make us human and ever evolving works in progress.

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Shadow boxing…another gift of sobriety.

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Breathing Under Water

Every so often I read a book that is incredibly powerful and inspiring. A book that causes me to think and feel and wonder and learn.  A book that opens my mind and my heart and my spirit. A book that affects me so deeply that it moves me to tears.

“Breathing Under Water” by Richard Rohr is just such a book.

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I had no idea when I opened to the first page that it would impact me so profoundly.

But perhaps I should have realized it would after reading this poem in the introduction:

BREATHING UNDER WATER

I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.

And then one day,
– and I still don’t know how it happened –
the sea came.
Without warning.

Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,

less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew, then, there was neither flight, not death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbours
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.

(Carol Bieleck, R.S.C.J. from an unpublished work)

And I cried. Not tears of sadness but tears of awareness. Because I am learning how to breathe under water.  And my tears come from a place of gratitude. Because the sea came into my life too.

And I thought I was drowning.

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So I let myself drown.

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And it was then that I began to learn to breathe underwater.

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This book reminds me to never stop learning…

How to breathe underwater.

Because the sea will always be a part of life.

23 Years

On Thursday, I celebrated 23 years of sobriety. My son Paul, presented me with my medallion. It was a very special and magical night filled with fellowship, friendship, and love.

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This is the gift of sobriety. And while it’s important to celebrate these milestones for our own recovery, it is equally important to share it so others can see that it works. Long term sobriety is possible. And it can be beautiful. Life can be wonderful without drinking. Life is wonderful because I’m not drinking.

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This past year, my journey took me deeper into my recovery. And what I found there is nothing short of a miracle.

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I have written and spoken of my gratitude, my growth, my spirituality and my faith. I have shared the incredible gifts that come because I am sober. Gifts that I needed. Gifts that gave me back myself. Gifts that were lessons and blessings.

And I have experienced the promises. I am no longer afraid of the darkness or of feeling what needs to be felt. I embrace it all. I feel and experience it all. I cherish it all. Because I know now, no matter what crosses my path, it will be ok. I will be ok. It doesn’t stay dark forever. Light and love always shine through.

23 years.

One day at a time.

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Gratitude

With Thanksgiving approaching, many of us begin to think about and share what we are thankful for.

In AA, gratitude is a part of our everyday lives and essential for our recovery. Gratitude is the grace we feel and the peace we find when we remember. And we can never forget. Each day is a precious gift.

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This past year has been a journey. A winding path with many twists and turns. A time of change and growth and awakening. I am so grateful for it. Thankful for everything that I have discovered and learned about myself. And for all I have yet to uncover and find.

I am grateful for…

Sunshine to warm my spirits even on the coldest of days.

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Colors that burst forth when the rest of my world has seemed pale and dull.

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Mountains to climb and conquer when my soul has felt weary.

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Ocean rhythms to soothe my troubled thoughts and mind.

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Adventures that have brought me out of the darkness and into my light.

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Breathtaking sunsets to remind me a new day is coming.

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Hearts along the way, letting me know I am heading in the right direction.

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And most of all for the strong and beautiful people who have walked beside me and supported me every step of the way.

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With love and gratitude.

Tracy

Holding On

In AA we often talk about how hard it is to sometimes let go. Whether it’s a person we loved. A thing we’ve lost. A place we miss. Or lingering feelings…

We try.

Like the clouds after a thunderstorm has passed…

Like the final remnants of foliage on the trees in late fall…

Like the last bits of ice on a frozen lake…

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Like the buds pushing up through the warming spring soil…

We try.

This trying is at the heart of our recovery. The heart of our healing. And the heart of our growth.

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But it isn’t easy.

So we learn to go through, not around or over or under. But sometimes we turn around and look back. It is the looking back that trips us up. We want to hold on.

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Sometimes we see the past not as it was, but so much prettier and nicer. And we begin to romance our past. We forget so easily what it was really like and we take excursions back there. Entering those bad neighborhoods in our minds that were so harmful and hurtful.

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This is the disease of alcoholism. Putting down the drink is just the first step. Recovery is a life long process. A journey of steps and progress, one day at a time.

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I’ve been visiting bad neighborhoods lately in my mind. But I know the way out today. And while the letting go is harder than the holding on…

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Letting go is about having faith that we will find better neighborhoods.

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Letting go is having the courage to accept change, and the strength to keep moving until the past no longer pulls us back.

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Letting go is walking in the present with gratitude and grace.

Recreating Tracy

There’s a quote that goes something like this:

When you love someone you give them the power to destroy you. But trust them not to.

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I was destroyed. I felt as though everything I had believed in, everything I felt and thought was true…wasn’t. And my world crashed.

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In AA we call this hitting bottom. You can be sober and still hit bottom. I never knew that until these past few months. And I found that when this happens I have choices. I can start again. I can learn and grow from the pain. Or I can stay at the bottom.

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I chose to see it as an opportunity. A time to rebuild, recreate, rediscover who I am. But this meant some work on my part. It also meant that I needed to first feel all the pain and anguish. I had to allow myself to feel it all and not run away or try escape from it.

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Then I needed to take a good hard look at myself and my role in it. Looking back through the wreckage of my past…relationships and experiences and mistakes. Looking for clues and answers. I had to look honestly at who I was. Because I don’t want to hit this same bottom again.

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It isn’t pretty this self examination. But it’s what we do. What we have to do to find serenity and peace when our world falls apart. We are works in progress. Always. It never stops.

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And this process involves finding ways to forgive. Ourselves and other people in our lives. Forgiveness is freedom. Hanging on to resentments and bitterness is not and only plunges us deeper into the abyss.

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I found I am stronger than I thought. I found inside of me a joy, that despite any darkness in my life, always finds a way to shine through. And I found that I possess many wonderful qualities and that I can work on the not so wonderful ones. They are not permanent flaws or defects.

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And most of all I found that my heart, while seemingly broken, really isn’t. Just bruised a bit. The human heart is an amazingly resilient thing. It is limitless in its ability to mend and heal. It can and will feel love again. It is what a heart is meant to do.

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So I’m recreating Tracy. I’m polishing some of the tarnished parts and discarding some ideas and thoughts that no longer are needed.

And keeping the essence of who I am…

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Dance in the Rain

One of my favorite sayings in A.A. is

“Life isn’t about avoiding the storm, but learning instead to dance in the rain”

(Author unknown)

There’s a storm in my life right now. The ending of a relationship that I thought was forever.

The storm is inside me. It is inside my heart.

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 It rages loud and strong. It rages quietly and painfully.

No matter how many years of sobriety I have…there will always be storms.

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Some storms are little. A quick shower and it’s over. Others are dark violent storms that seem to last forever.

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Every time a storm comes into my life, I have to relearn again how to dance in the rain.

Yesterday was full of torrential downpours.

So I tried to dance…

The storm will continue to rage.

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I’ve learned to not avoid them.

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My dance is still a little awkward…a little shaky…

But I’m dancing.

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