Tag Archives: gratitude

Clean and Sober

Today I reach a milestone: I have been clean and sober for 35 years. I have lived more than half my life with a spiritual program that keeps me without drugs or alcohol—one day at a time.

I find it inconceivable that it has been 35 years since I had a beer or smoked a joint. Inconceivable!  (And yes, I know what that means.)

It is easier for me to believe that I got drunk last week and have been lying about it.

But it’s true. 35 years.

These have been monumental years. Years of amazing accomplishments, personal and spiritual growth.

As with everyone my age, big events have taken place. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths, creative accolades, cancers. Huge events. Emotional events. Certainly events worth drinking over, either in grief or in celebration.

truth and loveLife is not easy. But sobriety is its own reward.

All of these major life events are the stuff of the human experience, and I have been fortunate enough to be present and clear-headed for it all.

I think that’s our reason for being: to experience the human condition in all its intricacies.  Booze and drugs gloss over those intricacies, dull those edges, flatten out those highs and lows, fill in the cracks wherein we might mine for the gold placed precisely there for precisely us.

Drinking and drugging is a waste of time, a waste of money, and a waste of personality.

I am beyond fortunate. I am one of the very fortunate ones who have been able to get sober and stay sober. God willing, I will die sober. But I am in the minority. Drug and alcohol addiction is so sneaky, so calmly patient and doggedly persistent, that when we falter, it is there, waiting with a “fix” to whatever transient problem catches us at a weak moment.

But those aren’t fixes. They’re insulators. They’re a horror show in a bottle. They’re death by slow torture, and they take all our loved ones down with us.

I may be 35 years clean and sober, but I am only one drink away from disaster, and I think about that every single day.

Today I will go to a meeting and share my experience, strength and hope: If I can do it, you can do it. And that is absolutely true.

And then I will go about my life, living in gratitude. I am not only grateful for everything that I’ve been given in life, but grateful for every mind-altering substance I ingested that brought me to my knees and introduced me to the spiritual program that gives me solid tools for living.

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The Hometown Book Signing

I’ve written before about the very few golden moments in an author’s life. Mostly it’s just bloody hard work, disappointment and aggravation. Writing, rewriting, editing, marketing, traveling, speaking engagements, working with editors and agents, rewriting again, more editing, more marketing, schlepping books, trying to get paid, shuffling money while the check is “in the mail”…

I know. I shouldn’t whine.

But Sunday afternoon was one of those times when it became crystal clear that it’s all worth it. I held my hometown booksigning and launch party for York’s Moon. Lots of people came. New friends, old friends, people I hadn’t seen since… since my last booksigning.

I felt the love.

What’s important to me about this event is not that I threw myself a party and a bunch of people came, it’s that people are still reading, still buying books, still supporting the local independent bookstore. We held this event at Tsunami Books, where Scott works 70 hours a week to maintain the local new/used bookstore. It’s an institution and worthy of all the support we can give it.

It always amazes me that I’m fortunate enough to continue to be published in this economy. Apparently, I’m writing what people want to read, and that is enormously gratifying. We sold all the books that Scott brought in, along with a few of my out of print titles. As we were packing up the last of the food (just enough for Al’s dinner), Scott came over to me and said, “You have fans!” I know. I’m humbled by that.

It was a great party, a successful booksigning and a fine launch of what I hope people will find to be a good read. Thanks, everyone, for reminding me about how grateful I am to be doing the only thing I was really invented to do.

P.S. How can you not love a bookstore that has a section like this?

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Filed under My New Novel, Promotion, Reading, Writing

The bottle in my cupboard

It has been many, many years since I used to add “a little something” to my coffee.  When I did, it was always brandy, or Kahulua, or some liqueur that goes well with a steaming cup. No longer. Not for many, many years, that.

I always drank my coffee black. Then I went to New Orleans for two weeks and had that magical chicory coffee with sweetened milk, and now I must have milk and sweetener in my coffee. After I went to Italy, I could no longer bear Folger’s, but must now grind my own beans and make my coffee fresh every  morning.

A coffee connoisseur? I don’t know that I’d go that far, but I do love my java. And now I have another passion: Torani’s sugar-free syrups. I discovered them at Starbuck’s, of course, and then I found them on the grocery store shelf. My favorite is Caramel (the vanilla tastes kind of weird to me), but right now I’m obsessed with the Hazelnut. A little shot of that in my cup in the morning with some milk, and I am in fragrant caffeine heaven.

Still. Whenever I reach up into that cabinet above the microwave–the only cabinet on the coffee pot side of the kitchen that is tall enough — and grab that big bottle, I get a little shiver of recognition from the old days, the bad days, the days when I would start my day with a little something that almost destroyed me.

And then I think about how grateful I am…especially since this is gratitude month…and pour myself a nice hot cup of coffee and think about people who are struggling against that other type of bottle, who aren’t as fortunate as I am to have replaced theirs with the sweetness of sugar-free Torani syrup.

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All Gratitude, All the Time

My friend Susan Wiggs, initiated her Gratitude Project on her blog yesterday, and I’m stealing the idea. Well, I’m appropriating the idea, with her blessings.

The idea is to think of, and post, three things you’re grateful for today, every day through Thanksgiving. Or every day, period. Things like: hot water when you turn on the faucet. Frozen pizza. Moist towelettes. Your spousal unit. Your functioning brain. Shoes that fit. Autumn leaves. Your dog’s cold nose. You get the idea.

I think we take way too much for granted, and when we look around us with gratitude in our hearts, our lives change.

So take this idea and run with it. Tell your friends. Use it on your blogs, in your churches, your coffee klatches, your bookclubs. Write an essay on gratitude and submit it. Let’s make November National Gratitude Month.

I, for one, could use a lot less cynicism in my life.

So for today, here is my gratitude list:

1. I’m grateful for my wonderful husband who gets up singing in the morning.

2. I’m grateful to have the career I have always wanted, that intrigues, frustrates, challenges, and rewards me.

3. I’m grateful to all my friends who love me as much as I love them.

Three more coming tomorrow.

Your turn.

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“If you want something done…

…give it to a busy person. ”

When I wrote the words “I don’t have enough to do” the other day on this blog, they haunted me for the rest of the day and night. I must be insane to think that. The truth is, I have plenty to do, I’m just not doing anything.

So this morning I got into action. I went back to work. And suddenly, life is brighter. I have a great pot of beans in the crockpot. I have finished writing a short story that began its life at the ghost story weekend in April, and then I sent it out. I got a reference book for my class this fall, and read it, and have marked the pages I will use. I went for a bike ride and did laundry and cleaned up the kitchen. I have dusted off the novel that is still 10 pages shy of “finished first draft” and think I might review what I need to review in order to finish those pages and then get going on the rewrite.

This isn’t a list of my daily activities, just a kind of apology for believing for a moment that I didn’t have enough to do. I have lots to do. If I do nothing but sit in gratitude for my embarrassment of riches, that will be a good day.

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Filed under Bean soup, Discipline, Short Stories, time, Writing