Welcoming the New Year: A Season for Change

Every new year brings about the opportunity to reflect on where you are in your journey.  While you are always on the path, there are certain seasons when you are more open to creating change, for releasing the old to make space for the new. The new year is a moment when we are primed to embrace the possibility for transformation.   

Beginnings are exciting, but they can also activate uncertainty or fear.  We unintentionally cling to what is comfortable, however growth comes from moving into the unknown.  

The unknown activates our fears. Our fears are stored in the 4 core systems of our Connected Heart, the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual.  Just like cleaning out your house to declutter and feel refreshed, we have to clear out our 4 core systems in order to release old patterns and create new ones.    

Releasing old patterns requires a rarely acknowledged grief process that must occur to truly allow the new. This process is not for the faint of heart and to allow the full expression of our grief is messy. It is far from the polite and composed way we are encouraged to behave.   

To break out of our mold we must find the courage to step into the unknown and embrace the full expression of ourselves. Courage is found through accessing the four connected heart healing ingredients, curiosity, compassion, vulnerability, and responsibility.   

We hope that your journey leads you to a return to your Heart-Knowing in 2019. We offer you the blessings of the healing ingredients and the knowledge of the four core systems of your Connected Heart.  
Join us in creating a world of connected hearts. The journey will be available at www.connectedheart.net beginning 2019

12-Step Recovery: Step

Grace News January 2019

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”

When it was time for me to work the second step of our program of recovery, I brought with me a lifetime of judgements about organized religion and I was unwilling to be forced to accept someone else’s concept of a higher power. I believed that if someone wanted to force their religious beliefs on me or if my only option for membership was to believe what they believed, it was a cult. Good thing I read further. In reading on the second step in “Alcoholics Anonymous” encourages us to find a concept of our own, and I could definitely get down with that.

I have had experiences with God in my childhood and throughout my life. I was raised Catholic like everyone in my family and enjoyed going to church and participating in religious traditions of our faith. Unlike many who come into our program, I easily accepted the fact that there is something much larger than me.

The importance of step two is not that we currently believe, but we become willing to believe there is a Power greater than ourselves. When we acquire this willingness, we are ready to move on in our step work. I had no idea what God meant at this point, but I had faith that there was a higher purpose to my life. Because I experienced such a spiritual low and was very clear that my only options were death or jail if I continued to live the way I was living, I became willing to listen and try something new. I did not fully understand what it meant to have a spiritual experienced until I continued to work my steps.

The book tells us that “willingness, honesty and open-mindedness” (567) are the indispensable requirements of our program. I invite you to open your mind and watch your life flourish! 

Becca

“We came to believe in a Power Greater than ourselves, could restore us to sanity.” Step 3, Alcoholics Anonymous

By: Dianne Hastings

It is with the utmost privilege and honor, I submit this contribution to Grace Recovery ATX, Women’s Sober Living Home, January newsletter.  

I have the honor and privilege of knowing Becca and Leah for several months now.  I met Becca through mutual friends in recovery. We’ve all spent some time sharing our stories, vision and missions, personal and professional and I am thrilled to be a part of this family of recovery.  These two beautiful sisters help me to remember how precious life and love is, especially the love between “sisters”.

“We came to believe in a Power Greater than ourselves, could restore us to sanity.” Step 3, Alcoholics Anonymous

When I arrived in Austin almost 2 years ago, I was in the depths of hell on earth.  I literally spent the previous year begging God to take me. I would pray each night not to wake up, then I would open my eyes in the morning filled with anger, fear, despair, hopelessness and helplessness.  I longed to be close to my children, their wives and my grandchildren. This disease took me places I never thought I would go.

It was Christmas, 2016 weekend.  I couldn’t afford to get to Austin so I spent the holiday alone, grieving the loss of my entire family of origin- both parents and 5 siblings. At the  age of 54 and the realization I was not able to spend it with my sons, their wives and my 4 grandchildren (17,13,10 months and 9 months) due to car and financial issues.

My last relapse.

“Forgiveness is the willingness to give up hope, for a better past.”

Major loss # 1

I was born the sixth child to a Catholic, cajun family, in Port Arthur, Texas.  My losses began at the age of 3, when my father had to leave because of alcoholism and the effects it would have on him., it was 1966. He served our country as a Master Sergeant in WWII and Korean war in the U.S. Army.  He received two purple hearts, one for being shot in the head and the other in the back and many other medals. He returned home with tremendous pain and the drowning memories of the battles. Veterans didn’t have many programs to combat these types of sufferings, and we sure didn’t know about P.T.S.D.so he drank to ease the physical and emotional pain.  He was a carpenter and had built the home we lived in. Unfortunately his disease showed up in terms of domestic violence. He never hurt the children but he and my mother would argue and things were just not pretty.

Major loss # 2

At the age of 5, I awoke to the smell of  smoke and ran to my parents room, woke up everyone in the house and we went outside to watch our house burn down.There we were, 6 children, watching our home go up in smoke.  The fire was contained and fortunately we did not lose the entire home, but we were all divided in to the homes of our relatives. My first experience of being homeless and my first experience of “saving

people.” We were all divided and stayed with different family and friends.  We returned to our home.

Major loss #3

My mother went to work as a waitress to provide for us.  Next, my oldest two siblings moved out when I was 6, we had to sell our home and move into apartments.   So that left four of us. It was 1968, a true broken home.

Major loss #4

I remember coming home from school in 3rd grade to find out that my 5 had died, at the age of 48, of a heart attack, the sad thing is, I never knew him. So there we were, six kids and my Mom on the front row at#/ the funeral. He was honored with a military funeral.  His best friend came up to us after the service and told us “I was with Albert right before he died and he said “tell my kids I love them.” I’ve held onto that my entire life. I was given the U.S. flag. Every time I hear “Amazing Grace” that is the picture that surfaces in my mind and heart. My 3 middle siblings were teenagers `and so began to leave home and get married at a very young age.

Major loss #5

By the age of 12, I was the only child left at home.  I stayed with my maternal grandparents a lot, as my Mom worked.  I remember being happy and loved, very loved and would spend the night with my sisters and babysit. I had seventeen cousins!!! Some of us would spend weekends together at my grandparents.  Three of us formed a bond that would grow into a “sisterhood.” My Mom remarried and my step Dad provided us with a warm, loving home. I loved him so much. When I was 16, he died after complications from an esophagus surgery, leaving my Mom a widow. He was in the service too, so it was a military funeral. Again I was given the flag.  She never remarried.

Major Loss #6

I was well like in school, made good grades, was popular, a member of student council, and a cheerleader. I attended a technical school  for office administration, where I held the office of President. This would be the beginning of my business career. My family was so proud of me.  Then came the next blow, my sister Vickie was murdered by her husband, leaving two little girls, ages 2 and 3, as an indirect result of addiction and alcoholism. The pain and confusion was too much to bare and I started hanging out with kids and experimenting with alcohol and marijuana, but also keeping one foot planted in the mainstream of school.    

Major Loss #7

I was married by the age of 18 and had my first son, my world. The love and joy I had when I brought him into this world was indescribable.  I vowed to God and to myself, that he would never see me drunk or high. I was going to give him everything the world had to offer, but most of all a safe, loving home, so I did. A very important thing to note is that I loved and admired oldest sister, with every ounce of my being.  She had “gotten out” , married her high school sweetheart and had a beautiful family.  I wanted what she had and did my best to achieve this, Unfortunately, my marriage failed. My middle brother suffered from addiction and alcoholism, as well as mental health. He left town when I was 20, the last time I ever saw him.  He moved from city to city, staying in touch with myself and my oldest sister. He was the sweetest, kindest soul. He was also a very talented musician and artist. He would call almost every Sunday and visit with my children as well. My oldest brother was gay and since that was not acceptable during this period he chose to not return.  We did talk on the phone every weekend and he began telling me about Alcoholics Anonymous and his journey with sobriety. The next blow, he called me one night to let me know he was dying of AIDS. He had 9 years of sobriety and had been with the same partner during this time as well. He died when I was 21 in Atlanta, GA. My sister and I drove to his funeral. My mother was not able to make the trip, due to her declining health. His funeral was filled with happy, loving people, his recovery family. This would be my first experience of what the true meaning of the program looked like. He was in the Marines so he too had a military funeral.  Again, I was given the flag.

Major loss#8

Another sister had been in a marriage  since she was 16, lots of domestic violence and drug use, two little boys whom I adored. I rescued her and my two nephews on several occasions, from domestic violence but one night I was too late.  She was hospitalized in an intensive care in critical condition for several days. I will never forget what I saw when I walked in the room, her eye was the size of a tennis ball, a sack of blood. I helped get her and the children get into a home for battered women and their children. Once she got her own place and a job, she met someone and moved to Austin and rebuilt her life and the children had a happy home.

Major loss #9

In 1987, I remarried.  On day, I received a call from my sister saying  “Have you seen Mom? you need to get over there!” When I got to my Mom’s home, the left side of her face was paralyzed and she had slurred speech and blurred vision. We took her to the emergency room where they ran several test, The next day we were told she had metastatic cancer, she was given 6 weeks to live.  My sister and I took care of her and were able to come to peace and forgiveness for any of her shortcomings. She was such a strong lady- She buried 2 husband and two children, prior to dying herself. We gave her a beautiful funeral. I found out I was pregnant 2 months after my mother passed away. I was told I could never have another child after my oldest was born.  He was so precious. My miracle baby.

Major loss #10

The next blow, my sister Donna came to visit me when my second son was 6 weeks old.  She brought her two sons to live with their grandmother in Louisiana because she could not afford to take care of them and I believe she was abusing.   This would be the last time I saw her, 1989.

Major loss #11

The next blow…I was forced to separate when my baby was 12 months old and my oldest was 11.  It was not a healthy marriage to say to the least, resulting in another divorce., but this one was bad. I vowed I would never marry again. I weighed 89 lbs.

Major loss #12

I started dating my last husband, the love of my life, six months into my divorce.  We dated for 3 years off and on. My 2 nieces came to live with me when they were 15 and 16. Shortly thereafter, I married.  

We had the “picture perfect” marriage. I lived for my children and tried to create the best home possible, with the tools I had.  My healthcare career expanded, from hospital systems to managing various practices, from family practice to pediatrics, internal medicine, cardiovascular thoracic surgeons, psychiatry and many other. For the next ten years we had a good, happy home, so I thought, that’s where the “delusion” comes in. My two cousins and another close friend and their families spent every holiday, birthday, vacations and weekends together, the YaYa’s. Our family had family dinners all together at the table every night, went to church, the boys were in  sports, the all American family. But there was lots of drinking that went along with our social lives. I became a grandmother at the age of 36, 1999, my first precious grandchild. One day when I was at work, the receptionist came in and said “Ms. Hastings, you have an urgent call from your nephew” the youngest of both brothers. My first oldest nephew had been in a serious “drunk and driving” accident. He suffered brain and many other injuries that would leave him paralyzed in a coma for 6 months. He was paralyzed from the waist down and left side. He also had “impaired cognitive abilities.” The next ten years I would be over seeing his care in nursing homes. I began having lots of anxiety and some panic attacks due to the trauma I had endured. I began self medicating with “A” glass of wine at night at the age of 38.  Over the course of the next 4 years, my drinking increased to a few glasses. What I could never understand is why I could have the same amount of alcohol as my friends and I would either go to sleep or be in a blackout. My husband's career had several breaks in it, leaving him what I believe to have been a “mid life crisis’ The arguments about finances put a large strain on our marriage, to the point of it being almost being physical. We had the best of the best and the worse of the worse. Right before our ten year anniversary, It was necessary for my son and I to leave, another divorce, 2004. My drinking “progressed.” I was managing a group of over a hundred ER physicians, covering 7 hospitals throughout Houston and Southeast Texas.  Throughout my career have have mentored hundreds of employees, not only with their career, but with life. I’m honored to say that these woman have become some of my best friends.  In 2005, my second granddaughter was born. She brought so much light into my life and the world.

Major loss #13

The next blow, my “first love” died suddenly following complications from a shoulder surgery.  We were high school sweethearts at the age of 16. We remained friends through life’s ups and downs. He also became a mentor to my son in golf. I helped his parents and siblings with the funeral planning and it was the most beautiful “golf ceremony” Celebration of Life.  He had 21 pallbearers and I was one of them, so was my son. I lost my “best guy” friend. By this time I was up to a bottle a day, still functioning but barely. I was recruited to Austin and I thought “this was my ticket to sobriety”. I would be close to my oldest son and rebuild my life.  I went to my first AA meeting, got a sponsor and began working the steps.

Major loss #14

The next blow, my oldest sister had been exhibiting signs of memory loss for a couple of years but they insisted “nothing was wrong.”  It was 2007. I went home to visit and finally was told that she had a rare terminal neurological disorder, known as Cortiobasil Gangliotic Degeneration a disease that is similar to Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s, at the same time and results in a slow death.  Watching her die was probably the hardest thing I have ever been through. No known cause, no treatment and no cure. I remember I couldn’t breath. I returned to Austin in complete pain and agony. How could God do this to me? I couldn’t bare the loss of my sweet, sweet sister.  

Major loss #15

The next blow, was the economic crisis of 2008 and I lost my job.  For the first time in my life, I was unemployed and after 10 years of being my nephew’s caregiver, he passed away after complications from having his legs amputated.  Twenty eight years of healthcare, single, children grown and nowhere to go. My dear friend’s Mom said I could move in with her for 2 weeks and it ended up being 18 months. Over the decade she would become my confidant, my saving grace.  Not only did she give me a place to live, she helped me through some of my darkest days, finally sober, and having the memory of the losses of a lifetime flood my mind and heart. She was a best friend, mother, sister, mentor and a retired L.C.D.C. so I had daily counseling and tough love when I needed it.

I had reached a point where alcohol quit working, the invisible line that we learn about in the program. I went to AA, got a sponsor, worked the steps and managed to put together my first 18 months of sobriety, however I was on medications.  I went back to school to pursue my dream of being a Massage Therapist. I did everything I could to make my sister’s life as happy as it could be during the next few years. I was able to bring her shopping, her favorite and help as much as I was allowed to. I graduated and passed my state boards.  My oldest sister passed away and we put her to rest January 20, 2013, leaving me to be the “only survivor.” She was my rock. When she died a huge

part of me died with her.  I thought I could never go on without her. The days, weeks and months following her death were mixed with highs and lows.  Watching her die was probably the hardest thing I have ever been through, 6 years. I have people ask me which is harder, tragic sudden death or death from illness, my answer is “it’s all hard”.

I rebuilt my life again and had a successful, private practice.  The following year both children were married a month apart and the following year both were pregnant.  The next blow, I woke up one morning and couldn’t hardly get out of bed. My back pain was so severe. After 2 months of diagnostics, it was discovered that I had suffered 2  thoracic vertebra compression fractures, resulting in nothing short of being bed bound for five months. My medication use and repeated relapses increased, yet again. I had absolutely no tools to deal with life and nothing could ease my pain.  I had a successful corrective surgery, but was unable to return to that type of work. I thought I had went through the darkest depression and drinking days of my life until then. My two next grandchildren were born. I was not able to be their for their births are much of their first year of life, due to my fractured back.  More pain and grief.

Over the course of the decade of 2007-2017, my children, daughter in laws, cousin, lifelong friend and “new friend” loyalty never waiver. They loved me, forgave me, supported me in every way possible. But no one but no one could save me from myself, but God.

“Made a decision to turn our will and our power over to the care of God as we understood him.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Step 3

I entered Texas Star Recovery January 20, 2017.  On this day I finally completely SURRENDERED! I had nothing left in me to fight, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I told myself, I didn’t know anything and I was going to listen to anything and everything they told me to do, because I knew I didn’t have one more drink left in me.  I had to become WILLING, to take direction. They recommended I move into sober living so I could establish friends and people that were living in recovery. I hired someone to pack my home, my children went and brought it here to storage and I began a new design for living.

“Came to believe in a power greater than ourselves to restore us to sanity”

Alcoholics Anonymous, Step 2.

Since doing so, my life has changed dramatically.  The Austin Recovery Community embraced me in a way I never thought possible, with recovery, unity and community, as well as acceptance, love and compassion.  I got a sponsor, work the steps honestly and thoroughly, began building a fellowship around me, service work and attended classes in PHP, IOP, DBT and EMDR, to process my losses and develop coping skills. My sponsor was my role model.  She was active in meetings, had sponsee’s, did service work. Every time I would be in a difficult situation, she would tell me the same thing “you never have to drink again.” It took time before I came to believe and trust this.

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.” Alcoholics Anonymous” Step 8

One by one,  I was able to make amends, not just saying “I’m sorry” which was very different for me. My sponsor told me, “they’ve heard this a million times, ask them “how has my drinking hurt you, then be silent and LISTEN.” then ask “what can I do to make it up to you?” most all of them said “keep doing what you’re doing.” So I’ve attempted to make a living amends by being the person I truly am. A loving, giving, compassionate human being, who has spent a lifetime helping others, but now it is different.  I have no hidden agenda. “Entitlement has left me.” The Big Book tells us that we had to be rid of selfishness and self centeredness, 2 of the many character defects of alcoholism.

“Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly.” The  Ninth Step Promises. Over the course of the past two years I was able to process and heal the wounds of my past.  I shifted from being the victim to being the victor. Every one of the promises has evolved in my life. I have healthy, happy relationships with my children, my daughter in laws and most all other relationships have been restored, which I never thought possible. “We  will suddenly realize that God is doing for us, what we could not do for ourselves.” I get to participate and be a part of in my grandchildren’s lives on a regular basis. These are the true gifts I have received from God.

Then this happened, a few months ago I was asked to be a volunteer for an amazing organization, Communities for Recovery, a non for profit that provides education and resources to promote long term recovery, to be a Family Recovery Program Facilitator,. Upon completing the classes, I educate family, friends and allies of those who suffer from mental illness and substance disorder. Through this endeavor, I was offered another opportunity to become a Certified Family Recovery Peer Coach Specialist, through Recovery People, a non for profit.  A nation wide initiative in the recovery movement was developed to promote long term recovery for the family as a whole. The basis on which “Peer” has helped increase the success rate of those in recovery, is by sharing our “lived experience.”

“Having had a “spiritual awakening” as a result of these steps, we tried to carry the message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Step 12
I try to apply the recovery principles in every aspect of my life.  In the past, I kept my pain as well as my recovery private; today I share my experience, strength, and hope whenever the opportunity presents itself. In doing so, I try to exhibit hope, love, trust, honesty, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, spirituality and service. My program consist of all three sides of the triangle, recovery, unity and community.

I practice self care on a daily basis which includes prayer, yoga, meditation, massage, healthy eating, rest and sleep. I continue to be active in individual therapy and access

healthcare services as needed. I try to practice healthy boundaries, which can sometimes be difficult for me, but I find if I talk to another alcoholic, my sponsor or my therapist about any given situation, they help me sort out the situation and give me insight to where my part ends and the other person’s responsibility begins. The tools I have today have allowed me to move past the darkness and into the light.

I owe my life to the grace, mercy and blessings of God, my children, my aunt,  friends, family, the fellowship and program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

January 20, 2019 will mark my 2 years of sobriety, and the 6th anniversary of my sister’s death, I know that she, my parents and other siblings are my angels. I am deeply grateful to be alive.  Today, my life is beautiful. I have a clear mind, love in my heart and peace in my soul.

Many Blessings,

Dianne Hastings





Courage.

By Leah McIlrath

“Once individuals recognize their role in creating their own life predicament, they also realize that they, and only they, have the power to change the situation.” Gerald Corey.

Count One's Blessings…

This is the month that we all tend to focus on what's broken and what needs fixing. We make promises to do better, to make a change, to stop a bad habit and to lose weight. I want to challenge our readers to put the areas in your life you feel need improving on the back burner for a couple days. This is the first full week that life is back to “routine” from the holidays. I challenge you to focus on all the blessings you had this last year and do so for the rest of the week. The areas that need improving will still be there next week. Start off with a grateful heart for all the accomplishments and often time, taken for granted, blessings you truly have in your life. The big ones and the small ones. Encourage yourself to have courage to do so.

Have gratitude to feed a happy heart. Behavior is our hearts internal language that programs ourselves to think a certain way. If you flood your heart (and brain) with everything that is broken and that needs fixing you are conditioning yourself to steamroll over the blessings and accomplishments. Everyone has blessings and accomplishments. Encourage yourself to see them.

Our values, beliefs, attitudes, goals and interests determine our individual perception of reality. Through that WE have a choice of how our individual reality is perceived. Choosing to focus on the positivity in our environment can help arm ourselves for when the roads get challenging. Encourage yourself to have the courage to know you are in the driver’s seat with your values, beliefs, attitudes, goals and interests.

Encouragement means “to build courage.” We cannot 100% look to others for encouragement, doing so is a roadblock to looking inward, an excuse not to do so.  We have to encourage ourselves before we can expect anyone's encouragement to resonate. In times that are tough the intrinsic encouragement can seem very distant. However, if intrinsic encouragement is a daily habit we will condition ourselves to know it exists even when times are hard. It will be present with little to no effort at all. We are not victims of our circumstances. We are the only one who determines the pathways that we follow. Encourage yourself to determine the pathways you WANT to follow.

Becoming a good human is a non stop project. Some people may look at this as a daunting process. Those of you who do, trying shifting your perspective. Being human is a non stop project can be a very forgiving way to live. The pressure to be perfect can be lifted. We can live and learn, recover from our mistakes, change our careers, and move to another state. We do not have to accept a situation that is weighing us down. We will make mistakes, how those mistakes are recovered is solely up to ourselves. Existence is never fixed or finished. Encourage yourself to see good in the fact that being a human is a non stop project.

To have courage means to be able to move forward in spite of our anxiety producing situations and environments. Have the courage to encourage yourself everyday in all that you do. I promise, you will be surprised, how the daily habit of encouraging yourself will be set to auto pilot when the road gets tough.




Reason v. Experience: Step One - Rebecca Frederick

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable.” P. 59

Rebecca Frederick

For many years, I “tried” to get sober on my own terms. After all, I was an intelligent, educated woman and my family told me so my entire life. I was the oldest of three girls, the “good one” my sisters would say. I was definitely the least likely to become a drug addict. So, what if I over indulged a little here and there? I should be able to read a book and teach myself how to manage on my own, like the smart girl that I was. Plus, my young parents were both alcoholics and I saw what it did to them and our family, I had vowed at a young age I would never let alcohol get ahold of me. And yet I took my first drink at 13… For decades I lived under the delusion that I was in control and could stop when I wanted, and it almost killed me. The truth is that as soon as I ingest any mind-altering substance into my body, I lose any ability to stop entirely. My addiction has taken me to places I promised myself I’d never go.

Our book tells us that alcoholism is a disease, not a moral failure, no longer a choice. It is the only disease that I know of which tells our brain we don’t have it. Not me. Nope. I’m nothing like y’all. I had a job as a registered nurse and a family who loved me. Yet as most of you know, alcoholism doesn’t discriminate.

 By the time I got sober the last time at age 32, it had been years since I had a choice whether I would stick a needle in my arm. I didn’t understand this until I came to Texas in 2015, where they were doing things a little differently than they did in Chicago. At home, they told me things like “meeting makers make it” and “easy does it” and “one day at a time.” So, I went to a lot of meetings, took it easy and lived one day at a time but I always got high eventually. In Austin, I noticed something a little different; young people were working steps and staying sober and helping other alcoholics as quickly as possible.

The thing is, we are dealing with a progressive and FATAL disease and now I know that I don’t have the luxury to take things easy. I needed to get through the steps to save my life. My mother (my angel) sent me to Austin for sober living because my sister who wanted nothing to do with her heroin addicted sister would be near-by in case of emergencies. I’ve come to believe that this was one of the many divine interventions God had in store for me, because little did I know when I was on the plane that I would end up in not only one of the biggest party cities in the US, but the strongest most amazing sober community I could have imagined. In order to live in my sober home, I was required to get a sponsor and work steps.

I really didn’t want to be homeless in a city I didn’t know. For the first time in my life I sat down with a woman who had been through the 12 steps of AA and had her own experience and knew she needed to share what she had in order to keep it. We read Alcoholics Anonymous together and she shared with me that she had once been strung out on drugs, but she had recovered and was free. Free to enjoy her life moment by moment and go anywhere and do anything she pleased. I had my doubts. But I was so spiritually bankrupt, physically and mentally deteriorating, I listened. I decided I had nothing to lose.

In Alcoholics Anonymous I learned that alcoholism (and drug addiction) is a two-part disease that affects the mind and also the body. The difference between the body of an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic is an odd little term they use “manifestation of a physical allergy.” Interchangeable with “phenomenon of craving” the body of an alcoholic craves more alcohol or drugs once the first drink or drug is ingested. Once an alcoholic takes the first drink, the alcoholic has lost all control of how many drinks he will take. There were many nights in my drinking days where I would go out with every intention of having two drinks with friends and end up buying everyone at the bar Jager bombs, spending all my money, waking up late for work, wondering what had happened. The Big Book also tells us that “no real alcoholic ever recovers control.” Unwilling to hear it before, I had to smash my previous delusions.

The second part of alcoholism they talk about in Alcoholics Anonymous is the “obsession of the mind.” It is in this deception of our own minds that our disease is trying to kill us. It tells us things like “this time will be different” or “I quit for a period of time so it’s safe for me to drink again.” My disease shows up in other areas of my life as well and may tell me that a relationship with a man, my career or external or material things are more important than going to a meeting. And then before I even realize what has happened, I get separated from my program and my higher purpose, I end up strung out again.

Alcoholics Anonymous tells us than unless we have a spiritual experience that will interrupt, the cycle of addiction is doomed to repeat itself over and over until we are willing to accept this truth. Not only an experience, but an entire personality rearrangement, an upheaval of our previous thoughts and attitudes, an “entire psychic change.” The steps are a guide to a relationship with a God of our understanding and a rebirth of power over our lives and our disease, we can experience peace. It is promised. I am living proof of this.

But we are in luck, if we concede we have this disease of alcoholism and fully understand that we will drink again unless we experience this spiritual awakening, because we have a sick body and mind, we still might have a chance. Read further and you will find that Alcoholics Anonymous is a step by step instruction manual toward a solution to all our problems. I had no idea what that meant when I was finally willing to jump into the work. I am accepting of the fact that I had to experience every horrible thing in my past to appreciate the life I have today. By the Grace of God and this program I am sober today. I continue to practice the spiritual principles of 12 step recovery because I am very clear that I can go back to my drug use at any point. I am not afraid.

Thank you for being a part of my story

Life and Recovery - One Mothers Story

Life & Recovery - One Mother’s Story

The thing that I have learned about life is you never know what or who lies on your journey and the places it will take you.  The journey will enlighten you and expose you to lessons and experiences that will make an impact on you forever.

One of my journeys began with my son Matthew (Matt), “gift from God”. My gift was born on February 5, 1984. My gift was adorable, sweet, affectionate, charming, annoying, kind, funny, compassionate, mischievous, sensitive, and at times, sad, lonely, anxious, and insecure.

School was an overwhelming obstacle for Matt (not the friends or the fun!). Failure and anxiety had become part of Matt’s journey.

Super mom, that would be me, was to get this all straightened out. A new journey commenced, that of advocacy, tutors, counselors, therapists, learning interventions and accommodations, IEP’s, doctors, medications, vitamins, whatever it took. Medication seemed to help but it was apparent that Matt was also self-medicating; our journey become more challenging.

Several years into Matt’s work life he was injured on the job and that resulted in nerve damage to his arm. Doctors opened the door wide for Matt to access opiates.  Matt grabbed on with both hands. On Friday, August 5th, 2011, I discovered that Matt was using heroin. My heart, soul, and spirit shook. Understanding that possible recovery would be a dynamic, grueling, complex process. I knew I needed help in order to support Matt.

Family Anonymous meetings became my anchor.  There I found love, support, understanding, acceptance, friendship and a new family. I learned to pray a new way from my friend Colleen. It wasn’t about praying for my outcome but strength to handle whatever the outcome.  One evening at my house, I held Matt in my arms as he cried and wailed for me to please help him. His pain pierced my heart. His years of addiction made him a person who was suffering biochemically. He was altered and an abyss of pain. I knew I could not fix this or him, and all I could do was love unconditionally.

On Saturday, September 21, 2013, Matt, my gift from God, lost his battle with addiction. His wails were now my wails. My journey through grief was going to be life long. How do you say goodbye and live after you have lost your child? My strength comes from my daughters, Erin and Cathaleen, my grandchildren, my dear friends, FA, and my faith.

Over were the overwhelming feelings of worry, anguish, terror, and fear.  They were replaced by loss and sorrow that brought me to my knees and how grateful that God was kneeling with me. As I continue on my grief journey I embrace every single moment I had with Matt.  Matt’s life and death have made me a kinder, more forgiving, grateful, tolerant, loving person.

The first morning of my sorrow I woke up, I got out of bed, dressed in a cute outfit, did my hair, put my make up on.  This is a promise I made to myself and Matt that I would do everyday. Matt, in his charming way often said to me “mom, you look good, you are a pretty cute lady”.

I still have nights I cry myself to sleep, but I get up, I breathe in my strength, and I put on a little extra makeup.  This is my gift to Matt, my gift to God.

Maureen

PS My heart overflows with pride for Grace Recovery co-founders, Leah, Rebecca, and Natalie. Thank you for loving Matt unconditionally.  


Connected Heart #2- The Mental System

As we begin our journey into the Connected Heart, we start our exploration in the first of our four systems, the Mental System, with the Wolf as our guide. The Wolf connects you to heightened senses and intense presence as you learn how your own mental system operates within you.

The Wolf

“Take my eyes and senses to see with. I give you the gift of mental clarity and curiosity, so you will be able to see the thoughts and beliefs of your mind that were too scary to see before.”

Each system of our Connected Heart communicates with us in the language of that system. Current issues or dissatisfactions in our lives show up in our mental system as thoughts and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. At Connected Heart, we call these our Disconnected Beliefs. These belief systems become patterns of thinking, acting, and ultimately the lens we see the world through. This creates a feedback loop where we only see the evidence of these belief systems, seemingly confirming these thoughts as true.   

These disconnected beliefs block us from Heart-Knowing, our natural state of well-being, worthiness, freedom and love of our self and others.   

Disconnected beliefs live in the mental system. Many of us operate largely from our mental system and use it as the primary source of information about ourselves and the world. We tend to identify with the mental system and believe this is the totality of who we are. The reality is that we are much more than just the activity of our mental system! Yet because of our modern society’s over-identification with the mind and our disconnected beliefs, we don’t recognize that we are far more and we don’t gain access to the other systems. We then stay stuck unable create the change we desire.

Journey into your mental system and learn what disconnected beliefs are active, blocking you from your natural state of worthiness, well-being, and freedom!

Join us in creating a world of Connected Hearts!

Until next time,

Love,

Robin and Wendy





I Choose Bold - Coaching and Consulting

Dear Self,

I am going to take things slow and breathe deeply.

I am going to love on you just like I’d love my bestie.

I am going to open my heart to you and listen from there.

I am going to let go of any shame or blame. It’s covering up what I need to learn.

In uncovering, I discover parts of me I had never known.

So much to learn, to connect with and understand under this veil.

Some parts need to be seen, some need to be heard and some need healing.


I welcome all of you- the broken, the chipped and the healed.

I celebrate you, whole, as a woman, experiencing her life.

As I love you, I get to know you.

As I get to know you, I realign and rebuild.

I will not be unkind and unfair. I will support you.

I will take deep, full breaths and get into my body and away from the chatter of my ego mind.

I can slow down now to speed up later.

This is my time to just BE with you.

You're My Favorite!

Love, ME

I Choose Bold

Source: ichoosebold.com

Connected Heart #1

Journey Into Your Connected Heart

Hi, Heart Knowers.

Welcome to Connected Heart, a journey into the depths of your mind, body, heart, and soul.

Join us on an adventure that leads to connection, resilience, unleashing your full potential, and ultimately a return to Heart-Knowing.

Heart-Knowing is our natural state of well-being, worthiness, freedom, and love. Your journey to Heart -Knowing begins now!

Within each of us exists a Connected Heart, made up of 4 systems: the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of ourselves.

These systems are how we translate our experiences in the world, and they are the basis for understanding all of life’s challenges.

Negative life experiences create blocks in these core systems keeping us from reaching our full potential.

Step into the journey of your Connected Heart and begin the exploration into each of your four core systems. Learn the healing ingredients of curiosity, compassion, vulnerability, and responsibility that assist you along the way, allowing you to return to Heart-Knowing.

We’re excited to have you on the journey! Let’s create a world of Connected Hearts together!

Until next time,

Love, Robin and Wendy

Connected Heart

Source: connectedheart.net

Teressa

My names Teressa, and I’m a grateful recovered drug addict. My struggle is part of my story, and I’m so grateful for my journey. It has made me the woman, mother, sister, daughter and friend that I am today. The tools of this program have enabled me to tap into an amazing power that gives me the ability to show up for others and myself.

 I don’t remember much of my childhood, but I do remember always feeling out of place. I was surrounded by drug and alcohol abuse growing up and its prevalence caused me to believe this way of life was normal. By eleven years old, I had adopted the same lifestyle as the adults around me. Drugs enabled me to face life and I assumed they would continue to be the central fact of my existence. They gave me strength, independence, security and confidence. However, Addiction is a progressive illness and it did not take long before I reached extreme lows. By age thirteen, I was taking pills, smoking weed, drinking and began smoking meth.

 After some consequences that landed me in a juvenile program, I entered my first 30 day residential treatment center.  I was able to stay off meth the following years of high school but supplemented with other drugs because I believed meth was the problem. What I didn’t understand at the time was that the drugs were in fact not my problem, they were my solution to my own internal condition. Yet the other drugs landed me in many more juvenile programs, caused me to repeatedly be expelled from school, and created issues at home.

 A big part of my story and another addiction I struggled with was selling drugs because I was obsessed with the lifestyle. I was seventeen when I left home to pursue an abusive relationship and was introduced to heroin.

 Once I started using heroin I felt like I had finally found my place. Through relationships ending and new ones starting, I hid my addiction from my family and friends for as long as I could. My deception came to a head when I couldn’t disguise it anymore.  I got honest with the father of my children after many legal consequences and started Suboxone for a few weeks until I got pregnant with my son.

 When my son was six months old, my mom went back to prison and I started using heroin again. I had tried to get sober for years - Methadone maintenance, treatment centers, relapse prevention plans, sober livings, I followed discharge plans, and for some reason I just could not stay sober. I truly believed I had to kill myself to end the cycle.

 God had other plans for me. I landed in a treatment center that actually sat me down, opened the big book and explained the truth behind step one. I felt a sense of relief that I didn’t think could happen. I was not alone. I was hopeless and doomed but there was a program that could give me freedom and all I had to do was put in the work. So, I did and though I’ve had some struggles sober, I’ve recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body.

 Today I am free. For the first time in my life I have begun to learn who I really am and begin to love myself. I’ve formed the most amazing relationships along the way and I work in my career field that I love. I’ve been able to show up as a mother to my kids and make up for time that I lost. Not only has my life blossomed but I get the opportunity to help others and take women through the same work that set me free. Watching women gain freedom for themselves and pass it on to others is truly a special experience. I’m so grateful for my spiritual life and the faith I’ve acquired along the way. I’m grateful for this program, the change that has occurred in my life and the ability to share my story.

Intro to 12-Steps

I’ve been asked to contribute an article on 12 Step Recovery for our monthly newsletter for the women of Grace Recovery ATX. There is so much I would like to share with you, it is difficult to know where to begin. It is my goal to provide information on 12 step recovery and share my experience on incorporating the 12 steps into my life, while maintaining anonymity which, according to the 12th Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous, “is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions”. (p. 562)

I choose to identify myself as a recovered alcoholic and recovered drug addict because I have experienced a “spiritual awakening” or if you will, a “psychic change” by working the 12 Steps out of the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, with the spiritual guidance of a female sponsor. I will not identify myself publicly as a member of any particular fellowship,( i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous.)

We at Grace Recovery ATX would be delighted to give you information about meetings, sponsorship or literature, or if you are interested about anything else about these spiritual programs of recovery! The great thing about Austin is that on any given day, multiple times a day, there are drug addicts and alcoholics meeting to share hope and solution about a new way of living. The aforementioned 12 Step fellowships also have websites detailing meeting locations and times, with 24-hour hotline services if you need to speak to another addict. Links will be included in this article.

In my own personal recovery, I see the Power of “the program” come to life when one practices the spiritual principles outlined in our text, rather than recite passages or give a personal interpretation of the words that were precisely executed in the 1930’s. The amazing thing to me is that the words in Alcoholics Anonymous are still relevant to my life and those of hundreds of thousands of others; young and old, black and white, alcoholic or drug addicted, around the world today, in 2018.

The “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous was written in 1939 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in 1939. It is believed Bill Wilson had his last drink on December 11, 1934 and the official founding date of Alcoholics Anonymous is June 10, 1935, the day of Dr. Bob’s last drink. It is important to note that AA identifies as a spiritual program, not a religious one, in case that deters anyone from participating. We will explore further in upcoming months exactly what that means. AA encourages and supports you to find a personal Higher Power through working the program as outlined in the text. We share our “experience, strength, and hope” and take other alcoholics and addicts through the work, as was done for us by those who came before us.

As I approach the anniversary of my 3rd “Birthday” in recovery this week, it is a natural time of reflection. It is a beautiful Fall Sunday evening. I’m sitting on the back porch at my home in Austin which I rent with two of my best women friends, who also work strong 12 step programs of their own. It has been a particularly chaotic week at work, followed by a high energy weekend with my nieces and nephews; full of kisses and questions, cupcakes and crocodile tears. The sun is setting over the hills. My roommate’s chihuahua, of whom I am particularly fond, is sniffing around the yard. A glass wind chime is delicately twinkling in the background. Sipping a steaming mug of ginger tea with honey, I am at peace. Grateful. This is heaven on Earth, in this moment. The 12 Steps have given me a life beyond my dreams. If you had known me 3 years ago, you would not doubt the presence of a Higher Power in my life today. If my life had continued the way it was headed, things were not going to end well. I was hopeless, a broken shell of the woman I was meant to be. Now, my life is full, and I have purpose and am surrounded by love, it is truly miraculous. I could not wish for anything more. I am truly grateful for the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I encourage you to be open minded as each month we explore different topics and relate them to 12 Step recovery. If you have questions or topic suggestions feel free to reach out to us at info@gracerecoveryatx.com See y’all next month! And don’t be afraid to reach out if you want a change! If it is possible for me, it is possible for anyone. Thank you for being a part of my journey!

Rebecca Frederick

Co-Founder Grace Recovery ATX

Sober since October 31, 2015

becca@gracerecoveryatx.com

 Alcoholics Anonymous,

 Fourth Edition, 2001. New York City,

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS WORLD SERVICES, INC.

www.austinaa.org

www.ca-scta.org

www.heroinanonymous.org

www.crystalmeth.org

HOPE continued

HOPE
It is my responsibility to create my life. I have the power to make changes or to not. HOPE CAN BE BORN, because I allow it to be.

Growing up in a constant state of "fight or flight" has conditioned my body and my brain to feel normal when stressed.

I fight so desperately to heal, from what, I'm not sure. I just always knew, I felt broken. Through my attempts to heal I have learned there is not a finite point in one's life where, bam, you're healed. And although that is a very hard concept for my type A brain to process, it has become a building block throughout my healing journey. The healing process is and will always be forever changing, rebuilding and remolding, which is both my biggest nightmare and my biggest relief. It makes me HOPEful that I will heal.

One of my biggest challenges is to stay present in my moments. With mindfulness meaning to be aware of the present experience, with acceptance, that means I cannot judge and I have to turn off my thoughts. What!?!? That is next to impossible! I believe that if I am not being stressed, there is always more I can be doing. Remember, my brain is conditioned to think stress is normal. Taking on the task to live a more mindful life has given me a lot of Hope that I do not need to be stressed to think I am living up to my fullest potential.

I remind myself that to be mindful doesnt mean to sit in the dark, with no noises, and humming. It is a personal journey. For me it is not periods of formal practice, rather becoming mindful as a way of life is how I practice mindfulness. (At the end of this article you will find links to recommended Mindfulness literature and resources to get one started on their own personal mindfulness journey.)

To create who I am I realize, now, is an ongoing process. I remind myself, I am not my past, my history is not my destiny. Whatever got me to today, got me to today, and all I have guaranteed is, today.

Martin Buber is a master of living in the present. He says a way to tell yourself if you are being present is ask yourself:

1. Are you engaging in true I/Thou relationships?

2. Are you allowing meaning to exist in situations?

3. Are you being responsible for you here and now?

To Buber I/Thou means to not make a mistake of reducing relationships to mere objects. It is important to have I/It relationships in everyday life, however relationships that have meaning and purpose in your life must be looked upon with positive mutual respect.

Reducing meaningful relationships to mere objects can rob an individual of purpose and presence in their own life.

See the beauty in others and add to that beauty, in turn, beauty will be brought to your life.

Read more on Martin Buber’s thoughts on HOPE in his BOOK.

Meditation Now

Mindfulness for Life