Have AA Meetings will Travel....

This piece was originally published on The Fix on 12/23/2015:

When I got sober, over a decade ago, one of the consistent things I would hear at meetings was, “and you can go anywhere, AA is everywhere”.  I didn’t really understand what that meant in early sobriety, especially since I got sober in San Diego, a touristy vacation spot for the masses.  We had people coming to our Fellowship on vacation and telling us where they were visiting from; New York, Chicago, Boston, Minnesota, Texas, etc, and since I was loving my new sober life in my yogini inspired beach town, I really didn’t have much reason to leave.

However, after being sober for a while, you get to experience a different kind of life, a sober life and with that comes freedom to go and do more – specifically TRAVEL.  In my first few months of sobriety the only place I traveled to was “back home” and for me that was suburban Philadelphia.   At six months sober, I was able to experience an AA meeting in my home town, and besides being nervous about who I’d see there, it became my refuge.  I felt welcome at the local clubhouse and yes, I saw some folks that I knew, but that was to be expected.  I mean, where else would these people end up?  If not in AA, then jails, death or institutions, right?  This fellowship welcomed me like my home group in San Diego did and to me that was such a blessing.  I didn’t know these people, but they were my tribe – they got me.  Since I would visit “home” a couple times a year this Fellowship soon became my second home and I got to know people and names and faces and I could run to these meetings and share what was happening with me and women gave me their phone numbers and I was able to forge new sober friendships and feel safe and accepted.

At nine months sober, I had my first real sober travel experience to Chicago.  It was for my brother’s wedding and I had really been stressing about this as it would be the first time I’d be at an event with my whole family sober.  Mind you they wouldn’t be sober, but I needed to be.  I was very uncomfortable during my visit there as I was seeing old friends, meeting new family members and being around alcohol.  I needed to make sure I found a meeting every day to go to. When I found out where the Hotel was in downtown Chicago, I soon went online to seek out a meeting.  Luckily, I found the local Mustard Seed fellowship and that became a haven for me.   They too were welcoming, inviting and helpful and I needed that security to safeguard my sobriety during that time.  I was so grateful for those meetings that weekend. 

Since my first year of sobriety, I’ve been able to go to many AA meetings in other places - Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas, New York, San Francisco, New Jersey, Baltimore, Vegas, Arizona, New Orleans and Costa Rica, and that’s just to name a few places.  All had AA meetings for me to attend and all were exactly what I needed at that moment.  When I went to that meeting in Costa Rica, there was only one person there, but it didn’t matter.  He was an American who had retired in Costa Rica and had over 20 years clean and sober.  We had a mini meeting with just the three of us (my husband was with me) and he directed us to other local AA meetings where we could go and meet others.  He and I have kept in touch and he sends me a monthly newsletter that he sends out to local Costa Ricans.   

A few months ago we traveled all through California; from San Fran, down to Carmel and through Big Sur, down to Cambria and Santa Barbara and then back into the Fellowship where I got sober in Encinitas, California - and we hit meetings along the way and got to meet others that share our common bond.  In Santa Barbara, we attended a meeting that was in a converted old barn that sat on a 10 acre meditation retreat site. The speaker at that meeting had an impactful story and one that really touched me.  I was able to talk to him afterwards and offer him encouragement as he was nearing up on his one year anniversary.  His story touched me and that was one of the highlights for me during our vacation - attending other AA meetings, it makes my trip feel complete and whole and I get to feel connected with others.

During my time in sobriety, I’ve been able to travel more than I ever did before I got sober.  The freedom I have today is like no other and one of the best things about that freedom is that anywhere I travel to in the US, Europe, Mexico, Canada  -  anywhere   - I can always find an AA meeting and I can feel safe, secure, welcome and comfortable in my own skin.  In addition to finding AA meetings online, www.aa.org, there are dozens of apps that you can download to your smartphone that have local meetings, daily meditations, prayers and other local resources that are easy and quick to access. 

We are planning a trip next year to Italy and the thought of not being able to drink wine during this trip has entered my mind a few times, but I’m comforted by the fact that I’ll be able to find a meeting in Rome, Florence or Venice – and that my biggest challenge will be the language barrier.  But I’m pretty sure I’ll understand the message.  And that alone is a gift.

I have gone through rough times and challenges in sobriety and sometimes I wasn’t close to home to manage these obstacles and the fact that I always had a place to go to has made my recovery so much better.  I’m better for the enrichment of going to other meetings and hearing others share their experience, strength and hope.  It’s been able to get me out of my comfort zone and force me to talk to others.  Let’s face it as alcoholics we like to isolate and burrow and getting out to a meeting where I would know no one pushed me in ways I hadn’t even thought of.  It made me feel more secure in who I am.  These fellowships welcomed me as if I’m a newcomer, and I am, to them.  They make me feel like I’m okay, no matter what, and they make me want to keep coming back. 

Bob Weir, Bill Joel, what does it matter. They are all good!

So in the spirit of re-posting a blog that I previously shared this year, I thought I'd share my Bob Weir story on the heels of seeing Billy Joel last evening in NYC at Madison Square Garden. This was my 4th time seeing Mr BJ and he doesn't disappoint.  He put on a great show playing all of his hits from early years to more recent - he's a great showman and entertainer and it really was a New York state of mind kinda evening.  I was also very grateful that I was able to be sober and participate with my work colleagues and not feel awkward for not having a drink in my hand - I've come a long way from my early sober days of going to concerts where I was never comfortable in my own skin.  Its nice to have a few sober years under my belt and know where I am the next morning when I wake up!

So, here is my Bob Weir experience highlighting what my life used to be like.............

            Keep on Trucking.  I had been following the Grateful Dead, as much I could afford to, since 1986.  I wasn’t a true Dead Head since I bathed on a daily basis and didn’t live in a VW bus selling veggie burrito’s to support my marijuana and LSD habit.  I did, however, like to go to their concerts along the East Coast; New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C and anywhere else they played.  It was always a weekend event consisting of tailgating, drinking, tripping on LSD and listening to timeless and amazing music.  Me and my partner in crime had a huge crush on the bass player, Bob Weir.  Bobby would take the microphone to sing and we would scream up to him that we wanted to bear his children.  We had class.
            After Jerry (Garcia) died in 1995, I replaced my Dead shows with concerts of Bob Weir’s band, Ratdog, later called The Other Ones and the Dead.  Howard, an aging, balding and overweight hippie was friends with a former co-worker of mine.  We now had an inside track to the inner circle of Ratdog.  We were going to be able to meet the band before the show.  I could hardly contain my excitement.  I was going to meet my crush Bobby and this was sure to be the highlight of my entire existence (up until this point in my life)
            As we waited patiently outside the decaying concert hall, I felt a little stupid.  There were eight or nine of us waiting for Bobby to show up, and we looked like Pavlov’s dogs awaiting the bell that brought our reward.  Twenty-five minutes later an ominous black Range Rover pulled up to the rear stage door and four people got out.  There was Bobby.  I was nervous as hell and couldn’t stop staring at him.  He looked spaced out, but I wasn’t surprised to see that.  Here was a man who was a member of one of the most influential bands of all time and who participated in Ken Kesey’s infamous acid test.  He was God to a lot of people.  He quickly took Jerry’s place after his passing, and now he was standing dead center in front of me. 
            Meandering out of the car, Bobby looked worn and sleepy, with unruly hair, he wore a stretched out faded blue t-shirt and baggy jeans.  He resembled what an aging rock star should look like – an icon who had spent the past thirty years drinking, drugging and living life in a hurried world pleasing the masses. Bobby inched his way over to us, and Howard introduced us to Bobby.  I gingerly shook Bobby’s hand as I made eye contact with him and told him how great it was to meet him.  He didn’t hold eye contact with me at all and was looking over my shoulder.  I was disappointed.  Didn’t he know I was one of his biggest fans?  Didn’t he want to get to know me better? Ha!  Bobby soon became more attractive to me as a rock star singing on stage than he was as a real person.  He wasn’t present in the moment and seemed more like a mirage of who I thought he should be.  However, he’d obviously met hundreds of thousands of groupies in his time and this tiny connection with me was nothing.  Selfish, as I was, I thought I would at least get a smile out of him. 
            We were supplied with All Access VIP passes, and were able to follow the crew onto the stage and be part of the real inner circle.  I noticed a man carrying instruments and cables across the stage.  During the concert, I was granted access to the roped off soundboard area and could listen to the band directly through the headphones.  I was also granted access to the green room, which had a full bar and a buffet.  After the rollicking concert, I went back to the green room and hung out with the band and the crew.  Drinking a beer and making small talk with the band members, I weaved my way over to Bobby to listen to his conversation and see if he had any words of wisdom to extend to me. 
            I didn’t get a glance my way, so I bee-lined back to the bar and grabbed another beer.  I was feeling antsy and decided to take a seat on the plush green velvet couch.  I plopped down on the couch with a sigh, and within minutes Bobby came over and sat next to me.  Gulp.  I was sitting on a couch next to Bob Weir.  What did I do to get so lucky? A waft of smoke was coming from my left side, as a joint was being passed around the room. 
            Finally!  I was wondering when the drugs would come out.  When the joint passed over to Bobby, I was nervous and had made a conscious decision not to drink too much or smoke a lot of pot that evening.  Bobby took a toke and then haphazardly passed it over to me. 
            Are you fucking kidding me?  Bobby Weir is passing a joint to me?  I was mildly shaking when I grabbed the joint and took a long hard puff on it.  I was sharing Bobby’s saliva.  I was as high as one could be.  Soon after, the inner circle party was transported to Bobby’s suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Center City.  The festivities continued on in a palatial suite with other roadies and groupies.  The group was smoking pot and bottles of champagne, beer and wine littered the dark mahogany coffee table, strewn everywhere; some half full, others empty.  I drank it all in and was soon drinking what was available to me – anything I wanted.  Let the games begin
            Bobby was conversing with a band member in the next room where four hookers were also in attendance, making small talk, or whatever you’d like to call it, with the other band members.  I was dumbfounded that call girls were in attendance, but being na├»ve is a prime characteristic of mine.  It was quite the party and I soon befriend one of the roadies and let’s just say, along with that I was given two tickets and VIP passes to the concert in Atlantic City the next night.  I jetted back home in a taxi the following morning and was dizzy with my prior night’s experience.  I went to Atlantic City that night and took a friend of my brother’s, who is a huge Dead Head and indebted to me still.  Through the years when I attended Ratdog concerts, either in Pennsylvaniaor San Diego, I would seek our my roadie friend and he would remember me.  He normally gave me VIP passes and show tickets for other concerts.  It was nice to make friends with boys in the band. 

Loving the Unlovable.

This is an old post of mine, but one that for today really resonates with me. Hope you like it as well.

One of the first things I heard when I joined AA was “we will love you until you can learn to love yourself” I didn’t understood what that meant at first, but after getting some sober time it made sense to me. I came into AA broken, a shell of a person.  I was morally, spiritually and emotionally bankrupt (another saying we hear in AA).  It took a while for me to start feeling likable, and to start loving myself again.  It took even longer for me to be able to offer that love to someone else as I didn’t feel worthy of love when I was newly sober.  One of the greatest things about becoming sober has been the ability to love.  To fully love, unconditionally and openly.  Anytime someone new comes into an AA meeting I get a feeling of overwhelming love for them because I know the fear and hopelessness they feel.  We have all felt it.  It doesn’t matter if I’m going to befriend this person or even get to know them, what matters is that I have compassion for them and they are a walking mirror of courage.  No matter if they are from a park bench or Park Avenue, I understand how they feel.   To love someone unconditionally wasn’t something that happened to me overnight.  It took time, it took patience and it took understanding.  I’m grateful that I can love others in the rooms, as they all teach me something.  Sometimes its love and tolerance, sometimes its gratitude - especially if that person keeps relapsing.  The relapser teaches me willingness and to never give up.  They remind me that I never want to feel the way they are feeling at that moment.  It’s a little bit selfish for me to say that, but it’s the truth.  Their relapse is keeping it green for me and its making me remember.  They are keeping me sober and I’m grateful to them.  I can even love that pain in the ass person that shares far longer than he should spewing complete crap and slogans out the ying yang – yup; I gotta love that guy too.  Love and Tolerance is our code.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?  isn’t that what everyone wants in the end, to feel loved? I have learned since I came into AA, over a decade ago, that God puts certain people in my life as my teachers and my biggest examples of who I want to be, and who I don’t want to be.   

Last year we moved to Florida, and for me it was my 4th move in sobriety.  I’ve moved around a lot, but moving in sobriety is like starting over, it’s like being a newcomer again.  This move to Florida was no different and I had to put myself out there and tell the Fellowship what was going on with me and open up again to someone.  I was able to get a new sponsor pretty early on and she was exactly what I needed.  God put her in my life for a reason and I felt like I knew her for years as I could tell her anything and everything and not feel judged.  She got me.

A couple months after I started working with my sponsor, she told me that we needed to come to an Agape Retreat. I had no idea what she was talking about and she told me that it’s kind of a subset of AA and it’s held at O’Leno State Park (near Gainesville) and that we had to go.   Since I’m not one to shy away from any weekend getaway, I was on board.   I had been to a few AA retreats back in California, (where I got sober), and I was more than happy to check it out.  I had never heard of Agape and had no idea what to expect.  What I found when we arrived at our first Agape retreat in January were camp cabins with no heat and bunk beds.  Mind you it’s Florida, but it was down to the mid 30s at night.  Not exactly the Hilton, but it wasn’t about the accommodations as I soon learned, it was about Agape and the posse.  We ended up staying in a cabin with heat and I was about to experience what true unconditional love was.  Without sharing too much about the Agape experience, I will just sum it up in a few sentences so you can understand it further.  It’s usually 50 people or so, all in recovery; or trying to be, as some may only have a few hours sober, or a few days clean.  Most come within a 200 mile radius of Gainesville and some of the posse has been coming to Agape for 20 years, like my sponsor, and some are newbies, like myself.   Unbeknownst to me, I quickly realized that everyone is there to get closer to God and to have an amazing spiritual experience with the group, as well as with themselves.  The level of raw, honest and “from the gut I need to dump this shit” sharing that occurs at these meetings are intense and there is usually a box of Kleenex making the rounds.  Most people in recovery aren’t in recovery for just alcohol; there is usually a drug of choice involved, as well as other outside issues that seep into our DNA.  These may include early childhood traumas, eating disorders, abusive relationships, sexual abuse and PTSD issues.  It’s not a whoopee party of joy, or ceramic ashtray making - what comes out of these Agape retreats is healing.  Extensive healing where you shed a layer of your damaged self and feel a little bit better for it.  No one in AA, or Agape, claim to be therapists of any type, but being with a crew of people that have experienced some of the same issues and all want to jump on the Ark to find a better way to live and feel OK seems to be more therapeutic than any medicine or treatment program that is out there.  Of course, this is all in my opinion and from my own experience.     

When you go online and look up the definition of Agape, this is one of the definitions you will find: 
“Agape is love, which is of and from God, whose very nature is love itself. The apostle John affirms this: “God is love.” God does not merely love; He is love itself. Everything God does flows from His love. But it is important to remember that God’s love is not a sappy, sentimental love such as we often hear portrayed. God loves because that is His nature and the expression of His being. He loves the unlovable and the unlovely, not because we deserve to be loved, but because it is His nature to love us, and He must be true to His nature and character.” 

Being unlovable and unlovely is what drove me to drink and drug.  I never felt like I was enough.  So when I go to Agape and hear the unlovable are lovable and that Agape love is forgiving and unconditional – why wouldn’t I want to be with a posse that embraces that.  Mind you, I get a decent amount of that love and acceptance from AA, but it’s different at Agape.  It’s hard to explain unless you’ve been – but basically, whatever the question, love is the answer.

My husband and I just came back from our second Agape weekend and look forward to attending the next one.  I’ve had people ask me, “What is Agape?” and like my sponsor told me, I just tell them, “It’s where the unlovable can feel loved and where the broken can be put back together, one piece at a time”.

Lucy and Me on HuffPost LIVE segment.

I got an email last week from HuffPost Live wanting to interview me (and Lucy) as they saw my article, "How my Dog saved my Life" on xoJane recently.  http://huff.lv/1O7NYQn

Needless to say I was very flattered but more so glad that someone, especially HuffPost thought that it was an important enough story to highlight for their show.  It may sound dramatic that Lucy "saved my life" but if you read the article, you'll get the gist.  

That being said, I wanted to share the segment that was broadcasted this week on HuffPostLIVE.  Its actually horrible quality TV with as the camera was moving around too much as I was trying to get Lucy in the broadcast.  The segment was done via Skype - and to make it even more ghetto looking, I was sitting on my bedroom floor as that was the only place I could get Lucy to sit for more than a few minutes.  I'm the third story - so its about 15 minutes into the segment (if you want to FF) So, needless to say, Lucy is my heart and I'm so grateful she's in my life and that others can get hope and love from our story.  

Happy Viewing and most importantly, Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Re-posting - "We are not a glum lot"

I awoke last Saturday morning at 6.30, after really wanting to sleep in but not being able to, because my need to write was stronger than my need to sleep.  In pondering what to write about, I was thinking I should write about the 70,000 attendees I just shared space with at the Int’l AA Convention last week.  That’s what I should write about – but naw, my first thought was, we are not a glum lot So that’s what I’ll write about.  No need to get down and dirty about the convention.  Other writers have written about it this week and I couldn’t have said it any better.  What I do need to recognize is how full and amazing my life is because I am sober and because I say YES to life.  I said Yes over 11 years ago to “check out that meeting” and for that I’m grateful as I know I’ll never be able to fully pay back what has been so freely given to me; but I can try to, little by little, smile by smile, and maybe be a tad nicer to others that walk the earth with me.  What’s that bumper sticker? “Practice random acts of kindness” – Sure I’ll try that.  I see this lasting about five days or so. I’ll let you know how that turns out. 

In getting back to work this week I think I had some post partum depression from my last two weeks of gallivanting to San Diego and Atlanta.  I worked three days in between these two trips (someone needs to get paid), and my mantra walking away from these trips is that we are not a glum lot.    

My first trip away was a five day visit to my homeland of San Diego – Encinitas to be more accurate.  I call it my homeland because that’s where I got sober, and that’s where I feel most at home, that’s where my peeps are.  My posse, my tribe, whichever you wanna call them.  One of my girls got married and we were all able to be in attendance at her wedding and we were all sober and it was a drama free trip.  Imagine that - drama free! It took about six years of being sober before my life started moving into the drama free zone.  That shit didn’t happen overnight.   My husband and I stayed with friends during our visit and in years past I normally got us a hotel so it could feel like more of a vacation - but this time around we decided to bunk, rub elbows, and share bathrooms with children, pets and the like.  And ya know what? Its way better doing it this way. I can have those special moments of going through her closet or sitting outside in their backyard while she smoked or watching that lame ass show on HGTV with her; these were the moments I relished.  My friends are awesome and they get me and they want me to stay with them (or so I think they do).  Lucky me gets to go back in four weeks for another friend’s wedding.  After this trip I don’t know what else I’ll be going back for since we’ll all be married by then. I guess they’ll have to be trips to just visit.

Trip two was the International AA Convention to Atlanta.  This trip was so overwhelming I’m not even to go into the details and logistics – but I will sum it up with a couple of sentences.  If I only went to the Big Meetings on Friday and Saturday evening, that would have been enough.  If waiting in line was an Olympic sport, I could have received the Gold or Silver;  Saying the serenity prayer with 70,000 other drunks could was pretty spiritually profound – it was definitely in the Top 5.  The Top Five is what I call the five most amazing things that have ever happened to me in my life. Ever. 

Now I feel compelled to share that list;

1.      Getting sober. 
2.      Meeting Bob Weir (and smoking pot with him-not very AAish of me, but this was pre 2004).
3.      Getting married to my husband (and still being married!).
4.      Rescuing Lucy.
5.      Having a god in my life that shows up, keeps me sober and gives me amazing gifts:  Saying the serenity prayer at the IAAC, publishing my Memoir, giving me a career and amazing family and friends that love me.

So theoretically, its really the Top 9. I can work with that. 

20 Best Recovery Blogs - and Last Call has been named one of them!

AfterParty Rehab magazine is the cutting edge and dynamic on line magazine for those of us in recovery - and probably for a lot of others that aren't in recovery, yet. Its really just the hip and cool online reading vehicle that hosts a lot of topics; news, rehab center reviews, personal opinion and narratives and a really freaking awesome podcast that Editor in Chief Anna David hosts each week.  I love the crap outta this mag and I'm sure you will to when you check it out....Here is a snippet of  the post for 20 Best Recovery Blogs, including mine. 

Read on friends...

After the book Alcoholics Anonymous hit the shelves, more people became aware of 12-step and started to accept it as a viable alternative for dealing with addiction that didn’t involve a medical team and a straight jacket. Since then, various other methods of quitting drinking and drugging have come to fruition, one of them being Internet recovery. There is no formal or organized structure behind it; Internet recovery simply consists of reaching out for support via the web. This could be in a forum, an online rehab program or through a blog. Here is our list of the 20 best recovery blogs out there (in no particular order): (go to article to see the other 19!)

10)  Since 2010, Nancy Carr has been blogging about her day-to-day life in sobriety, which has included turning points like getting married and losing her mother. I enjoy Nancy’s accessible writing style; like a friend telling you about her day. Going to meetings is how alcoholics and addicts get a tangible understanding that they are not alone but we don’t often get to see how our peers struggle and prevail on a daily basis. Last Call is a look into the human existence of a recovering alcoholic and provides a feeling of being “normal” in sobriety. She also recently released Last CallA Memoir, which is available on Amazon. Follow Nancy as she does her best to “Carpe the hell out of diem.” (Learn more about all that in Nancy’s Reader Spotlight.)


Did you get a sponsor yet?

That was the $64,000 question I kept hearing when I walked into the rooms.  I didn’t really know what a Sponsor was, but I was so annoyed that everyone kept asking me that it definitely pushed me to get one sooner rather than later.

In my first week of sobriety I went to my first women’s meeting, as it was suggested for me to do, and that’s where I found my first sponsor.  She was a nice lady who said Hi to me in the bathroom.  First Sponsor had a nice outfit on, her smile made me feel at home and she was about the same age as me. Also, she had this confidence and air about her that made me feel relaxed and calm.  Moreover, when I heard her share at the meeting she shared about her anger towards her husband and how he pissed her off so much she fled the house and checked into the most expensive hotel in town – I knew right then and there, I wanted her to be my Sponsor.  I related to that feeling of “F you” and I’ll do whatever I damn well please.  She was exactly what I needed in my first year of recovery. 

However, no one sat me down and told me how to find a sponsor and what to look for.  I didn’t get the crash course in “how to sponsor shop”.  I’m over 11 years sober now and I’ve moved at least four times in sobriety -- so I’ve had a few sponsors.  I wanted to share my cliff notes on what I look for when I’m “sponsor shopping” hoping I’ll be able to help someone else in their quest for a new, or first time sponsor.

1.    You need to want what they have:  I was told this early on in recovery and I didn’t understand what it meant until I did.  I was probably about 45 days sober when I realized that I was surrounded by very good sobriety, specifically the women. They all had double digit sobriety, there were about 7 of them in our Fellowship, and they exuded confidence, grace, wisdom and God in their daily life - I referred to them as the “Spiritual Goddesses” because I wanted what they had.  All those women are still sober today and ladies that I am lucky to call friends.  

2.    Find out if they have a sponsor:  I didn’t know this when I asked my first sponsor.  But it’s important to know that your Sponsor is being sponsored and runs a program as well.  How can they work the steps with you if they too aren’t being active in their own program?  There are many folks in the rooms that don’t work the steps or have a sponsor.  Somehow they can still stay sober, but I usually don’t want what they have.  I want to have a sponsor who is actively working a program and seems to put her program first – that’s the most important thing to me. 

3.    How much sober time do they have?: This is another question I didn’t ask my first sponsor – however, it didn’t matter to me at the time.  However, I think it’s usually important to make sure they have more time in the program than you do.  It’s not a must have, but it makes the sponsor/sponsee relationship more even-keeled.  I started sponsoring my first sponsee when I was eight months sober and she had under 30 days.  It was kind of a fluke, but I took this young gal under my wing and she started calling every day and within a week or so she asked if I’d sponsor her.  It took me by surprise as I didn’t feel qualified to do so, but my sponsor had commented to me that I hmad more time than her and was already mid-way through my steps and that one of the most important pieces of the program was our service to others.  It was such a great experience for me as I learned early on the how to be a good sponsor to someone else.

4.    Find out how they work their program:  Some sponsors like to take you through the Big Book and read it with you and highlight and disucss and do the corresponding step work.  Some like to take you through the 12 x 12 (12 steps and 12 traditions) and some have their own methods using AA or even non AA approved literature.  This is an important question to find out as it may dictate to you whether or not this person would be a good fit for you.  In turn, I would also ask them “What do they expect from you?”  Some sponsors like you to call them daily or weekly and meet each week.  While others may be more easy going – it’s really just a preference as to what “kind” of sponsor you may need at the time. Some of us like discipline and rigidity and thrive in that kind of relationship.  On the other hand, some of us won’t take so easily to that approach and will want a little more softer and gentler approach.  Make sure you find what suits your needs for your recovery.   

5.    Find someone who is a good match with you:  This suggestion may seem a bit off base, but personally, I’ve found it easier to bond with a sponsor who has the same life situation that I may have.  In the beginning, I was single for a while and felt I had a stronger bond with my sponsor that also was single.  Then when I got into a relationship I sought out a sponsor who had been in, or was currently in, a sober relationship so I could go to her with my relationship questions – because let’s face it, getting into a relationship in early sobriety (which for me was a little over a year in) is much more challenging than when we were drinking.  Alternatively, I found too when I was sponsoring that it was easier for me to offer my experiences as a single, or now married, woman in recovery.  Since I’ve never been a Mom and haven’t had any kids, it’s been more challenging for me to sponsor women that have had children, as I wasn’t able to offer any sober life experiences to them. 

Sponsorship is a little like dating.  It’s finding that perfect person who will inspire you and lift you up.  That person that will make you want to be a better human and push you to the limits of your character.  If you have a sponsor who doesn’t want the best for you and who isn’t available to you, I would strongly suggest getting a new one.  There is no right or wrong kind of sponsor to have – just as long as you get one.  And sometimes the timing could be for a few weeks, a couple of months, or years  - it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have one.  I don’t feel bad when I have had to switch sponsors either, as each new sponsor is placing different stepping stones along my recovery path.  I truly believe that God has put specific woman in my life at exactly the right time.

Each new experience with these women strengthens my recovery and makes me feel like I fit in and belong.  And isn’t that what we all strive for? That sense of belonging and completeness?  Pretty sure that’s what makes me keep coming back.  

Writers and Stuff I love !

I started a new job this past week and my life has been so busy I haven't had much time to blog.  I'm working on a piece now about Sponsorship that I'll post by the end of the week, but until then, I wanted to share a blog I posted a few years ago when I discovered Kelly Corrigan, an amazing writer who hails from my home town of Wayne, PA.  You know you are real writer, when discovering a new one gets you so excited! 

I'm one of those people that gets super excited when I discover a new writer. Like you know when you find $10 in your jeans pocket from last week excited? Or when you realize the SEPTA train conductor didn't come and punch your fare ticket excited? Or when you find a $300 handbag for $75 at TJ Maxx excited? Or when you come home from work and your husband has made dinner for you excited? (well, no that rarely happens), but, no, my writer excitement is better than any of that. My writer excitement is like getting a big refund from the IRS excitement (which by the way hasn't happened to me EVER - I'm a horrible money manager!)

Anywho, I'm mid-way through my latest writer discovery book of "The Middle Place" by Kelly Corrigan. Kelly hails from Radnor, PA - even better - a local! Ironically I was turned on to Kelly by my 18 year old niece Katie who sent me a snippet of Kelly from YouTube where she had read her piece Transcending Words on Women and Strength - circa Dec 2008. I started crying when I listened to her share the story she wrote. She stared out speaking about her Mom and her Mom's group of friends called "The Pigeons" and how they'd summer in Avalon, drink their Chardonnay, play bridge and tennis and vowed they were friends for life. It reminded me of my Mom and her "Golden Girls" group of friends. That's what we (my brother, sister and me) called my Mom's friends. A bunch of divorced women who were as tight knit as a Fair Isle sweater. It made me cry so much I had to stop listening to it. Its taken me a week to go back and google Kelly's YouTube snippet again and I finally listened to it from start to finish. I still cried. It made me want to call Kelly, light a cigarette and gab with her about my Mom's group of friends and how amazing they are, and how they too had a shore house every summer in Avalon for 20 years, and how they too played Bridge every other Tuesday evening and tennis on the weekends .... and I wanted to tell her how much I miss my Mom and how much I wish I could have 10 more minutes with her - as I remember her. I'd tell her what an amazing Mom she was to us and how I'm forever in her debt for all she taught me and tell her how I think of her every day and how when I look at pictures of her I realize how beautiful she is.

The past couple of weeks have been challenging with Mom's sharp decline. It happened so quickly and so suddenly that there was no time to tell her, not that she would have understood, but at least she knew who I was 3 weeks ago. Today she is living in slow motion and barely surviving. She needs assistance with all everyday functions; eating, walking, speaking..and yes even smiling. I read an article today on Yahoo that said Dementia is going to triple by 2050, I can only hope that God spares me from the disease, as living through it now with Mom is hard enough, I can't imagine having a repeat performance in the years to come. All I know is I miss my Mom and nothing can take that pain away...not even finding a new and amazing writer, but it sure eases the pain. Thank You Kelly.

This original post was written in May 2011.

Lying to get your dream job

To lie or not to lie? That is the question when looking for a new job while currently employed isn’t it? I mean there is so much chatter in the world about being honest - white lies are just as big as the normal lies, honesty is the best policy, be true to yourself, and on and on.  But when I’m looking for a new job, which I have been (a job not associated with the writing world), I have to lie to my current employer about why I won’t be working that day.  Let me break this down into bullet points so its easier for me to justify the Lying Game to get ahead.

5 myths about Lying in order to get a better job:

Its best to look for another job when you have a job:  Yes this is the age old theory that it is easier to look for another job when you are employed.  However, the fact that you have to lie to your current boss to go interview elsewhere is just as uncomfortable. How many times can you say that your in-laws are in town visiting, or that you are receiving an out-patient procedure for your female issue, or that you are sick – again. 

Inflating your experience on your resume: In having to update my resume to include all the miraculous things I’ve accomplished since my last job, I always seem to add a little bit more than what I feel I’ve actually achieved – however, I do know that the longer I stay in my career, the more I do learn – but I always feel like I should be accomplishing and learning more, like if I was working at Google or Amazon it would glow like a well lit Christmas Tree on my resume and would surely show how great I am.  This is where I need to be as honest as possible, because I don’t want to find myself interviewing for a job that I know I’m not qualified for. That’s just career suicide.

Adding $$ to your current compensation: This one too is tricky, because I’ve had those employers ask, “Can you share your W2 from last year ?” Yikes, then what do you do? So I’ve just learned to inflate my total compensation about 5% because no one wants to stay at the same level when it comes to their compensation package.  If my new employer wants me bad enough to join their company, they’ll pay me for what I’m worth, and that is usually more than what I’m making currently, so I generally don’t sweat this one.  But who doesn’t want to make more money?

Offering a list of your References: This one is always so bogus to me, because who gives a list of references where no one is going to say that you are the best colleague they’ve ever had? And that they learned so much from you that they are naming their first born after you.  Don’t most of our references on our list just love us? The strategy for said employer will always be getting that third-party reference where they reference someone who isn’t on your list.  Someone that worked at XYZ company when you did and that same someone is currently dating your secretary, that is the reference they really want to get insight from.  

When you give your Two Weeks notice:  The last two jobs I’ve resigned from both wanted me to stay on for four weeks, WTH? I think I compromised for one and stayed on for three weeks, but my head is not in the game-at all.   I’m basically doing the bare minimum I can to wrap up my projects while I’m really just wanting to be at my new job.  Or at home catching up on my Bravo reality show and going to Yoga every morning. However, I have had employers tell me to pack up that day and don’t let the door hit me in my ass while I grab my coffee mug from the kitchen. 

I think when you quit, you quit.  Clean break, let me finish out my day and adios to you.  No need to linger on – because my job in the scheme of things is not that important,  I’m not ending world hunger or finding a cure for cancer; those folks should probably give four week's notice.  We need them. 



Rehab Reviews at AfterParty - Thanks for sharing my story!

People get sober in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they just quit on their own. Sometimes they go to rehab. They show up in 12-step rooms, ashrams, churches and their parents’ basements. There is no one right way—something we’ve aimed to show in our collection of How I Got Soberstories. While we initially published these as either first person essays by our contributors or as interviews with anonymous sober folks, we eventually began to realize that there were other stories to tell: yours. This is our reader spotlight and this, more specifically, is Nancy.

When did you get sober?

May 11, 2014

Where did you get sober?

Encinitas, CA (San Diego)

When did you start drinking? 

Age 13

How would you describe your life before you quit drinking?  

Chaotic. Miserable. Self-indulgent. Trivial. Living the double life, hoping no one would find out and trying to fit in.  Numerous geographics, jobs, men—anything to fill the void.

What was your childhood like?

It was fairly happy, I never wanted for anything. I was the middle child of three in a middle class suburban home. However, I grew up CIA: Catholic, Italian and Alcoholic.
Nothing really happened that fueled my desire—I just wanted to drink and grow up quickly. I saw others using alcohol daily, so it was something that seemed normal to me. I couldn’t wait to grow up and see what the fuss was all about. When I had my first drink—Ahhh…I got it. I knew what the pull was. For me it was instant relief, confidence and F everyone else.

Do you remember the first time you thought you might have a problem?

In addition to continual drinking, I also had a bit of a cocaine problem that started at age 19. I knew I had a problem, I just learned how to live with it. I got my first DUI at 32 and my second DUI (that got me sober) at 37.

How did you rationalize your drinking? 

I rationalized it by the people that I surrounded myself with. They were as bad—or worse—than me.  Except for occasions like when I had a childhood friend visit me and she made a comment like, “Gosh, I need a week to detox after visiting you.”

What do you consider your bottom?

Getting my second DUI was the one that really made me re-examine my life and how I ended up where I was. It took me six weeks to get to an AA meeting. I only went because my attorney had suggested it. I wasn’t thinking that I wanted to get sober, I just wanted the heat off. However, going to that meeting made me realize that people actually get and stay sober and that there is another way to live. I realized that everything bad that had ever happened to me was because of my drinking and drugging—it was my moment of clarity and it hit me hard.

Did you go to rehab?

No. I didn’t want anyone to know what was going on in my life, especially my employer.

Did you go to AA? 

Yes and I continue to go.
At first, I needed to be there to get the court card signed, but what I heard at my first meeting was hope. I left there and drank for the next week and that’s when I had my moment of clarity. I decided to go back and give the AA recovery thing a shot. I was all out of options. I still go to AA and I work with a sponsor. I sponsor other women and I’m grateful for the people in AA who have helped me along the way. I’ve moved four times in sobriety and each time I get to meet new people in a fellowship that understands me and wants to help. Where else can you find that?

What do you hate about being an alcoholic? 

The stigma that is attached to it—the feeling that people think we are less than and that we aren’t worthy.

What do you love about being an alcoholic? 

That I finally figured out what was wrong with me. I have a design for living now and if I follow that, I’m pretty sure I’ll stay sober and have a pretty darn good life.

What are the three best tools you have acquired to stay sober and happy? 

Going to meetings, working the steps, prayer and meditation (that’s four, but you get the gist).

Do you have a sobriety mantra? 

“Keep coming back” and “One day at a time.”

What is the most valuable thing that has happened to you in recovery? 

My most valuable things are internal. I’ve regained self-respect. I like myself today—that alone is huge for me. I’m grateful that I am not lying and manipulating to get what I want anymore.

Have you worked the 12 steps? What is your opinion on them? 

I have worked the steps about seven times in my sobriety and I love them. They have helped me in so many areas of my life, not just spiritually, but emotionally and mentally. They’ve shaped me into being a better person. I don’t understand why anyone would join a 12-step program if they aren’t going to work the steps. That’s just my opinion, but I think they are a great tool and guide for anyone in recovery. I’m not an AA Nazi, and I don’t think it’s the only way to get sober, but I just know what worked for me. I’m truly grateful for the steps and for AA.

If you could offer a newcomer or someone thinking about getting sober any advice, what would it be? 

Get honest with yourself and don’t be scared. Being true to yourself and having courage is the first step in getting sober. Get to an AA meeting, call SMART Recovery or go to your local church—wherever you need to go. Just get real and take that first step.

The Fix shared My Story - wanted to share with you.

My Sobriety Story

By Nancy Carr 10/08/15
I don’t need a drink to manage my life. I get to have choices today—healthy choices on who I want to be, not who alcohol and cocaine want me to be.  
Nancy Carr
via author
I got drunk for the first time at age 13 at a teenage drinking party in Avalon, NJ. There was a large punchbowl filled with grain alcohol jungle juice. I was eager to try alcohol, as it was a constant in our household growing up. I wanted to be cool and fit in—to feel a part of something. But it was never the taste that made me chase alcohol; it was the effect—the buzz. The effect that it produced in me is one that I loved and looked forward to.
When I tried cocaine at age 16 for the first time—it was euphoric. And that combination of alcohol and cocaine together, it was like BAM!—I’ve arrived! Within a few years, I was dating the local cocaine dealer and my usage increased. My 20s were a bit of a blur and wild, and by 30 I had become a “recreational” weekend cocaine user and daily drinker. I also had a thriving career, so I was considered a high-functioning alcoholic. I was able to make my weekend drug use and daily drinking work within my lifestyle, as I only hung out with others that drank and used the way I did. I thought I was your typical party girl and by age 32, I had racked up my first DUI. I had also moved over 22 times during these years and would keep jobs for 2-3 years until I knew they’d find me out. I was able to maintain pretty well, but I knew I had a problem, I just didn’t really care.
Alcohol and cocaine were the two things that made me feel normal and happiest. They were my solution. 
In November 2003, I was drunk and typing in my journal about how messed up my life was. I knew I needed help, but I was too scared to ask anyone. A few months later, at age 37, I received my second DUI in San Diego—a town I had been living in for the past few years—and sitting in that jail cell for 11 hours really made me think that I needed to do something different.
In May 2004, urged by my attorney, I walked into an AA meeting. I left that meeting and quicker than you can say alcoholic, I went out and drank for a week. During that week, I had my moment of clarity. My first real "Aha!" moment; I realized that everything bad that had ever happened to me during my life was from drinking and drugging. I figured I had nothing to lose and that maybe I’d want to give the sobriety thing a try. So, that’s what I did. I had heard "Hope" in that first meeting and I clung onto that hope and walked into recovery with complete blind faith. I had no idea what to expect as I knew nothing about sobriety.  
I got sober the AA way; 90 meetings in 90 days. I got a sponsor, I worked the steps and I did what the woman in recovery told me to do. I didn’t want anyone in my family or corporate life to know what I was doing, so treatment wasn’t an option for me. I’m grateful I got sober the way I did and I’m so appreciative of the Fellowship where I got sober. I wouldn’t change a thing. AA doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s just what worked for me. 
I’ve been able to live life today free from the bondage of alcohol and drugs. I don’t hang out in seedy places, I don’t get DUIs, I don’t wake up in stranger’s beds and I don’t have to wonder what happened the night before and who I pissed off. I have been able to get married in recovery and share my journey with someone else who gets me and who is also in recovery. I rescued my constant companion dog, Lucy, and she brings me so much joy. I have been able to maintain and make new friendships—I get to live and participate in my life today. The freedom I have today is just amazing and the fact that I get to live my life today without lying, manipulating, cheating and stealing is all just gravy to me.  
I am just so happy that I don’t have to drink today. I am a strong supporter of AA and helping others and being of service. I am grateful I don’t need a drink to manage my life and that I get to have choices today—healthy choices on who I want to be, not who alcohol and cocaine want me to be.   
As Sir Elton John once said in an interview, “My biggest accomplishment in my life is getting sober, it’s not the Grammys, the money, being Knighted or how many records I’ve sold, it’s my sobriety!”
That drunken journal entry turned into a memoir that I recently launched via Kindle, Last Call, A Memoir. It’s a story of my experience, strength and hope. My hope is that I can help someone—anyone—that may be able to relate to my life as a “social party girl” and realize that they too have a chance at a better life. A life where they will be able to wake up in the morning and have dignity, integrity and self-love—because that’s what living a clean and sober life has given me. I also have a blog where I write weekly about living a life of recovery. 
This blog was originally published in The Sobriety Collective.
Feel free to check out Nancy's website: www.lastcall2015.blogspot.com and you can find her book, Last Call, a Memoir on Amazon Kindle

Transformation is real.com

Check out my post on this very cool site - http://transformation-is-real.com/blog

The Time I almost slipped.

Dan's Note: I reached out to Nancy Carr the minute I read this story. I told her that I HAD to have it on my site. To me, it shows that any of us are as close to the ditch as anyone else along the path of recovery. I'm going on five years now—God willing—but I have to keep in mind that I could fall. I don't want that to happen! So, thank you, Nancy, for your story of how close you really came to losing it all—we all need it to remind us of all we stand to lose if we pick up again.   --   DTSM, Daniel D. Maurer

It was during the economic downturn when I found myself without a job and no steady income. 

A friend in the fellowship came to me about an opportunity—one where I could have free room and board, my own private room, and I would be able to keep Lucy, my wonderful little Boxer rescue pup.


By this point in my life, I was almost five years sober and I ran a good program—I had a sponsor, worked the steps, and I did what I was supposed to. I thought I had my shit together. It was an easy decision to make, and within two weeks I moved into a gorgeous, five bedroom, fully-furnished home. It even had a pool and ocean view! It was like moving into my own private Golden Door Spa home . . . until the sober housemates showed up, the clients I was supposed to manage.
Our first was fresh from the local 28-day rehab. She was as fresh as a nineteen-year-old girl could look: dewy perfect skin; gorgeous, healthy hair—she was an attractive woman, and soft spoken. From my view, she didn’t look like she had ever spent a minute with a needle in her arm. I wouldn't have guessed that she had been a heroin addict.


The management of the sober-living home soon found out that most young, female addicts were just that: heroin-addicted on the inside, but still sparkling-fresh on the outside. None of these young girls resembled skid-row heroin addicts, sent off to treatment and the sober house by their parents, none of them seemed to want what I had. During my ten months as house manager, there were five young women in particular—all attractive, all addicts—who were all very good liars, cheats and manipulators.

(Isn’t that what addicts are? You bet your fake-urine, drug test they are!)

I had had to learn the ropes the hard way. The owner and I soon figured out that they were buying fake pee and that they were in cahoots with their housemates and would trade pee when needed. When we caught on to the fake pee scam, we decided to follow them into the bathroom and watch them go. We learned that you could insert a tube containing the fake stuff into your vagina and pop it with a pin to give you a steady urine stream.
Clever girls.
We also had to dole out their Suboxone® individually and watch them dissolve it in each of their mouths, since they all were swapping pills with each other. One girl came back from a weekend pass saying she had caught the flu from her Mom and that she was really ill. Within a day we realized she was dopesick. We had to kick her out of the house as it was her third strike. She had had a few months clean prior to that relapse. Sad stuff.
“. . . [J]ust when I started to think that I was becoming a friend to some of them — thinking, ‘Nah! She wouldn’t lie to me’ — they spun their addict web of lies. ”
We also had women in the house that were more "traditional." As alcoholics trying to find recovery, they really wanted to get sober. These women were a little older; they had more life experience. However, some would try and hide their drinking. But their relapses weren’t as routine as the H-girls'. 
We also performed random breathalyzer and drug tests—it was a revolving door of wondering who was high and who wasn’t. Since I was the House Manager of the home, I was privy to everyone’s schedule; I was normally driving them around to meetings, (or to job interviews, or to the gym) but I developed friendships with some of them—and just when I started to think that I was becoming a friend to some of them — thinking, 'Nah! She wouldn't lie to me'— they spun their addict web of lies. That job had me feeling like I was an ER Doc: like I was on call 24/7 (even on my days off). Let me tell you—that job provided no rest! Let me give you a sample of what I went through:


  • She didn’t make curfew!
  • She needs a ride to work tomorrow!
  • She needs to visit her Mom!
  • She and so-n-so got into a fight!
  • Lucy ate her stuffed animal. You gotta come home! And on and on it would go.
It got to a point where my own sanity and sobriety were at risk. I couldn’t go to a meeting and share about what was going on with me; nor could I confide in anyone at the house. My sponsor was on speed dial, as were my other sober sisters. I soon heard the alarming statistic that anyone working in the recovery industry (which I was) may have a higher chance of relapse! Eeeek!
I knew I had to kick up my recovery a few notches. I refocused on me and my program more. I went to Boss Lady and confided in her that I needed to really take care of myself and my program. The last thing any of us wanted was a drunken House Manager. I never really wanted to drink, but I had access to the safe where we kept all the medication and some of the pills were addictive. I thought: a little harmless pill would be nice – just to take the edge off. 
That thinking churned around in my head. Luckily, someone else would relapse, and I’d be jarred back to the reality of the disease: 
. . . and it was happening every day right under my nose.

After ten months, my life took a drastic turn: I was summoned by my family to move back east and assist with my ailing mother.
It was January. Packing up my stuff and moving wasn’t something I was longing for. But I’d much rather take care of my own mother, than continue to try to be "Mother" to some who weren’t ready. I have stayed in touch with some of the young women from that home, although many still needed to live out their own journey . . . of addiction and recovery.
I've heard that most of them are now clean and sober.