Humble

 

 

I think I am a pretty humble person. Just saying that probably takes me out of the humility mode, but it’s true. I add humble to my list of positive character traits. I know that I am not better than anyone else. I don’t have all the answers and I’m not in charge. God is in control and I am here to do what he wants me to do. There is a God and it is not me.

I think my recognition of God as the ruler of my life is the key idea that keeps me humble. Humble and secure. I know He is in charge and knows all. He is not only all powerful, but super smart. It would be pretty scary to think that I had placed my life in the hands of a being that didn’t know anything. God forbid. Thank heavens that is not the case.

 

I start at the top of the ladder with God as the king of my life. Then I instantly know that I am not in that spot. I must follow him and do his will.

I try to follow this pattern with all of the leadership in my life. The leaders in my life are there for a reason. I humble myself before the administrators that lead me in my teaching job and do as they ask. They know how to do their job better than I do and I need to do my best to follow them.

 

In a previous section on pride, titled “I’m Not My Job,” I discussed a situation in which I was asked to teach a child music notation in a way consistent with the local music school’s and a parent’s wishes. In this case, I put aside my bruised ego, humbled myself, and did my best to teach the child letter names as I was asked to do. It wasn’t about me, it was about the student. I wanted to do what was best for the her.

 

This humbling act benefited me and the student greatly. At the end of the year, this student wrote me one of the nicest “thank you” notes I have ever received. In this note, she thanked me for teaching her how to play the viola. She also stated that she never would have played the viola if it wasn’t for me, that I’m very good at teaching her, and she is sad to not be studying with me anymore. I was moved to tears by this beautiful note. I have it framed on my wall. I will remember this beautiful student always.

 

I also humble myself before the authorities of law and government. They are clearly in charge and sit above me on the authority ladder. I need to follow their rules and guidance. Thank heavens I live in the wonderful United States of America where I can say that in comfort. God bless the freedom and safety I was born into in the United States. I am grateful to live in a country where I can practice my religion and not be tortured or killed for it. I live in a country where I can openly say that I am a Christian Quaker and I humbly follow God. Thanks be to God for this gift.

 

I will continue working my program to become more humble. I am thankful for the humility I have been able to acquire through my hard work, but I still have more work to do in this area. My mantras, positive affirmations, additional practices, and work on the principles will continue to help me with my humility.

 

Thank you God for helping me to be more humble.

 

Accepting

 

 

Despite my episodic struggles with acceptance, I am grateful to report that working my program of recovery is turning me into a more accepting person. I am so grateful to be able to say that Juliet is a more accepting person today.

I am more accepting of many things in my life now, thanks to the work I’ve done in my program. I am more accepting of how much work I get done in a day, for example. I still struggle with workaholism, but just having an awareness of my tendency to go overboard in this area helps me to rein it in when I need to do that. Then I can pray for the willingness to be willing to accept whatever I got done that day as God’s will. Then I can pray to accept it, then let it go.

I still struggle with accepting difficult circumstances, such as my brother-in-law’s illness and eventual death that I have written about throughout this book. Illness and death are some of the most difficult issues for any human being to face and I am no different. The good news is that I have done extensive recovery work on this issue and have come to a place of acceptance around it. I still miss him very much and still fret about my sister and her grief process but now I am accepting that things are how they are. I’m not running down the street trying to change it.

 

I am much more accepting of my own defects of character. I still have these defects, of course; but thanks to the work I’m doing in recovery, the defects are lessening, bit by bit, a little at a time. In addition to this work, my practice in the position of the observer has enhanced my ability to step into that mode much more quickly than I used to in the past. I can then recognize when I’m practicing a behavior that doesn’t serve me. (This could be rage, workaholism, obsessiveness, or compulsiveness, etc.) Now instead of beating myself up every time I fall into practicing one of my defects, I simply acknowledge my awareness of the behavior, accept it, and make a different choice. This is progress. This is recovery.

 

When I’m having a difficult time accepting reality as it is, then I use the tools. I chant my mantras, positive affirmations, and slogans, engage in journaling, worship, take a walk, and focus on my breathing.

I am grateful to God for giving me this program that has helped me to become a more accepting person.

Moral

Moral 

 

I am a moral person. I have an inner sense of what is right and strive to follow that inner sense in all areas of my life. I am dedicated to living a life by ethical and moral standards that are based on honesty and truth. I am devoted to doing what is righteous in the eyes of God to the best of my ability. This is really important to me.

 

I am honest and forthright in my business dealings. I communicate honestly about what I want and need to the people I contract with. As I described in “Replace the Face,” I have had to work hard to be able to say what I mean, mean what I say, and stand up for myself in some of my business negotiations. This meant learning not to take things personally, keeping business as business, and learning not to place my past family issues on the people I work with today. None of this has been easy, but it has been well worth the hard work and learning that was required.

 

I pay people based on our agreements right away without argument, whether it’s a building contractor, the phone company, my mortgage company, the IRS, the Vermont sales tax folks, or the man in the toll booth on the highway. (Once I was driving home from Boston late at night and got into the EZ Pass lane by accident. I ended up having to call the highway department and pay a big fine. I highly recommend paying attention on the road and paying the toll. It’s much cheaper!)

I use my inner sense as an inner compass that points me in the direction of what is true and just for Juliet. If I am engaged in something that is dishonest, I can feel it. That is the God in me directing me toward the Light and away from the Dark. A good example of this is the incident with the CoDA meeting attender that was engaging in 13th stepping that I wrote about in “Recovery in Program.” When I was on the phone with this individual and judgments were sent my way, I knew in my gut they weren’t right. It took me a minute to discern how I knew this and why it was so. It took me another bit of time to articulate this to the other person involved. But the inner compass was there working and it is of no credit to me that this was so. This was all God’s doing. All good in me comes from God. That is a gift from God to me. I am grateful.

Now this doesn’t mean that I’m always right or that I always do the right thing. I think the other hundreds of pages in this book are testament to the fact that I do admit when I’m wrong and I’m wrong a lot. That is part of knowing what’s true and admitting it.

 

My inner compass also helps me to engage in demanding honesty when I do my 5th Step (5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs[1]). I tell the truth about myself, what I’ve done, what I haven’t done, how I feel, how I think I should feel, and how worried I am about how the person involved feels or what they think of me. I must engage in this absolute moral truth when doing this work. Otherwise I am just spinning my wheels.

 

As a Christian Quaker, I get a lot of guidance on what is right for me morally from the bible. That is just what’s right for me.

 

I am grateful that God has made to be a moral person. I am so thankful to him for placing in me a dedication to living a life based on honesty and truth. I’m not perfect at it, but He knows that and loves me anyway. Maybe He appreciates the fact that I keep trying. I hope so. Thank you God for this inner compass. May it always be pointing me towards your truth and love.

 

[1] Co-Dependents Anonymous. Co-Dependents Anonymous. Dallas, TX:  CoDA Resource Publishing, 2009, p. iv.

Fearless Dedicated Seeker

 

 

I am a fearless and dedicated seeker. This is another one of my positive character traits. I am fearless about my seeking. I am fearless about searching my soul to see what is there. As I discussed in the “Soul Searching” section of “The Principles,” that is what I do when I do a Step 4, or a fearless moral inventory. If and when I do become fearful, I give my fears to God. I ask Him for help.

 

I am very dedicated to the soul searching that I engage in when I’m doing my inventories. I think my books and music are testaments to that. I have left nothing behind, no stone left unturned. That is the whole point, as far as I’m concerned. I need to keep working the program to keep growing spiritually. I need to keep growing spiritually in order to grow closer to God and become the kind of person He wants me to be. I can’t grow if I’m not willing to look honestly at myself to see what’s really there. Otherwise I’m just wasting my time.

 

And to me, working my 12-Step program means not working the steps just once, but multiple times (thus all the inventories). This takes the dedication of time, effort, and stamina. It involves being willing to look at myself honestly without getting so discouraged that I walk away. And when I get so discouraged at what I see that I want to walk away, I have to pray for the willingness to be willing to stay with it, accept where I’m at, and be willing to work on it to change. All of this is done with God’s help.

 

I am a fearless, dedicated seeker in other areas of my life too. That is how I came to play the cello. That is how I got my job of being a strings teacher. One has to be quite fearless and dedicated to do this job because stringed instruments are by far the most difficult instruments to play, especially the violin. In my opinion, it is the most difficult instrument of all of them to play. But I wanted to learn, so I started working at it. I got a job. I still work at it. I did not let the difficulty of the instruments or job scare me away. I dedicated myself to it. My soul is grateful as I have found playing this music very fulfilling. I have referred to this throughout this book.

 

I am proud of myself for being a fearless, dedicated seeker. Thanks be to God for the gift of this positive character trait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compliant / Submissive / Obedient

 

 

 

I am a compliant person. That is one of my positive character traits. It is my nature to surrender myself to a power greater than myself and do as I’m asked.

 

Now wait a minute, didn’t I spend several pages a while ago expounding on how my compliance is a negative thing? Yes, but my compliance can be a good thing when it placed in the right context.

 

When I say I’m compliant, I could also use the words submissive and obedient. I submit to the authority of God. I submit to the authority of my employers. I am obedient to the authorities of the law and the government.

 

It is my compliance that allows me to surrender my life to God. It is this part of my character that places me under His authority and asks me to be obedient to His direction in my life. So when He asks me to have worship every morning, I do that. When I am asked to read my bible every day and listen to taped sermons or bible studies, I do that. When I am asked to refrain from exposing myself to media that is potentially detrimental to my walk with Him, I obey. When He asks me to go to Quaker Meeting to worship and serve, I am obedient. When he asks me to get in here and write my book, I do that. He even gives me direct instruction on what to write. I am compliant and do my best to be obedient to him. I believe in this strongly. It is very important to me.

 

I submit to the authority of my employers. I have been given a job to do and I do it to the best of my ability. I don’t always agree with how things are run at my job. I don’t always agree with the decisions that are made or how the money is spent. But they are my employers or bosses, if you will. I have been hired to perform certain duties. I have not been hired to give my opinion, run programs, or design the budget. I have been hired to teach. So that is what I do. I submit to their authority, comply with their rules and requirements, and do my best to fulfill the duties that have been set before me. This is positive compliance. This is the good kind.

 

I am compliant with the dietary program that was set up for me by my dietitians and weight loss program, Weight Watchers, at least most of the time. No one is perfect. I do my best to follow their guidelines and it is in my best interest to do that.

 

In these contexts, my compliance is a positive character trait. It gives me the ability to surrender.

 

 

The Listener

The Listener

 

There’s a lot to be said for being a good listener. My favorite guidance counselor in junior high told me that when I was in seventh grade and I never forgot it.

 

I really hated seventh grade. All of junior high stunk, in my opinion. No one liked me, my face was broken out, I was fat, hiding in food, and felt completely alone in the world. All that was on my mind was being liked by the girls in my class and capturing the attention of whatever mismatched, father-clone-bad-news guy I had set my heart on. My heart was always getting broken and very few people liked me.

 

My guidance counselor was a like a lighthouse in the storm of middle school. He listened to me and urged me to listen to others.

 

A lot of the time, all a person needs is to be heard. They don’t need suggestions, ideas, or fixes. They need to express themselves in a safe environment. It’s vital that the person speak their truth and get it out of themselves.

 

I think I’m a pretty good listener. That is one of my positive character traits. I try and listen no matter how long the person goes on or what they’re saying. I nod and say, “Hmmm,” so they know I’m really hearing them. I try not to comment, judge, or make suggestions. That’s not what they really want or need, nor is it my place to do that. People seem to gravitate to me in this manner. They tend to pour out their soul to me on the spot. They seem to like me to listen to them. I am honored, humbled, and grateful that they feel comfortable sharing with me in this way.
CoDA meetings are full of good listeners. That is what is so cool about program. Crosstalk and feedback are discouraged. This means that we are not supposed to make comments on another’s share, answer them, or make suggestions. We are not supposed to fix, control, manipulate, judge, condemn, direct, scold, compliment, or praise. We are not there to fix each other. We are there to recover. We are there to let the God in others speak to us through their experience, strength, and hope as shared in meetings. We are there to let God speak through our own shares to others. I heard it said in a meeting once that we are there to help one other person in the meeting if we can. I have always remembered that and carry it with me.

 

I need for someone to listen to me too, so I go to meetings, have a sponsor, and a therapist. When there’s no one available to listen to me, I journal. I write and write until it’s out of me. I always feel better afterwards. If what I’ve written is really negative stuff, then I burn it afterwards. The burning of this negative writing symbolizes the death of those dark feelings. I learned this practice from my therapist and have used it for years. It is a very effective practice for me.

One thing that occasionally inhibits my ability to be a good listener to others is the chatter that goes on in my head. Sometimes my mind wanders and pretty soon I’m worried about the emails and phone calls I have to return, the busy schedule I have on deck for tomorrow, and how I’ll be able to get everything done. When I catch myself in this act, I just bring myself back to the moment and back to active listening.

When this happens, it’s usually a sign that I’m feeling overloaded. I need to bring the listening session to an end and go take care of myself. If I’m unable to listen at that moment, I’ll need to speak up and say so. This is difficult for me because I was taught at an early age to never, ever interrupt people. So I rarely cut people off when they’re speaking. I do get caught in monologues a lot of the time. When this happens, I try to look at it as me being of service to someone. That is me, as they say in program, taking a 12-Step call. The person needs to be heard. I am giving them that sounding board.

I usually engage in negative self-talk when my mind wanders during a share or I consider ending a listening session with someone. I accuse myself of being selfish and self-serving. I need to get over myself and be of service to this individual by giving them an ear.

That is what Jesus would do. He would listen. He wouldn’t be stewing over his endless “to do” list while Peter was pouring his heart out about how he felt like such a schmuck for denying him. Jesus would have listened and he did.

But then there’s a scene in the bible (Luke 4:42 and 5:16), where a huge crowd of people is waiting for Jesus to come and heal them. However he does not stay, but leaves to go and pray to his heavenly father. Wow! Even Jesus takes time to take care of himself. That is comforting. Self-care is in the bible.

My therapist once told me that when others share their troubles with me, it is my job to be a good listener if I choose to do that and if I have time to be there for them. I don’t need to fix their problems, take on their feelings, or obsess about them. I just need to listen. When I’m done listening to them, I can take everything they told me, put it in that imaginary goblet I’ve mentioned before, and offer that goblet up to God. I give it to Him and let it go. He is the only one who can fix it anyway. This practice works well for me so I use it a lot.

 

My Quaker friend Beth was an excellent listener. She was an incredible human being and gave so much of herself to others in many ways. Her greatest gift was her ability to listen to others without judgment. She could find something good in everyone and everything. That is a unique and rare gift. I miss her and I want to be like her in that way; kind, loving, giving, with an incredible ability to listen without condemnation.

 

I can learn to be like her if I learn to listen without judgment to my own troubles, fears, inadequacies, failures, inner-most pain, and disappointments. I have to learn to love myself enough to believe I don’t deserve to hurt like that. Then I need to do what’s necessary to take care of and heal myself. That means journaling, worship, meditation, working the steps, going to meetings (CoDA and Quaker), sharing, listening, doing service work, doing my music, art, writing, and occasionally sitting down and just breathing in and out.

I will strive to continue to be a good listener to others and to myself, to the best of my ability.

 

Compassionate

 

Compassionate

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,

clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

~ Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

 

 

Working the 12-step program of Co-Dependents Anonymous has enabled me to have compassion for others. This is largely because doing this work has enabled me to develop some compassion for myself. If I don’t have it for myself, I can’t give it to others. It’s taken me a long time to learn that.

To me, compassion means that I’m aware of how others feel, have sympathy for them, and want to make them feel better.

 

In doing my service work, as well as at other times in my life, I am genuinely concerned for others and want to alleviate their suffering. What they’re going through usually triggers similar feelings in me based on similar experiences I’ve had in my own life. That is why this program works so well. We share our experiences, learn from each other, and heal ourselves, with God’s help.

 

So how have I developed compassion for myself? I have had to look in the mirror and say to my reflection, I know how you feel. I care about how you feel. I understand what you’re going through and want to make you feel better.

 

I have developed compassion for myself by working my program. I journal every morning and pour my soul out to God. I get out my 12 and 12 workbook, do the reading, and answer the questions. The readings from my journal and answers to the workbook questions are often complete confessions from the bottom of my soul of how I’m feeling about whatever is going on in my life at that moment and how it relates to what happened in my past. I read these answers to my sponsor.

Getting these feelings, experiences, and thoughts on paper and out in the open by reading them to someone else gets them out of me and out in the open where I can deal with them. It is then that I can become fully aware of my own suffering. It is then that I can say, Wow, look at what Juliet has been through. That is a lot of stuff. Good for you for surviving it. Let’s make Juliet feel better. Let’s keep working on program. Let’s keep growing closer to God.

 

The other reason that this step work and journaling works in getting me to feel compassion for myself is that it gets me out of the reactor and into the observer. By reading my thoughts, feelings, and experiences on paper, I can look at them from the observer’s point of view and thus develop an objective view of them. This objective view often needs the assistance of my sponsor and therapist. But then I can look at it, and come back to make the statement I made above. Let’s take what you’ve been through and make something positive out of it. Let’s make a new, more positive, more compassionate Juliet.

 

In order to develop compassion for myself, I had to get to the mile marker in my distress journey where I decided enough is enough. I had to decide that I deserve to be happy and I need to stop driving myself crazy.

 

I had to get to the breaking point. I had to step outside of myself and into the observer long enough to be able to see what my defects of character and bad behaviors had done to my serenity level. They have flattened it like a steamroller. I can be my own worst enemy.

 

I have had several breaking points, but two of them race to the forefront of my mind right away. The first one that comes up right off the bat was my situation with Brad. With Brad, I woke up and realized I could not go on living in the misery I was in. I needed to end the lie and break up with the man who did not love me. I had to admit that I was not able to do casual relationships. This breaking point also made me realize that I had to make my recovery program the number one priority in my life. This included, once again, making my relationship with God my number one priority in my life.

 

The other breaking point was the illness and eventual death of my beloved brother-in-law Zeb. I remember getting off the phone with my sister and Zeb and putting my face to the floor and surrendering to God. I worshipped that way for a while. (Physical form during worship is the worshipper’s choice.) At the conclusion of this worship, I wrote a note to myself on an index card that said, “I must trust God, there is no other option.” I looked at it and took a deep breath. This was God talking to me.

 

I then realized that I had no control over what life brings to me. I only have control over how I react to it. That means that I have to stop torturing myself with over-responsibility, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, perfectionism, workaholism, and all the rest of my defects. I saw myself from the observer’s point of view and recognized how distressed I have made myself from my unrealistic expectations of myself.

 

Reading scripture has taught me that I am a beloved child of God just the way I am and that I deserve to be happy and serene. I deserve to stop beating myself over the head. I deserve to stop working for 5 minutes.

 

So, out of compassion for myself, I’ve made it a habit to put down the lesson plans, violin, book, rake, vacuum, to step away from the computer that is absolutely exploding with emails from my students’ parents. I step back. I go sit on the porch and breathe in and out for 5 to 10 minutes without doing anything. I take a break. I go for a walk. I talk to God. I get on my knees, on my face, and ask for help from Him. I use the slogans.

 

I say, “God, help me let go of what I can’t control. I can’t God, you can, please take over.”

 

Whatever it is, I turn it over to God.
This is me being compassionate with myself. It all starts there. Then I can learn how to be compassionate with others.

 

I compassionately do the 12th Step, being of service to others.

12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other codependents, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.[1]

 

 

I am compassionate to others by hosting CoDA meetings, listening, taking 12-Step calls, praying for others, and putting notes in my God Box for them. I give them to the Creator, our ultimate, perfect, loving, ever-present, ever-caring God. That is compassion at its finest. God parted the Red Sea, sent his son to die for our sins, sent an Angel to break Peter out of prison, and killed the entire Syrian army overnight, amongst many other amazing things. He can take care of whomever I’m worrying about in any moment.

 

By giving others to God, I am having compassion for myself. I can’t fix others. I can’t even fix myself. Only God can do those things. Now He can work through me to help me do for myself what I otherwise could not do alone.

 

I can share my sympathy for others by letting them know I care. I can listen with love if they need to share. I can even listen with compassion and, most of the time, not try to fix it. I couldn’t do that before I started working the program. I would try to fix their problems, lay awake nights trying to figure out how I could fix them, fix their problems. I don’t have to do that anymore, thanks to this work I’m doing.

 

I have compassion for others, whether it is my colleague who lost her husband suddenly, the 15-year-old student who lost her battle with leukemia, my friend who just had a stroke, or my friend who is facing heart failure. I care about these people and want to end their suffering. I reach out to them. I give them to God. That is compassion.

 

How I strive to be like my late Quaker friend, Beth. She was the picture of compassion. She was one of the most patient, kind, caring, sympathetic, and loving people I have ever known. She was a beautiful peaceful soul. I miss her.

 

I am developing compassion for myself by nurturing myself. I nurture my spiritual self by giving myself time to worship God, read and memorize scripture, listen to sermons in my car, and go to Quaker Meeting. I nurture my creative soul by giving myself time to practice my instruments, write music, paint, and write my books. I nurture my whole self by going to CoDA meetings, doing my step work, and by listening to my own taped step work in the car.

 

Then you know what happens? I have compassion for others, especially my students. When I see a student who is sad, not having a good morning, I can now stop and look at them and think, “Wow, they look tired today. Maybe I’ll back off. They’re probably doing the best they can. This is how they are today.” I put their comfort and welfare in front of my selfish inner desire to look good at the concert in front of my colleagues and parents. It’s not all about me. It’s about the kids.

 

I am a child of God. This belief helps me look for the God in others.

 

God help me come from a place of compassion in all areas of my life and with everyone that I meet, including myself.

 

Thank you, God.

 

 

 

[1] Co-Dependents Anonymous. Co-Dependents Anonymous. Dallas, TX:  CoDA Resource Publishing, 2009, p. iv.

To Stay or To Go?

 

To Stay or To Go?

 

The sign says “prepare to stop.”

But all I want to do is run.

Run from the gray trees and sky

Gray on the road ahead

And the gray in my reflection.

The gray in your dying face.

 

But In Front of Me by Juliet A. Wright

copyright 2008, all rights reserved

 

 

In the following entry, I express my desire to control the timing of a trip out west in the inevitable event of my brother-in-law’s death. (He died on May 9, 2014.) Once again, I am trying to control something I can’t control.

 

I feel like I’m being controlled by the situation in California. My brother-in-law Zeb is ill with cancer, and I am obsessing about having to take a trip out there and how it will affect my schedule and life.

 

I feel like when Zeb passes, I must be ready to go at that minute and that I don’t have a choice. I mean I want to do the right thing, but what if it’s in the middle of my concerts at school? What if it’s in the middle of my Maine vacation or the summer course I’m taking? I feel like everything I do is dependent on what happens out west. Maybe that’s the wrong way to think. Is this negative thinking? It certainly seems selfish of me. I hate to think what this says about my character.

 

At the same time, I am obsessed with thoughts of my sister Alice, her exhaustion, stress, current and future grief. I want to make everything okay for her, to take the pain away. I know that is impossible. I want to be there for her, but need to be here to do my work too. I want to control the situation to have the outcome be best for everyone. This is beyond my control.

 

Juliet’s Codependency Patterns at work here: 

  • If you hurt, I hurt, I think I have to fix you.
  • I don’t know what I need, I focus on what you need.
  • I am obsessed with making you happy, with saving you.
  • Please don’t get mad at me. I’ll do or be whatever you say.
  • My fear of abandonment and fear of rejection determine how I behave.[1]

 

Juliet’s Feelings Patterns:

  • This is all my fault, I did something wrong.
  • I don’t deserve good things.
  • They are going to abandon me.
  • They are going to reject me.[2]

 

But I do have a choice in how I react or respond to the information that is presented to me when it arrives. I can say yes if I am available, or no if it is impossible for me to get away. Or I can offer to go and see if I’m needed. I need to be there for Alice if she needs me. That is what’s right. Why don’t I give it to God and let it go?

 

The outcome of this was that I didn’t abandon my sister. I offered to go out there and Alice declined my offer. So I did okay. I did it as right as right could be in this situation. God took care of it for me.

 

It’s okay for me to take care of myself. I can live my life one day at a time. I can see where spirit leads. I am not in the driver’s seat.

 

I have to remember that if it creates resentment in my heart, it’s not a choice so I can’t do it. Everyone will know of my hidden inner resentment because to people that know me it won’t be hidden at all. I will have this ugly vibe about me that will affect everyone around me. That won’t serve anyone, so that is not a choice either.

 

I obsessed endlessly about this situation. Some of the background information on this dilemma is that my parents were very sick for many years. This made cross-country trips on a moment’s notice a regular event. These trips can take a toll on your energy, nerves, and life after a while. With this particular situation regarding Zeb, I was out of control with it at that time. Over and over, I ran the same conflicted thoughts about the California trip through my head. The hamster got on his wheel and wouldn’t stop.

 

Here is my control situation put through Process One and Process Two.

 

Process One: 

  1. I consciously breathe in and out slowly. Breathing with awareness brings me back to the present moment. It gives me an automatic time-out.
  2. I become aware of what I’m doing.
  3. I ask myself, What’s going on in my body, feelings, and brain?

Body: Tense, heart racing, muscles are clenched

Feelings: Feeling threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well

Brain: My brain is wanting to know if and when I have to go to California, and it’s worried about the timing of it all. How will it affect my work, concerts, and summer?

  1. If possible, I write down the information and journal about how I’m feeling. I am feeling threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  2. I pray for the willingness to accept the situation and information as it is. God help me be willing to accept the situation as it is. Someone I care about might need me to go be with them. It might be at an inconvenient time for me. Help me to be willing to accept that I may have to change my schedule and go if needed.
  3. I pray for acceptance of the situation. God, I am now willing. Please help me accept the fact that I may have to change my schedule and go out west if needed.
  4. I admit powerlessness over said problem. I am powerless over when I might be needed out west.
  5. Then I become willing to feel my feelings. I am willing to feel my feelings of feeling threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  6. I pray for God to help me with the pain I feel inside. Dear God, please heal the painful feelings I feel inside of being threatened, unsafe, agitated, but guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well.
  7. I put a note in my God Box about it. Dear God, I give you the situation out west and my feelings and the solution to the highest good of all involved.
  8. Where can I put my mind that is not on this? I go do something else.
  9. The something else lately has been me playing music on my violin, viola, cello, and guitar when I feel the CoDA crazies coming on as a result of control issues. Playing music gets me relaxed, calm, breathing, and balanced. In the later section, “Music for Recovery (The Healing Power of Music),” I will discuss the genres of music I play in more detail.
  10. I have to remember that God doesn’t make junk. I am a beloved child of God just the way I am. I don’t have to do anything to be okay. I am okay just because I’m me. I must never forget that. I am a worthwhile person just because I exist.
  11. From now on, I will keep turning the matter over to God until I get back in balance. He is in control, not me. I pray and give it to God. He will help.
  12. Even if I start obsessing about wanting to control the circumstances surrounding the possible trip out west and the critic has convinced me what a selfish person I am, I’m still okay. I’m still a good person. I am a beloved child of God. I can always talk to God about it. He’ll help me.
  13. Take myself to Tanglewood: If I’m not near my picture, I use my cross ring as an anchor to remind me to go to Tanglewood in my mind. It helps me relax.

 

After I go through Process One, I proceed to Process Two — Make a Plan:

 

  1. I recheck my anxiety level. How am I feeling? Better, less threatened, unsafe, agitated, guilty, shameful, bad, and selfish as well
  2. I breathe big and deep.
  3. What’s the information? I may need to take a trip out west when it’s not convenient for me. I want to control the timing but I can’t. It is out of my hands.
  4. What are my choices? I can sit here and fret about it like the hamster on the wheel over and over, or I can give it to God and trust that He is sovereign over the situation and me.
  5. I hold the outcome in the Light of God, give thanks, and visualize what I want. God, I give this situation to you to the highest good of all involved. What do you want me to do?
  6. I take action in the direction of the choices I’ve made. If needed, I plan my additional steps. I listen for God’s guidance and directions.
  7. I affirm my choice and accept it. God is telling me to let go and trust Him. He is reminding me to “Be still and know that I am God.”
  8. I give it to God by either placing my problem in an imaginary goblet and offering it up to God with arms outstretched or by getting on my hands and knees and giving it to Him. Thank you God for taking this off my plate.
  9. I ask myself, Where could I put my mind that’s not on this?
  10. In this instance, I get out my violin or my guitar and play a few songs.
  11. I thank God. Thank you God for taking care of me.

 

Thank you God for this learning.

 


[1] Ibid.

[2] Ibid.

Control

 

Control

 

I struggle with control. I want to control every aspect of my life. This includes but is not limited to my weight, my students and how they behave, what other people think of me, and my spiritual, physical and mental health. Above all I want to control the outcomes of situations in my life. I want to control the future. Yet I know that’s impossible and ridiculous.

 

The funny thing is that I didn’t realize I had control issues until I got into recovery. I thought me, controlling? Never! Doing recovery work has really helped me to uncover my true self.

 

I’m not typically controlling with other people, unless I’m in the classroom. The classroom is the place where the controlling side of me comes out. This is when I need to plug in a modified Process Four:

 

  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Don’t react.
  • Don’t get caught in a power struggle.
  • Stick to business and just teach music.
  • Think before you speak.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Let it go.

 

  • Don’t get caught in a power struggle: I learned this from a wonderful classroom management class I took a couple of years ago. Getting involved in power struggles rarely works, plus it’s exhausting. So what I do is take a time-out, then continue with my lesson.

 

It took me a long time to learn the above lesson about power struggles. I thought if I fought hard enough, I could win. That’s not true, especially for someone who has been a passive, conflict-avoidant her whole life. I can’t control what my students think and do. I can do my best to manage their behavior through well planned, interesting lessons. Ultimately, it is the students’ choice how they behave.

 

A lot of my desire to control things gets stuck in my head in the form of obsessive worrying and anxiety, which does me no good at all. The I should have done this or that! or Why did I do this or that? starts dancing in my head over and over. It’s completely unproductive and crazymaking.

 

And when I’m behind the wheel of a car and the pace is slower than I would like it to be (i.e. I run into road construction, get behind a dump truck or school bus), I try to control the situation by whining, complaining, and yelling, as if that is going to help. I am always running late and in a hurry. I am still driving safely most of the time, but my behavior inside the car is controlling and agitated. I don’t like this controlling behavior and would like to change it.

 

The rest of the time I am a passive, compliant person when I am relating to other people.

 

I also want to control things to avoid feeling guilt, pain, sadness, and shame. I can understand that. I’ve felt enough of that in my life. Why would I want to feel any more?

 

Shame

Shame

 

In you, Lord, my God,

I put my trust.

I trust in you;

Do not let me be put to shame,

Nor let my enemies triumph over me.

 

~ Psalm 25; 1-2 (NIV)

 

I experience shame on a regular basis. Shame is one of my defects of character. I am shame-based.

 

To me, shame means that I feel guilty and regretful for something I’ve done to the point that I consider myself less of a person because of it. It’s a very painful emotion.

 

I have felt shame about several of the incidents that I have written about in this book. Examples would be the episodes with Connie in “Keeping My Eyes on Christ,” Lisa in “Fear of Abandonment and Fear of Rejection,” and Louis in “Don’t React in the Classroom.” I had shame attacks over all of those events. These shame attacks left me very grief-stricken.

 

I felt shame about the way I handled a call with the bank a while back. I wrote about it in “Rage.” I felt like I wasn’t nearly as nice to the representative as I could have been. So I beat myself up about it.

I wondered at the time if I should call back and apologize. However, the bank people work out of huge warehouse type situations and there are so many people working there. Plus, I didn’t remember her name. So that was kind of out.
I did tell God I was sorry and said a prayer for this person who was really trying to help me.

I was lying in bed the night after this conversation with the bank lady occurred, still filled with shame. I opened my In This Moment Daily Meditation Book from CoDA to see what it had to say.

 

The reading for that day basically said that I can “forgive myself for hurting others.” I can also give the situation over to God so that I can free myself from the negative feelings I have that are weighing me down. I have a choice about whether or not to communicate this to the other person in involved. “I no longer feel shame for who I am,” it read.[1]

 

This was God talking to me. Of all the readings that could come up for that day, this was the one that was there. It was written there by God specifically for me. I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything is going to be okay and I am safe.

 

I am trying to rid myself of the defect of shame because it doesn’t accomplish anything. All it does is make me feel lousy about myself and that hurts. It serves no other purpose.

 

Some people say that bad feelings have a purpose. One of my bible teachers says that guilt is to the conscience what pain is to the body. It tells you there is something wrong. Okay, I buy that, but there are limits. I do or say something, then realize I shouldn’t have done it. I guess that is where guilt comes in as a signal to me that I did something wrong.

 

That is guilt, not shame. The shame-based person, such as myself, goes overboard from guilt into shame, humiliation, and self-loathing. At that point, the signal stops being productive.

 

When I do something wrong, I really get down on myself. I’m very unforgiving and judgmental of myself.

 

Juliet’s Feelings patterns at work here: 

 

This is all my fault. I did something wrong.

They are right. I am wrong.

I don’t deserve good things.

I am less than.

I am ashamed.

I’m bad and now everyone knows it. I’ll be alone forever.

Different from everyone.[2]

 

 

I think that sometimes I get so caught up in my center of the universe complex, me first, what I want, ego, Juliet-the-driven, impatient person, that I get very easily frustrated and thus abrupt with others, like I did with the bank lady. I fear that I’m like that with my students, on occasion. There is that darned impatience again. Thank heavens I don’t beat them up the way I do myself. I hope they don’t beat themselves that way either.

It’s one thing to admit I’m wrong about something and make amends. It is another thing to hang this bag of bricks around my neck filled with shame and self-loathing and walk around with it for days. I don’t think that is what God had in mind.

The good news is that I have woken up to my tendencies on the phone with service people. I am nicer now. I just spoke with the alarm lady today and was very, very nice to her. So that is a step in the right direction.

Another step in the right direction is that I have realized that I can’t do things that annoy me. This means that if it annoys me to call a service provider, speak with someone I don’t understand, stay on hold forever, and then get hung up on, I shouldn’t do it. Likewise if I’m going to be on hold with the bank and then will have to go back and forth doing the same things over and over and not get anything accomplished except rage and resentment.

 

For example, I recently spent a rage-producing amount of time on the phone with a telephone service carrier. I wrote about this earlier. I was trying to get them to send me email reminders and electronic copies of the phone bill for the non-profit organization I am involved with. I am their treasurer and need the bill so I can pay it. For a number of reasons that I won’t go over here, they said they couldn’t fulfill either request. So I wrote out a reminder note for myself for each month in the coming year and put it in my “bills to be paid” clip. Now I see the note, go online, and pay the bill on the bank site. Problem solved. Desperate times call for desperate measures of self-care. Life is too short!!

 

Additional practices that help to me work through my shame: 

  • Program literature: Reading the CoDA basic text and especially the In This Moment Daily Meditation Book from CoDA gets me out of a shame spiral because they always have the perfect passage written there that I need to see at that moment. I no longer feel alone. Someone else out there has struggled with the same issues as me and has a solution. Reading the 12 Promises, 12 Steps, and 12 Traditions of CoDA really helps me to forgive myself, rediscover my sense of worth, and gets me back on program with God in the driver’s seat. Thanks be to God.
  • Step work: I work the steps on whatever situation is triggering my shame attack. Then I read this step work to my sponsor.
  • Attend meetings: Going to a CoDA meeting is one of the best ways for me to work through the tough times when I’m suffering from a shame attack. Following the format of the meeting, reading the literature, and listening to the shares of others is comforting. I feel less alone, less defective.
  • Gratitude list: Reading my gratitude list helps bring me back to a place where I realize how wonderful my life is, how much I have, and how much I’ve accomplished. This helps me to realize that I am a good person and I deserve good things.
  • Documentation: I record my thoughts and revelations about the situation that is causing my shame attack. Then I listen to the tape and write the contents into my computer. Working the matter out in this way really helps me to become settled on the matter.
  • Give it to God: I place the person and situation that is triggering my shame into a beautiful, imaginary goblet and offer it up to God. Then I put a note in my God Box about it. This helps me let go and move on.
  • Service work: I always feel better after doing service work. I know I’ve done something good by giving back and helping other people.
  • Submission: I get down on my knees in the morning, give my life and my day to God, and ask that His will be done. I say The Lord’s Prayer, The Serenity Prayer, and My 11th Step Prayer. In this way, I reaffirm that God is in control.
  • Worship: I pray to God. I walk into His healing arms. I tell Him what is bothering me and ask for Him to heal me. I ask Him through prayer to help me feel better about myself. I listen to Him through meditation.

[1] Co-Dependents Anonymous. In This Moment Daily Meditation Book. Phoenix, AZ: Co-Dependents Anonymous, 2006, p. 211.

[2] Adapted from the Family of Origin packet materials provided by the Sequoia Recovery Center.