The open heart

Noah snuggling up to Luke

Noah snuggling up to Luke

When I got sober in 1986, my life changed radically and immediately.  I loved AA (even though I didn’t understand most of what was being taught) and a group of us, who all had about the same amount of sobriety, became friends. One day, someone in my new circle of friends, suggested we go out to a bar. Our reasoning was that we were now sober and could go anyplace we wanted. Wasn’t that what freedom was about? Didn’t it even say in AA that we shouldn’t be afraid to go anywhere if we had the right purpose for going?

So we went to a bar to listen to a band. At one point, I was walking to the phone to call my husband, and I literally felt wobbly, just like I did when I drank. I also noticed that other, less wholesome, thoughts were surfacing; I started feeling flirty and cocky, just like the old days. I didn’t drink that night but still woke up the next morning feeling hung over.

It took me a long time to realize who I was without the influence of alcohol. When I first got sober, my thoughts and feelings were so chaotic that I had a hard time distinguishing  healthy and unhealthy people to associate with;  I gravitated toward those who were similar to me.

After several years, as I actively tried to change; to see myself more clearly, stop talking about others, and began to clean up my thought life, some relationships just didn’t work anymore. They were uncomfortable for everyone. One friend called me a “goodie two-shoes”, and I felt hurt and angry, but it didn’t stop me from working to change my life from one of chaos, drama, and disorder, to a calmer, more centered, life. I never did go to a bar (to socialize) again, and I noticed as the years passed, and I worked with many women who wanted to grow and change, that the ones who kept going to bars, either drank again or were never able to lift themselves (or be lifted) out of unhappy life situations.

There are certain places where the “atmosphere” is heavy, dark and unhappy, and this is as true of some churches, family gatherings and AA meetings, as it is for bars, or any place where human beings gather for a purpose. We tend to energetically bond with those who are around us. A woman whom I became very close to in the early days of sobriety, and I’m still friends with, told me to choose my sponsor* based on how she lived her life. She said to ask myself the question, “Do I want what she has?” (in AA this means, do I admire or like the kind of person she/he is).

I’ve become a lot more aware of my own thoughts and feelings since those early days of sobriety. Now, if I am wondering whether or not to become involved with someone, or a group activity, I can ask myself the questions, “How do I feel around them regarding this specific issue/purpose? Does this feel open-hearted and honest? How do I feel when I leave their company? Do I feel more myself; better, calmer, happier, stronger? or am I feeling less sure, less myself, more confused?, and when I get quiet inside, I always know.

Your mind surely absorbs the kind of thought it is most with. If you are with the successful you absorb thought which brings success. The unsuccessful are ever sending from them thoughts of lack of order, lack of system, lack of method, or recklessness and discouraged thought. Your mind if much with theirs will certainly absorb these thoughts exactly as a sponge does water.” pp 89 , from Thoughts are Things by Prentice Mulford, originally published in 1889.

* AA’s brochure defining sponsorship www.aa.org/pdf/products/p-15_Q&AonSpon.pdf

21 thoughts on “The open heart

  1. Your words today Mary about relationships are very meaningful for me. I believe your comments apply to all of us whether sobriety/insobriety has been part of our lives or not. I read once that it is difficult to have a healthy relationship with an unhealthy person. And you coached me to consider ‘who’ the unhealthy person was in my thinking…the ‘other’ person or me? And when I dissected the issue, at that time, it was me! And sometimes when we are unhealthy in mind, body, spirit, heart, others seem unhealthy to us…it’s that mirror thing again! At times I have substituted emotions/adjectives in that sentence I had heard…like it is difficult to have a happy relationship with an unhappy person. Or, a genuine relationship with a disingenuous person…or a deep relationship with a shallow person…and so on. And then I question whether I am the one who is (in these examples) unhappy or disingenuous or shallow??? Sometimes it is very clear to me and other times not so clear. The Mulford quote is excellent! Makes me think of both reflection and absorption…the laws of attraction are so powerful and our own vibrational ‘state’ provides the ‘match’ or ‘no match’ to the high or low energy of others…almost like DNA! Great post! Thank you!

    • Thank you so much Kathye…yes, what I’ve found too is that when I am unhappy about someone being unhappy (or about anything that they are doing/saying), I need look no further than myself. My feelings tell me all about me. Sometimes I find myself smiling and agreeing (especially with family members) when I know it is not my truth, while inside I am thinking that they aren’t being honest….I need look no further than myself. If I am disturbed, it is my mind that needs investigation, not “their” life, motives or behavior.

  2. 1986 was a good year to become sober! I decided on 2/14/1986 to stop also. I had a compass somewhere deep inside that said to me “when you change who you are when you put that stuff in you then you don’t get to put that stuff in you anymore”. I heard that voice loud and clear as i was sitting on a bar stool being that “pathetic crying woman” i loathed so much in others. Sometimes i feel like i clawed myself up from the bottom but then i realized what i was given was GRACE. I am so eternally grateful to have good days and bad days but be able to pick my way through with out too much destruction. I love the measure of “heavy atmosphere”. I could never put it into words what that feeling was…blessings ever

    • 1986 was a good year indeed!…and I have come to the same knowing Janette; it was Grace …I had to do my part (by not drinking alcohol) but it still feels like a miracle to me. Blessings to you today, Mary

    • Thank you Susan and I loved that quote too…so many of those turn of the century spiritual/metaphysical writers seem to resonate with me…there is a truth and simplicity in their words that I love, Hugs to you, Mary

  3. “We tend to energetically bond with those who are around us. ”
    I hadn’t thought about this quite this way, but it really rings true now that I do. I left a stressful and devaluing 11 year work situation this summer and though I loved some of the people I worked with and considered them among my dearest friends, I find myself resistant to spending time with them now. I’m still sorting it out, but I think it is that I finally rescued myself from the energy of that place and being with those friends is a pull back into the negative energy. A lot of our love and energy was spent helping each other cope with some really hurtful and demanding people, and now I wonder if these friendships are going to survive. Sorry to be so long-winded, but this struck a nerve! Thanks for sharing your experience, Mary.

    • Thank you so much Cynthia (you were not long-winded at all) and how wonderful that you were able to leave a job that no longer worked for you! Sending you thoughts of happiness, rest, comfort and love today, Mary

  4. Mary, I’ve run on so can’t sign my name at the bottom (SandyP in Canada) but here is my response: thank you for sharing yourself and your life of becoming sober, something I’ve never had to deal with, never considered as to the difficulties involved. My father was an alcoholic and even as I write these words, I feel a sense of disloyalty to him and his memory and yet, while this word ‘alcoholic’ was never used in reference to my father, this is what he was. I can say that it was the times, my parents were married during prohibition; business was always done over a bottle and while some of that factored into their social lives, I knew that my father had a problem from a very young age. My mother did not drive the car and as an only child I would be taken with them on their week-end social gatherings. I remember how they would argue in the car coming home after these times, she, no doubt, aware of how much liquor he had consumed, worried about his driving and our vulnerability. There were many little things that made me uneasy in my father’s presence, though never unkind and never abusive, nevertheless, I knew when he’d reached the point of me feeling aggravated with his behaviour. I have never had to look at alcoholism from an alcoholic’s point of view, only mine as a child growing up with it. Although alcohol does not play a large part in my life and never has, I’ve resented what it did to people and couldn’t be around those who drank too much. Alcohol in a sense governed my life and my attitude towards it is still there in a level of discomfort knowing that I’d had enough of it growing up and couldn’t tolerate it being in my life as an adult. Yet, in hearing your ‘side’ of being an alcoholic, I realize my attitude towards it, has been limiting for me, too. Your post is almost overwhelming for me to read in its bare threads of honesty

    • Love to you Sandy P, for revealing your most honest bare threads. I am really amazed and touched by the honest sharing in our flock. Blessings to all for being your selves.

      • You know, Susan, it just never occurred to me to look at alcohol from any point of view but my own. I think like most of us as children, we grow up wrapped in our own beliefs based on what we’ve experienced in life, thinking that the way we think is right and the only way to think. Mary’s posting brought this to the fore in my thinking that in my seventies, I realize how much alcohol has influenced my life in the it has controlled my life as well. I’m not without enjoying a good bottle of cognac but use it more in a medicinal sense for asthmatic reactions such as I’ve had this past month in helping relax my respiratory system and allowing me to breathe without panicking. Other than that, I don’t have a need for alcohol and yet all these years I’ve only looked at this issue from my own perspective and not another’s. Old dogs can still learn new tricks! SandyP

    • I really appreciate hearing this Sandy…thank you so much for sharing and for being so open minded (and again for writing your thoughts about this here) love and happy thoughts to you today, Mary

    • The comments below are from Mary Solomon:

      These comments are in reference to Sandy P’s comment – but I’m sure they will be helpful to all here.

      Today I received an email referencing a blog by Morty Lefkoe who teaches techniques to deal with beliefs, meaning we give to them and how they differ from the Truth. This will lead you to the blog.

      Dear Mary,

      Beliefs are almost always one logical
      way of looking at a series of events—but
      they are never the right way or the only
      way. They are never “the truth.”

      As a result, various points of view
      (about political issues, how children
      should be educated, or any other topic)
      are just different ways of interpreting
      a series of events, none of which are
      “the truth.”

      So here’s the bad news: Your viewpoint
      is never “the truth.” The good news:
      The other person’s point of view isn’t
      “the truth” either.

      For more details, see my blog post this week.

      http://www.mortylefkoe.com/viewpoint-the-truth/

      Love, Morty
      Creator of The Lefkoe Method

      He also did a TED talk:

  5. Mary – Thank you for being so open and honest. An especially meaningful post for me today…. (I also appreciate the comments – thanks, all!)

    • Thank you Pam and it is such a gift for me to have this loving community to share my life with, Sending you blessings of happiness today, Mary

  6. A truly heart-bare post, Mary, as are some of the responses. Like Mary Solomon, I will be re-reading this a few times to fully digest it. I sense many lessons in it for me. Thank you for such honesty.

    • You are so welcome Suzanne and thank you for your kind and loving words, hugs to you, Mary

  7. Oh Mary, Noah is a snuggle bunny. I’m still waiting to get the camera emptied out so I can take a special picture of “Missie the Manx” to send to you. You’ve got three years on me a day at a time. I so identified with your post. It was a great “remember when” for me. I really do believe we are miracles. God Bless You, Cindy

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