Monday, November 14, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Reflecting

Me & Lisa, circa 1978

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.


Lisa's Thoughts  

Our journey...

Wow, I too have found so much joy in getting to know you better and understanding your perspectives on God and all that is good. I appreciate you taking the time to really learn and understand what the recovery journey is all about!

I am really looking forward to doing something similar with you, maybe in the Articles of Faith or something you would like me to learn about.

I was really happy to learn how the 12 steps can really impact anyone who chooses to learn about them. They are powerful in their own way. Words cannot express how I feel about you and who you have become! If I am ever in doubt about what is possible, I remember the day you left here without much and created a life that is nothing short of inspiring.

You inspire me everyday and more than you truly are one of those people who live in my heart and light up my soul on a constant basis.

Thank you for your compassion, love and patience over the years. I know, now more than ever, it was not easy for you to witness and experience. I am so grateful that the good Lord has brought us all to some clarity, so we can be of service to those who may be experiencing life as we did.

I am so excited for you to come home and share this Holiday season with you!!!

I love you!

Liz's Thoughts  


I can’t find what I wrote in 2012. I assume I wrote something. I imagine I would have expressed my gratitude for the project, the insights, the shared experience...I know I would have told Lisa that I loved her and looked forward to our next project. The next project didn’t materialize. Life happened…

Lisa relapsed. Why? Ultimately, that’s a question only she can answer. I do know that she made attempts at sobriety. It was the topic of our last communication.

She texted me, “It’s groundhog’s day here in my world. I know I just need to change one thing.”
I replied, “You can change that one thing.”

She died 15 days later.

Grief swallowed me whole. Ripped out my internal landscape. Thrusted me into the inky abyss.
Resurrecting this writing project has been a beacon. Reviewing the Alcoholics Anonymous steps has helped me to see I am powerless over grief - it must be experienced. I came to believe a Power greater than myself could bring me out of the abyss. I had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps - to carry the message of healing, love and light to those impacted by addiction.

In sharing mine and Lisa’s conversations with you, I’ve found connection and meaning. I’ve loved hearing from the people who Lisa impacted during her life. I’ve loved hearing from people struggling with addiction and those who love people in that struggle. I feel a collective embrace and I’m reminded that we are not alone in our suffering and that we are on this Earth school to care for one another. Thank you for being part of this with me.

There are more writings. I have some of Lisa’s journals wherein she continues to work the steps. I haven’t been in a space where I can read them and thus am not ready to share them. I will - in time.

I want to end in the same format the previous posts where written - responding to my sister.


You’re beloved AA and treasured steps have been a balm during this painful time. Thank you for bring AA into my life. It has given me perspective and tools on how to cope with loving addicts and living my life.

Per your wishes, we hosted an AA meeting in your honor a few days after your funeral. It was a choice moment hearing your community speak affectionately about you and share their stories of addiction. Something happened to me in that meeting. The line between the addict and me blurred. I no longer felt like a visitor. Your addiction no longer felt like this other thing - it all became part of a bigger whole. Your community became my community. Your cause became my cause.

For so much of our adult life I was your champion. Now, I feel the roles have reversed. I hear you tell me that I can do this hard thing.

I’m eternally grateful that you are my sister.

I miss you! I love you!

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 12, We're Caring This Message

Lisa & me, circa 2009

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.

Step 12: "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs."

Lisa's Thoughts  

Step 12 is the reason that AA remains available to all who seek to recover from a hopeless state of mind, spirit and body. This step is crucial in recovery and in life, in general. It is often said that you cannot keep what you aren’t willing to give away. When I first came into AA, I felt intimidated by this step and didn’t realize, even at one day sober, I had something to offer the person who was still drunk. Regardless of how much sobriety someone has, everyone is capable of reaching out and offering service.

Service work kept me sober in the beginning. I jumped into AA with both feet and spent the majority of my time working with others, making coffee, chairing meetings and giving people rides to and from meetings. I had no idea why I was doing it at the time, except my sponsor highly suggested it. However, over time, I realized the internal rewards that come with being of service.

Some of the most powerful moments I have had in AA are when I have had the opportunity to sit down with a woman and take her through these steps as I was taken through them. I am often amazed and baffled at what I learn about myself and the gifts that come into my life as a result of taking a few minutes and sharing what another woman gave to me so freely.

I have spent many nights in emergency rooms, hotel rooms and strange living rooms attempting to carry the message of AA. At times, I can tell you, I felt as though I was wasting my time or would be discouraged when I would spend countless hours with someone to have them drink again. What I learned during that process was it didn’t matter what anyone did with what I offered them. The gift, in all of it, was that I stayed sober even if they didn’t.

This step also allowed me to begin the process of rigorous honesty. I came into AA with so many secrets, secrets I was determined to die with. However, when women stood up in meetings and opened their hearts about neglecting their children and committing adultery, it gave me the courage to open up about my story and what was keeping me hostage from life. I realized that I truly am not alone in my alcoholism and the many behaviors that come from that.

Paying it forward is what AA is all about. I love the unity and joy that are found in the rooms. There is absolutely an energy that can’t be explained in words.

Liz’s Response 

Reader, I couldn't find my response to this post from 2012.

Liz's Thoughts  

This step echoes of my journey from domestic violence victim, to domestic violence survivor, to domestic violence advocate. The last interaction I had with my ex-husband culminated into an act of physical violence as he attempted to break down the door of my apartment. The next morning, I was sitting in the domestic violence assistance center at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah. Within a few hours, I was given a protective order, training on how to keep myself safe and a victim’s advocate - all free of charge.

I was amazed at how smoothly the process went and the resources that were readily available to me. As I was sitting in the waiting room for my paperwork to be finalized, I was overcome with gratitude. I knew that this system was in place and these resources were available to me because of the women who came before me – not all of them surviving the violence inflected by their domestic partner. At that moment, in that space, I made a vow to those women that I would from that day forward use my voice to bring light and awareness to the darkness and destructive realities of domestic violence.
I entered that courthouse a victim and left a survivor. It took me many years, a lot of personal awareness work, healing and counseling for me to transition from survivor to advocate. The key was finding my voice, trusting it and then using it.

The art I create, the words I write and the way I live my life are rooted in this vow.

After seeing my art or collaborating with me, individuals will disclose their experience with domestic violence and/or ask how they can get help. This is how I make a difference in the world. This is how I actively participate in life and become part of the global conversation.

Lisa's Response


It has been so many years, sometimes, I forget where we have come from, especially in your situation. I believe true healing comes when we pay forward what happened to us in a positive way. I know that you, me and Laura have the ability through our voices to break the abuse cycle that seems to repeat itself in our family.

I am so proud of you and admire how far you have come. I know that whatever is in store for us next will be nothing short of amazing. God would not have it any other way! I love you!

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 11, Improving Our Conscious Contact with God

Me & Lisa, Circa 1978

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.

Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”

Lisa's Thoughts  

It has been my experience that the most important word in Step 11 is sought. My emotional and spiritual sobriety are completely dependent on seeking God, in any way possible. Step 11 allows me to keep an open mind, build a strong spiritual foundation and allow flexibility in my definition of God and how he works in my life.

The search to live honestly and to live a life of God is what keeps me alive and on my recovery journey today.

I find a deep amount of satisfaction in learning how God works in the lives of others and how he manifests himself in many different forms all over the world.

The power of prayer is unexplainable.

I have seen miracles happen when those around me are heavy in prayer, especially in times of great suffering. I am often amazed at how meditation can transform my way of thinking from Ego to Soul, almost instantaneously.

My favorite prayer, that relates well to Step 11, is the prayer of St. Francis. In his famous prayer, St. Francis asks God to make him a channel, to allow him to bring light to dark, love to hate, harmony to discord etc.  He also asks to understand than to be understood, to forgive than to be forgiven, for it is through dying that one awakens to eternal life. This prayer reminds me that if I am thinking of others than I am not thinking of myself and it is then that I am of the utmost service to my Creator.

In Step 1, we admitted we were powerless, asked to surrender and gave up fighting anyone or anything. In Step 11, we are given back all of our power and more through God - what he is able to do through us.

His will for us and the power to carry that out, I often repeat this over and over again in my head because I have a difficult time discerning God’s will from my will.

However, I do know that if I remain teachable, open, and remember that God is everything, or He is nothing, than I am usually aligned with what He would have me do for the most part. I find that God speaks to me in the most unusual ways.

Meditation allows me to quiet my mind enough to hear what it is he would have me be, but it is after I have begun my day that God begins to speak, usually through other people and in the most unexpected places.

God has answered my prayers through the cashier at the grocery store, my children, my siblings, newcomers sharing in a meeting, bumper stickers and billboards. When I am connected and my eyes are truly open, I see God’s messages everywhere in everything. I am overwhelmed and filled with the love of the spirit.

My days are full of joy and peace regardless of what is going on around me. This is the blessing in working Step 11, however, it takes work!

I remember telling my very first sponsee that if I wanted to stay “spiritually high,” so to speak, then I had to chase God with the same determination and consistency that I chased my bottle.

I never stayed drunk off of one drink for several days. I had to continue drinking to stay drunk. So, it only makes sense that in order to feel the sunlight of the spirit I have to continue to immerse myself in it on a constant basis or I am no longer drunk on God’s love and immense feelings of gratitude and hope for my life.

Step 11 is the one step that I have never stopped working throughout the duration of my recovery journey.

I have learned so much about different religions, spiritual teachers, sages and theories by being open to working this step in my daily life. The rewards have been abundant and I truly feel fortunate for knowing I have this precious tool to keep me moving forward each and every day.

Liz’s Response 


One of the reasons I wanted to do this project is to see where are thinking was similar and where it differed. We both believe in spiritual growth and progression and yet our belief in God is so different. I find it fascinating.

You speak as a traveler searching for a precious artifact. You find pieces of it here and there that give you comfort, understanding, and fortitude to continue on your quest.

I’m so glad we are doing this!  Love you.

Liz's Thoughts  

John Gottman is considered to be one of this country’s foremost marriage and family therapists.  His research on relationship dynamics has covered hundreds of thousands of couples – basically this guy knows what he’s talking about.

Gottman has discovered that what makes a relationship work is the willingness to turn towards each other, to choose connection over disconnection. Particularly, in difficult moments when individuals are feeling vulnerable.

He teaches that it matters less how couples fight, how often they fight, and what they fight about, but rather how they behave after the altercation. Do they go off by themselves and lick their wounds? Do they reach out to someone else for comfort? Or do they reach out to their partner and offer connection? Gottman’s research shows that those couples who chose to turn back to each other have a stronger relationship than those who turned elsewhere.

I believe that this principle applies to step 11. I interpret this step to be making a commitment to continually choose to turn to God, to share all aspects of our lives and experiences with Him, thereby maintain a strong relationship with Him wherein we can receive His guidance and follow His counsel.

If turning toward someone works to strengthen relationships with our partners it most certainly will work in our relationship with God.

In his book Promptings or Just Me?, Kevin Hinckley talks about the mode of prayer and how it is so easy for us to get stuck in a personal repetitive prayers. Prayers that become checklists (ie, give thanks, ask for blessings, care for loved ones etc.) do not further connection with God. He illustrates this principle by talking about how he would be more concerned with asking the Lord to bless everyone including Aunt Irma than about actually sharing with the Lord the things that were on his heart.

Praying for our loved ones is a beautiful and charitable thing but when we do it as a matter of business and a way of avoiding, even subconsciously, exposing ourselves to the Lord there is a problem.

It’s also silly because the Lord knows all. He knows that while we are talking about Aunt Irma we are really thinking about the fight we had with our mother, or our hope that an encounter will develop into a romance, or that we won’t get laid off. He knows these things. The only person we are hiding from is ourselves.

So much of our behavior is a way of avoiding exposing ourselves to our self, and we wonder why we can’t be vulnerable to God and other people. We cannot give to others what we are unable to give to ourselves. God works in the sacred circle. If we are willing to turn towards him, he will bring us back to ourselves.

Lisa's Response



I love the checklist prayer and how often I get into that same routine.. Even today when I am feeling lazy!!!

I enjoyed this essay and enjoyed your feedback. Yes, for me God is a constant, but in my mind, God is not something that is fixed and we already know everything about Him. I believe we know little of what God is, what He truly is capable of, and that is where the “seeking” in my life is important.

I find my most difficult times in life are when I believe I know everything or I know God’s plan for anyone…I believe that the only place God exists is in the NOW and because that is always changing he is constant in that, but what we are able to see of him reveals itself like peeling back the layers of an artichoke, so to speak.

I only believe we as humans have touched the surface of God and all of the amazement, joy, love and wonder that comes from that source-if that makes any sense!

Love you!!

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