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The Sober Pagan

August 1st, 2018

What’s in Your Toolbox?

Back when I lived in Lowell, Massachusetts – several years ago – I had Comcast cable and one of the stations I received was called Decades. I guess you can receive it on Spectrum cable too but it’s on some wicked expensive package. It’s a cool station – everyday, they feature the events of that day – whoever’s birthday it is or whatever noteworthy happened on that day – so the programming changes accordingly. Anyway, every day at 8 in the morning, I would watch an old episode of the Dick Cavett show. Back in the 1970’s, Dick Cavett had a talk show that was as cutting-edge as Johnny Carson’s – maybe more so. One day, I saw an interview with Dick Van Dyke. Dick Van Dyke was one of the first major celebrities to come out as a recovering alcoholic – I remember this vividly as a young kid. This was part of the interview. Dick Cavett asked Dick Van Dyke if he was a “member” of AA. I remember Dick Van Dyke answering that “AA was an important tool” in his “toolbox” but “it wasn’t the only tool”. That made a big impression on me.

I found the interview on YouTube and the link is here, It’s REALLY good.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUKV_q-J0Ds[/embedyt]

Lots of AA-ers will tell you that all you need is AA and more AA to stay sober. Maybe for some people this is true. But not for me. As happy as I am with my new home group, it doesn’t begin to fulfill all my sober or spiritual needs. I am always looking for other groups to attend – both AA and otherwise – and I am always searching for new sober skills to add to my toolbox.

I created a file called – duh – “Toolbox” – and I filled it with everything I have found to add me on my road to recovery. There’s every version of the twelve steps – or thirteen – or sixteen – that I have discovered – Wiccan versions and Pagan versions and Buddhist versions. There’s a Goddess calendar so everyday I can dedicate the day to the Goddess whose day it is. There’s things I myself have written, like this:

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING OF ALL

Do not take that first drink. Without the first drink, there is no second drink & there is no third drink & there is no drunk.

With no drunk, there is no running out of money & having to hustle drinks & then getting into questionable sexual situations.

With no drunk, there is no going to questionable places to get other drugs to get higher than the drunk you already have because drinking doesn’t do it anymore & you have to get more wasted. & than spending money that you were supposed to save for other things. & then wanting to die all night long as you go through withdrawals.

With no drunk, there is no hangover. No migraine, no diarrhea, no bleeding hemorrhoids. With no drunk, you wake up in the morning & feel fabulous.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TAKE THAT FIRST DRINK. IT ALL GOES DOWNHILL FROM THERE.

I also have links to ezines like thefix.com and Just For Today Meditation. I also have non-drinking support aids, like “Directives on the Healing Road” from Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart. Sometimes you find sober support in places where you least expect it.

The point is – what’s in your toolbox is up to you. Create a toolbox and fill it with all the tools you can find. And then use those tools! A toolbox filled with tools is no good if it’s never opened and tools are never put to good use!

Until next month – Brightest Blessings! And stay sober – one day at a time! Hugs!

Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road

References

Peart, Neil. Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Toronto: ECW Press, 2002.

The Fix: Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Recovery News. http://www.thefix.com

Just For Today Meditation. http://jftna.org/jft/

The Dick Cavett Show on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUKV_q-J0Ds

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

The Recovery Spiral and the Spiral Steps

If you hang around AA for any amount of time, you will no doubt hear that you have to acquire a “Big Book” – the text of Alcoholics Anonymous – and read no other book – unless it’s the “Twelve and Twelve” – the AA book about the Twelve Steps and Twelve traditions – or one of the other “approved” literature that Alcoholics Anonymous World Services puts out. I myself own a Big Book and a Twelve and Twelve. Like everything associated with AA, there’s a lot to love about these books and a lot that honestly pisses me off about them. My own personal copies have color-coded tabs stuck on the edges of the pages so I know where to look for help and I’m not wasting my time with stories that I don’t need. And many times, reading something in the “Big Book” or the “Twelve and Twelve” has kept me sober for one more day.

But I own many other recovery-based books. Not for one minute have I ever believed that “The Big Book” was the only reading material for an alcoholic or an addict any more than I ever believed that the Bible was the only reading material for a Jew or a Christian. There are many places in which you may find wisdom and enlightenment – some are not even within the covers of a book! By all means, read “The Big Book” but read everything else as well!

One of my favorite recovery books is The Zen of Recovery by Mel Ash. This book talks about recovery in Buddhist terms. You don’t have to be Buddhist to identify with the issues Ash brings up or his path to recovery. He covers the Twelve Steps and how to deal with them in a non-theistic way. It was an important book in my early recovery and one that I go back to again and again.

Another favorite is Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps by Charlotte David Kasl. (All her books rock). I especially like how she discusses faith development, links patriarchy and addiction, and looks at various recovery groups. She lists various “steps” – the Twelve Steps of AA, the Thirteen Steps of Women for Sobriety, and the Sixteen Steps she herself came up with. She also talks about toxic groups and sexual abuse within groups – it’s an incredible book. It was published in 1992 and it would be great if she came out with an update – things have changed in twenty-five years.

I came across The Spiral Steps quite by accident. I was looking for tarot readings that corresponded to the Twelve Steps and somehow I found a page out of The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing by Cynthia Jane Collins – I think it was on Google Reads or maybe Amazon. I can’t really remember. But I was instantly intrigued. As soon as I could, I bought the book.

It has become one of my very favorite recovery books. It addresses all kinds of problems – not just drugs and alcohol – but overeating, shopping, gaming, sex, working out – whatever it is. The First Step of the Pagan Twelve Steps reads, “We admitted we were harming ourselves and others and our lives had become overwhelming.” (Collins, 3) I don’t know about you but I find this much more appealing that AA’s First Step with its insistence on powerless and unmanageability. And whereas Step Two in AA is a plea to a “Power” greater than any of us peons on earth to “restore” our “sanity”, the Pagan Step Two reads, “Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.” Not sanity – balance.

Here are the complete Pagan Twelve Steps:

  1. We admitted that we were harming ourselves and other and that our lives had become overwhelming.

  2. Came to believe that a power within ourselves and our world could restore us to balance.

  3. Made a decision to move our wills and our lives toward that Divine Presence.

  4. Made a searching and fearless ethical inventory of ourselves.

  5. Admitted to ourselves, to the Divine Presence, and to others the exact nature of our harm.

  6. Were entirely ready to have our harmful patterns replaced by ethical coping skills.

  7. Asked the Divine to transform us, giving us rebirth in our lives.

  8. Made a list of all beings we had harmed, beginning with ourselves and including our world, and became willing to make amends to them all.

  9. Made direct amends to all whenever possible, except when to do so would violate the Rede.

  10. Continued to take personal ethical inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it and corrected it.

  11. Sought through action and meditation to improve our conscious knowledge and contact with the Divine Presence, seeking only to choose in harmony with the greatest good.

  12. Having had spiritual awakenings as results of these steps, we offered this opportunity to others and practiced these principles in our lives.

As you can see, these steps keep the hard-hitting self-development that the original steps had but they remove the Christian flavor that leave a bad taste in our pagan mouths. If you want, you could easily remove “Divine Presence” and put in the name of whatever deity that you personally work with. Certainly – some deities are more conducive to sobriety than others!

The book is filled with stories of people in recovery and people using the steps and the Tarot readings in various ways. Although the Tarot readings are designed to be used with a sponsor, you can do them on your own. The back of the book had Tarot readings and how to use them. There is also a Recovery Spiral Book of Shadows. This has step rituals, a workbook for each of the steps, chants, and spells. There’s also an awesome bibliography. It’s worth checking out some of the books she lists, if you haven’t read them yet and reacquainting yourself with the ones you’ve read years ago. I know that’s what I plan to do.

If you live in a place like I do – where the sober pagans are few and far between – it might be a good idea to invite the few sober pagans that you do know over to your home for a sober evening. Do a ritual from The Recovery Spiral – chant the Pagan Twelve Steps – raise some sober power. Perhaps this could be the start of the one and only Pagan meeting in your area.

But until that happens – I’m continuing to be the solitary sober Dianic Wiccan that I am.

Brightest Blessings!

References

Alcoholics World Services. Alcoholics Anonymous. NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001

Alcoholics World Services. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. NY: Alcoholic Anonymous World Services, Inc., 1981

Ash, Mel. The Zen of Recovery. NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1993.

For Amazon information, click image below.

Collins, Cynthia Jane. The Recovery Spiral: A Pagan Path to Healing. NY: Citadel Press, 2004

For Amazon information, click image below.

Kasl, Charlotte Davis. Many Roads, One Journey: Moving Beyond the 12 Steps. NY: HarperCollins, 1992

For Amazon information, click image below.

 

**

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

Fighting Depression with Affirmations, Gratitude, and the Happiness List

When you first get sober, if you attend AA meetings, you are sure to encounter the Twelve Steps. They can be powerful tools in helping you to acquiring and maintaining your sobriety but they are not the only tools in your toolbox.

Many of us suffer from various mental illnesses. Most people have some form of anxiety or depression at any given time – life is stressful, and that’s just it is. One thing I have learned is that repeating affirmations really help in combating depression. They can be a most effective tool in your fight for happiness.

But – “I’m too depressed to create an affirmation!” Or – “These affirmations are stupid! They have nothing to do with my real life! I’m depressed!” Yes, I have been in that place, too. What I have learned to do is that whatever negative thought I have and turn it inside out or upside down or backwards or however you want to look at it, but turn it – even if feels stupid, sounds stupid and you are convinced within a shadow of a doubt that it’s totally stupid and it won’t work. Do it anyway. It will work. Repeat that affirmation as part of your morning and evening meditation for twenty-eight days and I guarantee you, you are going to feel better. That positive statement will have become a part of your thinking and it will have changed you.

And keep doing it. Like a diet, when you have been reducing calories and eating healthier foods and exercising on a regular basis, when you reach your goal weight and you feel like a new person, you know that if you go back to eating the junk you were eating before you started, you’re going to regain all that weight and probably a few extra pounds, too. That’s the same with saying affirmations and all positive practices. If you stop – if you get lazy with your practice – your feeling of blah is going to return and the next thing you know, you’re going to be in a depressed state again. And maybe on the road to relapse.

(Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash)

Some people in AA say that when you’re depressed, you should make a “gratitude list”. I don’t like gratitude lists because then I have to think to whom I am grateful? Of course, most people in AA are Christian, so their answer is “God” and the next statement is to pray and give thanks to God for all these things for which you am grateful. But as a Pagan/Wiccan/Witch, I don’t really look at things in this way. Not that I’m not grateful – if I have a reason to be – like I was grateful that my friend gave me a ride to the store and I didn’t have to take the bus in the bad weather the other day – but I don’t get being grateful for sunsets.

What I do is make “Happiness Lists”. When I am depressed, I ask myself, “What makes you happy?” Of course, when you are depressed, this can be as hard as coming up with affirmations! But even when I am wicked depressed, my kitties make me happy. (Even when they are pissing me off, they make me happy!). And sunsets make me happy. Sunrises make me happy too! Seeing flowers make me happy. Smelling good food makes me happy. Books make me happy.

Even if you can’t come up with more than one or two things on your “Happiness List”, that’s OK. Hang on to that! It’ll grow as your mental health well-being grows. Add to it as you think of things that make you happy. Soon, you’ll see that you have lots of things in this world and in your life that create moments of happiness for you. This realization is one of the most powerful tools you will ever have. Put it in your toolbox and use it!

Until next month, Brightest Blessings.

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

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Cover art: Large Brown Fairy Garden decor Door Set with Accessories. Hand cast and painted by Jassmond Masters-Bell of the Etsy shop Fairy Behind the Door, featured in an interview this month with her.

About the door: This Fairy door belongs to Mrs Odina. She owns a Nights Fairy dormitory where she allows the traveling fairy to stop by and sleepover before they continue on their journey. She runs a tight tree house, her fees are fair but you have to bring your own berries and goats milk for breakfast. It says on the Door “Fairies Sleeping” so be quiet when you pass by.

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This month we have visitors! The Fae have come out for the Month of July to join us and our Readers at PaganPagesOrg. So pull up a Toadstool, Make a nice Cuppa, and Have a Great Read because we have brought you a Packed Issue to enjoy filled with Excellent Features Likes…

 

An interview with Jassmond Masters-Bell, owner of the Etsy Shop Fairy Behind the Door. Where all types of magickal items can be found created by this wonderful molding artisan.

 

When you see a tremendous wrong in the world do you just sit by and let it happen? Though Jennifer Engrácio , and PaganPagesOrg, usually stay out of political stances, human rights are being violated and she has something to say and we stand behind her! Please read Children and the Seven Generations. See where you stand.

 

A few new columns we will be adding in PaganPagesOrg are updates and features monthly on our favorite Podcasts. These are the ones we listen to and find to be the most informative and really top notch. We started, already, by bringing back broadcasts of Going Shamanic Radio. Now, we are proud to announce we will be featuring 3 Pagans and a Cat. Personally, I think you will love them from the first episode. How they make you feel secure on your path. The rounded knowledge. No fear in saying I don’t know. The learning, the sharing, the laughing. The correctness in information. This podcast is the complete package. A must listen.

 

An Interview with Astrid Brown. Astrid Brown is a medium, a psychic, and an incredibly prolific author. Her most recent offering, A Psychic Affair, blends the mysteries of psychic development with the romance genre, exploring how long-distance relationships can develop not only through the words and messages we send, but through a true, psychic connection.

 

This month starts a new column: Mojo Bag of the Month, beginning with a bag that will help to raise your vibration! With the many shifts and changes that are coming, we need to raise our vibration to ride out the wave. Have a read to see what you need for this month’s bag.

 

This month Robin Fennelly reviews the book Moon Magic: Your Complete Guide to Harnessing the Mystical Energy of the Moon by author Diane Ahlquist. Robin breaks down this book for us explaining all this volume has to offer and if it’s worth adding to our libraries.

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We would like to thank all our loyal readers for this award. You like us, you really like us!

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Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ Community, Instagram, & YouTube.

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Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis

 

 

The Issue of Powerlessness

It’s a beautiful fall day and I am on my way to an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. It’s not easy for me to get to meetings, because I don’t have a car and public transportation in the Western New York area leaves a lot to be desired. To attend a one-hour meeting means traveling at least forty-five minutes to an hour each way on the bus. For years, this dead time on the bus kept me from attending meetings at all and of course, I invariably ended up drinking again. I had to get real with myself – what’s the difference between wasting time with public transportation or wasting time in a bar?

My name is Polly and I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.

I once had eight years of sobriety but I went “back out”, as they say in AA, and I’ve been “in and out” ever since. I’ve been trying very hard since I moved back to Buffalo, mostly for health reasons. I have to admit, I really like drinking. It’s really – drinking doesn’t like me. That’s the truth of it. It’s like being in love with an abusive man. I always thought domestic violence was a lot like addiction.

Like all non-Abrahamic religious people – Pagan, Wiccans, Buddhists, and all the non-believers – I have many issues with AA. Unfortunately, in Buffalo – like many cities – it’s really the only game in town. There are a few SOS (Save Ourselves, or Secural Organization for Sobriety) meetings but nothing that I would be able to attend, given my disability. Rational Recovery stopped meeting in Buffalo back in the 1990’s. Women for Sobriety, the recovery group founded in 1975 by Jean Kirkpatrick as a women’s alternative to AA, also has no meetings in the Buffalo area, but I do subscribe to their weekly newsletter. I have tried to stay sober on my own – doing sobriety spells, daily meditation, working out, white knuckling it. Invariably I drink and drug again.

I once had a sponsor who told me, “Meeting makers make it.” So I am getting on the bus and going to a meeting. Even if it takes up my entire morning. Again, what else am I doing? If I drink, then I’m drinking for the entire day. I’m a daytime drinker – I start around 11 in morning and stop around dinner time – that’s how I do it. And then I’m going to be sick for my entire tomorrow. So why am I bitching about a meeting taking up my entire morning? I can go home after the meeting and have the afternoon to write and create art. And I’ll feel good tomorrow. Hello? I have a problem with that?

I think what most of us Pagans and Wiccans have an issue with – first thing – is the idea of being powerless over alcohol and drugs and everything else in the world – an idea that is stressed over and over again in AA and all the “anonymous” groups. After all, the whole idea of being a witch – I consider myself to be a witch, I don’t if you do – is to own your own power. So the idea of admitting powerlessness goes against the grain of everything we have been working toward as Pagans and Wiccans.

However – when we are wasted on alcohol – when we are hungover and puking and have headache that would split the atom – that’s not powerful. Be honest. How many times has someone taken advantage of you when you’ve been wasted on drugs? For me, it’s too many times to count. Too many terrible things have happened to me and I bet, to you, too. That’s what powerlessness is about.

I was on the bus the other day and it flashed to me – one of those lightbulb moments – instead of thinking about being powerless over alcohol, I would think of it as “Sobriety is powerful”. My power is in being sober. I can make better magic, stronger spells, have more meaningful meditation sessions when I am sober. And I mean sober on a daily basis.

If you want true freedom – and that’s what being Pagan is all about – you have to be sober, too. I truly believe that. It took me years to get here, but I’m here now. If you want what I have, well, be here next month and I’ll have something else to share with you.

Brightest Blessings!

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

A Home Group, Finally

I have finally found a home group! I knew as soon as I walked into the room that this was going to be the group for me. The time is perfect – 7:15 a.m. – it meets Tuesdays and Thursdays – it’s easy for me to get to – the meeting room itself is lovely – very Zen, although it’s a room in a Presbyterian Church. But it has large windows that look out on a courtyard with flowering trees and well-tended gardens and places to sit and meditate – much like any Buddhist Temple might offer. I felt at home immediately.

This spring I have struggled through one of the worst depressions of my life – at least, in last ten years. I had trouble getting to the store for basic groceries, let alone getting to an AA meeting or anywhere else. My entire spirituality suffered. I was amazed to find that I didn’t want to live anymore – and I was sober.

There were many dark days and many long sleepless nights.

Even though I thought I had lost my faith, yet I sat in meditation. Sometimes I sat for hours. It seemed like my brain had stopped to utter stillness but it was simmering like a sober stew. I needed that time of quietude. No sound except the chirping of the birds, vehicles driving past the house and children laughing as they walked to the corner to wait for the school bus. I didn’t dwell on any of this – I just noted each sound and let them go.

My son’s father came to town on route to somewhere else. He has over ten years in AA and is a social worker – he works with the homeless in Florida. He is Buddhist and has many years of practice. We spent the afternoon together, talking and meditating.

The next day, I started going to meetings again. The next week, I found this particular meeting – my new home group.

Soon after this, my son – who has six months sobriety – moved back in with me. I am so grateful for his sober support.

It is still a daily struggle. I have to admit that. At least once a day, I have a wicked bad jones. Something always triggers me. It can be almost anything. The weather – the time of day – a certain smell. I white-knuckle it hour by hour. Then – it passes – and I am so grateful that I didn’t give in.

I know that I have complained about AA for years and found every excuse under the sun not to go to meetings. But now I actually look forward to going to the meetings on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I haven’t felt like this about a meeting in over ten years.

Now I wonder – will the Goddess come back to me?

***

About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.

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  1. […] last column I wrote was titled “What’s in your toolbox?”, which was posted August, 2018. I missed posting an article last month due to my father’s […]

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