Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Following From In Front

I have a dog, she is 17 years old – yes that’s right… seventeen. She is an American Eskimo Spitz and to say she is a little annoying would be like saying God is a little awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I love her but she is blind, deaf, has major arthritis, snaps at my child quite often and have I mentioned that she barks… A LOT. And it’s not just a regular bark, it’s this piercing extra-loud, super-annoying bark (if you know Carly Arnold, ask her, she’ll tell you). I wish I could say her annoying behaviors started at her geriatric onset but that’s not true… she has always been annoying. But like I said, I love her anyway.

One of the things she does that really drives me extra insane is this phenomenon I call “following from in front.” This is when she really wants to be with me and go where I go but instead of following from behind, she walks in front of me… slowing me down… turning her head back to try and figure out where I am heading so she can stay in front. She does it ALL the time!!!! It usually results in me tripping on her, her yipping in pain at me stepping on one of her little paws and then me yelling at her, “Will you get outta my way, you dumb dog!!!!” You’d think she would have learned that following from in front doesn’t really work. I mean she has had seventeen years to figure it out… but… nope… she still does it. I still trip on her, she still yips and I still yell at her to “get outta my way, you dumb dog!”

I have recently been given the honor to work closely with a new lady in the area of recovery. She isn’t an alcoholic though, her area of addiction is food. And just so you know, she gave me permission to share this with you. So fear not, if you and I are talking about recovery, you need not worry about seeing your story here in writing without your permission because I take anonymity very seriously. At first she and I weren’t sure if working together would work out since we have such different issues but we have both come to find out, we are not all that different, and one thing is for sure the same… the answer.

Several weeks ago, she was at her breaking point. Of course, she has been struggling with her eating issues for years but for some reason here she was at the threshold of the recovery doorway trying to decide if she was ready to really, truly walk though it this time. She reached out to me saying “I can’t do it!!!! I can’t!!!!” She was furious, she was depressed, she was extremely disappointed, she was petrified… she was almost broken in half. As painful as I knew it was for her in those moments… I found myself excited for her. I knew this was the moment she had been waiting for, for YEARS. It was a make it or break it moment. We began to talk through her feelings and thoughts. I asked her questions and listened to her answers. When she told me that she was in a hurry to kick her problem in the butt because she knew there were a ton of people out there who were suffering and needed her help… it became obvious to me that she needed to take a deep breath and slow down. I was quickly reminded of myself and told her a story.

It was my very first day at AA. It was my very first meeting. I sat listening to the people around me and realized quickly that I understood them. I realized they understood me… and I just knew I had something incredible to share that would be a healing force in many people’s lives. I was ready to stand up in front of everyone in that very moment to tell my story of alcoholism and heal the world!!! I seriously thought I was ready in that very moment to help others. I knew God wanted me to make something good out of my hell and I knew I was up to the challenge. What I didn’t know was that I was not yet equipped. That may seem like common sense to most people, but me… nope.

While that was an extremely noble (and perhaps slightly egotistical) feeling, I am glad that I was too nervous to actually do it that day. I probably would have sounded ridiculous… “Hi my name is Wendy and I’m an alcoholic… I’ve been sober (pause to look at watch) exactly 2 hours and I’d like to tell of you how I did it…” In addition I am glad I picked a sponsor who was able to tell me time and time again that I needed to slow down and stop rushing the recovery process. I really hated hearing it, but instead of firing her, I made myself teachable and decided to listen. I admit it, I have always been the type of person who wanted to teach everyone else how to drive a stick shift before actually learning how to do it myself. I’d tell a mother of 8 how to have painless childbirth before I had ever been pregnant. My most common response to my father was, “Yes Dad, I know.” I would load up an awesomely amazing hay ride with lazy boy recliners for comfort, enough pumpkin pie for all the passengers, and a hot apple cider machine but then sit there and wonder why the horse couldn’t get us on our way. Well, he was hitched to the back just standing there looking at me like, “stupid lady.” I’d go back there and try to push it myself… push with all my might and just end up looking like a giant donkey as everyone would jump off my ride to go find a more productive one. I guess you could say I was the type of person, who just like my dog, liked to follow from in front. Through a Christian non-AA sponsorship, I realized that I had to learn to give my problem to Jesus before I could teach someone else how to give their problem to Jesus. I learned it is necessary to step out of God’s way, and allow Him to lead.

Back to my new friend who was standing at the recovery welcome mat; it was amazing what happened that day. God gave me this mental image to plant in her head of her problem being a kite and how she needed to stop hanging on to it, running, stumbling, out of breath, beside it and just let go of the string and let God take it up to heaven. I truly had never thought of recovery that way before… but those were the words that I spoke… they were His words, I have no doubt. Something about that image stuck with her and I am proud to say that she walked through the recovery doorway that day, even though it would have felt easier to keep saying “I can’t do it.” Today she is basking in the continued glory of how God allows her humble success with her eating issue. She looks beautiful, she is literally glowing and I know each day that passes, she is one step closer to being able to help those people out there who need her help and understanding. She has even passed on the kite imagery to someone else who was struggling… and that is how it works. One little step at a time, we pass it off to God and then we pass it off to others. Before we know it He is using us in amazing ways we never dreamed of… and instead of being boastful we are so very humbled by the opportunities He gives us to help change one life at a time.

As I’m writing this I can’t believe how much like my annoying dog I really am. So many times I am blind to God’s presence, I’m deaf to His calling, the aches and pains of this life make me snappy to those around me and my mouth… well it gets pretty loud, repetitive and annoying I’m sure. I always have something to say… I get those looks from people, those “will you just sit down and shut up” looks. I’m aware of them and I’m working on it. I’m trying to learn how to just be “the girl in the room” instead of always “the girl with the mission.” I pray about that daily and I know God will show me and teach me how to accomplish it. But I wonder if, in the process, God ever looks down at me like I’m the annoying American Eskimo Spitz who’s trying to follow Him from in front? Am I slowing Him down, causing Him to trip? I’ll bet so… but one thing I’m sure of is that He isn’t up there yelling, “Get outta my way, you dumb human!” Instead, I envision Him gladly stopping what He is doing to gently pick me up and dust me off. Once He knows I’m okay and back on my feet, He kisses my forehead sweetly and says, “Now, go child … do the best you can and I’ll be here to pick you back up later.” It’s about progress…. not perfection.

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