About Me

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I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Rescuing a newcomer from a 13th stepper

13 stepping seems to be as rife as ever it was. I went to a meeting last week where there was only one female newcomer and so I went and spoke to her right at the very end. I didn't waste much time. Within 30 seconds a creepy bloke less than five years sober who looked to me to be a bit dodgy was over at the speed of light and asked her in a particularly manipulative fashion to go for coffee. On the face of it it didn't appear to be a particularly aggressive or overbearing request but it was extremely manipulative and it didn't escape my attention.

The poor newcomer didn't know quite what to say so agreed to go for coffee. Even I would have found it difficult to roadblock his seemingly inoffensive invitation to coffee at this point. Instead I waited until he had gone and I said to the newcomer "do you really want to go for coffee with that person?" Sure enough she said that she didn't really want to. I also said "you realise that it is considered bad form for men in meetings to befriend women who are very new and ask them to go for coffee?" I asked had she heard of 13 stepping? I said to her "what do you think this behaviour tells you about his sobriety?" I said "I would say it is not a good recommendation for either his sobriety or the type of person that he is." I told her "I'll handle it" we went outside of the meeting and proceeded to make our way to the usual coffee place.

We made no effort to invite him or include him in the group. While we were walking up the road he very silently and stealthily managed to catch up with us and just started walking alongside us like he was part of the group that was invited. Nobody said anything. After about 15 seconds of him walking alongside silently I just turned and said "we've changed our mind, so it's just us not that will be be going for coffee if that's all right." He didn't know quite what to say to that. He mumbled some statement and stopped following us up the road. None of us said goodbye to him, we just carried on walking.

Sure enough when I had more time to speak to the newcomer it turned out that he had previously tried to manipulate her into some kind of sexual situation to which she had objected. There's one in every meeting it seems. You have to be careful and really watch out for the new women because there is nearly always one sexually predatory or lonely male in every meeting. They are very clued up as to who has the most easy to manipulate and will always make a beeline for the newest woman. We ended up having a really nice evening because we went out for coffee with the newcomer and she was very relieved to have escaped it the clutches of the dodgy bloke. She learnt that you can stand up for yourself without being aggressive or strange, and to be a lot more cautious about people she meets. Meaning she shouldn't assume that everybody in the meeting has her best interests at heart. We ended up having a lot of fun. I'm just very glad I managed to get to speak to her quickly before the other guy got there first at the end of the meeting. Anyway I hope you had a nice weekend and thanks for taking the time to read this.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

We can be a great blessing to others in times of real crisis

Reading Syd's blog posts about bereavement made me think about how draining it is processing grief. In my case what was probably more draining than the caretaking prior to death and the grieving, was dealing with disturbed and obstructive family members who basically lost the plot because they were not living along spiritual lines.

Testing times like a critically ill family member or the death process itself really shows in stark relief who has a spiritual program and who doesn't. The members of my family that were heavily invested in worldly affairs and had no real spiritual life to speak of really lost it big time. When I say they didn't have spiritual life, they did have what looked like a religious interest, but to my way of thinking they had no real spiritual life. They weren't terribly nice people to begin with and the whole death process really brought out the worst in them. And I think that was by far the most draining issue.

Also the aftermath such as organising the funeral, all the social awkwardness that goes along with everybody else's very negative perception of the death process really takes its toll. There seem to be very few people who are able to process the whole bereavement thing gracefully or skilfully, and instead thrash around in self-centred misery and don't think very much about what they can do for others  as a way of getting out of themselves and relieving their emotional burden. Basically like most crises and difficult situations it really brings forth who has a spiritual program  that works and who doesn't.

I think the 12-step program is an excellent induction into dealing with crises. I think people who have done the 12-step program really shine in difficult situations if they are using their programme well. I think we are very lucky. We can be a great blessing to others in times of real crisis ..in my opinion. That's what I find anyway.  I hope you're having a nice Thursday :)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The rough-and-tumble unmasks the half measures members

Firstly I'd like to apologise for my lengthy absence. My computer was getting very buggy and slow and it badly needed an overhaul. I finally sorted out a new setup and so everything has finally cranked up to a more acceptable speed in the computer department.

I've also been very absorbed in the mine of information on YouTube in the form of documentaries and fascinating reports that would never normally be available on mainstream television. Some interesting news sources.. and I am constantly mining it for lengthy lectures on just about everything. I have to download them and listen to everything speeded up in order to get through it all. And somehow I still manage to not listen to everything.

As regards meetings,  an enduring preoccupation of mine at the moment is forewarning people I suppose that length of time sober alone can mean very little. Perhaps because I frequently encounter the attitude that I might be beyond reproach because I've been sober for a long time, I find myself constantly warning people that nobody is beyond reproach including me. And that if I suddenly started acting in a strange or unreasonable way, then that behaviour speaks volumes and is far more important than how long I have been sober.


 Actions speak louder than words.
"Be as gentle as doves, but as wise as serpents. for I send you out as sheep among wolves.." as they say..

Basically I think that being around a long time makes it  easier to look at who has fallen by the wayside over the last 20 something years. It seems  like less of a mystery looks likethe people who come unstuck over time are compromised in some way, or have sold out in some form or other. I find it interesting over  all these years watching who relapses. I hear things through the grapevine  (usually when people who have been harmed in some way discuss their problems with me) about how certain AA people have been treating other people, and sure enough sometime later the people in AA who have been acting off beam seem to relapse. Eventually.

Who knows? but it's been something that's been on my mind lately because I think over the last six months or so quite a few people have crashed and burned.  Meaning some people who had been around a long time and a short time who were acting in a harmful way towards others have relapsed. The masks have come off so to speak.

The good news is that the people whose program I respect have not relapsed. Every single person I know who consistently helps newcomers seems to stay sober. They might have other issues but at least they get to stay sober. I don't think AA was really intended to make everybody's issues disappear. Everyone has issues. Doesn't matter who you are. So that part doesn't bother me. The important thing is to stay sober and to try to skillfully handle the mental and emotional "stuff" in our heads instead of just being dragged around by it heedlessly. That's good enough for me. But like an  Old-timer used to say "I just do my lousy best" and I think that's very good advice. Especially for those perfectionists out there.

It is my belief that the current economic pressures and general upheaval will have the effect of shaking from the tree the more  "buffet-style" AA members. There are plenty of things to  drive yourself mad about in the news so it will be interesting if nothing else.

Basically I think that now is a good time to keep your side of the street clean, keep your head down and maintain your service by helping others in some form or other. It's a very useful time to cultivate this selfless quality. And I don't mean be a martyr.

Despite all the fear mongering and upheaval going on I feel very positive and a little bit excited. I'm extremely glad at times like this that I had the opportunity to learn to live along spiritual lines.

Anyway sorry this post is too long again as usual. I'm going to try and be a little bit more brief because I suspect it is terribly boring reading  long posts. Even with speed reading software.

Anyway I really hope everyone out there as well and maintaining a insightful and unfazed mindset in these somewhat challenging economic circumstances. Now that I have a spring cleaned kit I have no excuse not to be able to post more regularly. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

“Dark Matter” shows up between years 5 and 10. Otherwise referred to as depression


I've been meaning to write this post for a really long time and I keep putting it on the pending tray because I really don't know if  I'm able to do it justice in the written form. I've had this conversation countless times verbally but I've never tried to commit it to a written form and I am not sure whether or not it's possible for me to communicate myself clearly enough on this tenuous and somewhat indefinable subject area. I will give it a try.. I suspect I won't be able to explain it all in one post. When I'm explaining things I like to explain it all in one go but if I try to do that these blog posts just end up too long. (!)

By the way, I understand people have very different ideas about depression and medication so I want to assure you in advance that I have no objection to people making different choices than mine… I’m just saying here what works for me in my own experience. Take what you like and leave the rest as they say..

Basically in summary I would say that I expect 95/100 people who are performing a very diligent and capable program who are not taking antidepressants, to experience some form of what I call "dark matter" between the years of five and 10. Normally I see these phases show up in year six or seven, but I tend to have these conversations with people who are at year five or alternatively years six or seven. I see nothing "wrong" with these symptoms arising. I see it as part of the process. I think that this period can be very unsettling for some people who don't know how this pattern arises. They either blame the past, or they blame AA, or they blame their program. I don't see it as an issue of blame. But I do think there are things you can do to make this part of the journey easier.

My solutions are what I would call step 11 and 12 solutions. But I am very particular about what type of step 11 solutions I advocate for people with this type of problem. Basically I shop around for what I consider to be the most sane and mature step 11 community within relatively easy reach, and those are the people that I suggest sponsees spend time with if they are going through these uncomfortable patches. I don't advocate antidepressants not even for people I am sponsoring who are suicidal. So far anyway this approach has worked.

I could go into an entirely separate post just devoted to the use of antidepressants and the medical establishment and the way in which treatment has changed over the last 20 years in respect to the use of antidepressants, but I'm not even going to try addressing that particular subject in this post. Basically (for a multitude of reasons but mainly as a result of first hand experience in recovery) I don't advocate the use of antidepressants. I have sponsored people who were taking a cocktail of pills or prescribed medication before they met me in AA. I have always taken and sponsees through a recovery process whereupon they end up coming off, and not having to take the antidepressants. Basically they all come off the antidepressants and they are all fine. So far. The people who used to be suicidal no longer are suicidal. I've seen this process enough times at first hand to know that it appears to work. I wouldn't recommend it otherwise. Having said that, I have no idea how well it would work if you were simply to stop taking antidepressants and not build new daily routines into your program. Such as helping a newcomer every day. I've seen it work when people help newcomers every day and tell the truth every day to at least one person. In other words I've seen it work when people are selfless and they are going to any lengths to try and practice the instructions in the book. I think if you are a very self obsessed person and you rarely, if ever help a newcomer or do service in AA meetings, then I suspect you will feel very, very uncomfortable if you stop taking antidepressants. So basically when I'm helping Sponsees get off antidepressants or other drugs, it is only on condition that they follow instruction. If they are willing to take instruction and they're willing to go to any lengths then I am more than happy to work with them in the course of recovery, which would involve coming off antidepressants. If they weren't willing to go to any lengths I wouldn't want to help them as I don't think it will work if they stubbornly refuse to practice things that feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable. I would insist that they try their hardest to be honest with me every single day, and I would insist that they try their very best to be selfless in whichever way they can. It has been very labour-intensive working with people who come off antidepressants as I need to keep a close eye on them which can be quite hard work. Thankfully it doesn't last very long and they seem to come out of the woods fairly quickly if I'm steering them in the right direction. I haven't yet had the experience of taking somebody off antidepressants who has subsequently needed to go back on them, or has not been able to deal with whatever "dark matter" arises. This only applies to people who are helping newcomers by the way. It doesn't work and I've never seen it work for people who are largely self obsessed.

Also it's not as simple as just helping others. I tell people that it is not enough simply to try to be helpful. I tell them that they have to actually say something pertinent, targeted and strategically useful to the newcomer. In other words it's not good enough just to offer a encouraging words, although encouraging words are not useless in themselves. But I use the example ..let's say a battered wife who is also a newcomer. I would suggest that in addition to offering encouragement to the battered wife, that you might also offer some very useful targeted information that specifically addresses the fact that she's being beaten up by somebody every day. So I might suggest a shelter. Or I might suggest relying more heavily on her female friends for support in order to build up enough courage to leave the person who's beating them up every day. Occasionally people think that being helpful merely involves making generic encouraging remarks. I don't think this is good enough. I think it's a question of addressing the most glaring need at any given moment. If they are being beaten by their husband, I try to say something helpful about how she can not be beaten. If I am speaking to somebody who has just found out that their cancer has returned, I will offer useful information that I believe will help them address the cancer. If they have a bullying co-worker I will make suggestions about how to deal with having a bullying co-worker. I don't simply offer encouraging generic remarks. I try to address what I perceive at that moment to be the most pressing/important need. The pressing need changes every day. I believe that in addressing the most pressing need I am trying to be of maximum helpfulness. I don't pick up on satellite issues I try to address the core issue. or the issue which has the power to do them the most harm if left unattended to on that day.

I suppose what I'm saying is that I am very particular about what people do when they are coming off antidepressants, and I believe this has a lot to do with the success I've observed with Sponsees coming off antidepressants in the past. They come off antidepressants and they stay off antidepressants. That's been the case for the people I've sponsored is that they come off them and stay off them and they are okay even when quite "dark material" shows up.

Right sorry for that long winded intro, now.. I can get onto the subject of this "dark material" that shows up between years five and 10.
It's very hard to explain but I see the process of recovery as a predictable energetic unfolding of sorts. Although on a very physical level there is an immediate absence of drinking. On other levels there is an emotional and mental and energetic unfolding taking place. I watch people 'defrost' so to speak. The first five years of recovery are what I call "automaton". I think of the first five years of sobriety as about gaining core competency. It's very necessary, but it's a bit partial on an emotional and mental level. I've heard some people say that it takes five years to "clear the head". I prefer the term "automaton". I feel that the first five years is a bit disconnected. A bit frozen. A bit dissociated. Glib.  

Sometimes there is the 'appearance' of a lot of emotion in the first 5 years, but I find this range of emotion more about drama, thrashing about, blame or 'mushyness'. Sort of 2 dimensional. 2 dimensional compared to the depth and range of emotions that become evident from year 6-10 anyway. It's all relative. 

Anyway, sometime between years 5 and 10 (usually about year 6-7) a sort of defrosting takes place. Things inside that used to be blocked and stuck start to unwind. They uncoil. I see it as an energetic process taking place inside. It's not necessary to understand it as an energetic process in my opinion. All that is necessary is to understand that there is a softening going on inside. What is hard and stuck inside is becoming loosened. I describe it sometimes I say it is like that without realising it, all those years you have been emotionally constipated. And now everything is moving around inside and wants to come out to the surface. Which is its natural place. This is not something to be resisted. It is nature taking its course having been subjected to this spiritual life for a period of five years. So I don't see it as a problem although I do think that for most people it can feel very unsettling. The balmy spiritual environment has the effect of softening contracted places inside the body. This has the effect of loosening debris that has accumulated in various energy centres. Thoughts and feelings that have been lodged in various places, start to make their way to the surface. They can take the form of what feels like a more "heavy" vibe. Sometimes this process starts as early as year 4, but that’s unusual. 6 or 7 is more the norm.

The first thing people notice is that things feel different but they don't know why. There is a rich texture to this seam of feeling making itself present on a daily basis. It's as if they have inadvertently hit upon a seam of rich dark oil which is seeping to the surface of the ground and discolouring dry pale earth making it dark and swirly. There is a rising dark swirlyness that becomes apparent inside. This energy becomes apparent in their field of consciousness. It appears all around and sometimes coming from inside ..this unsettling swirly feeling. All they know is that this richness and swirlyness is present, and it wasn't present before. They start looking for reasons in their immediate environment why this "dark matter" should be presenting itself. Very often they attribute it to their childhood. Or perhaps to a difficult set of circumstances that has reared its ugly head or an emotional battle they are fighting at the time. There is nearly always a set of circumstances that will justify the presence of this "dark material". I like the word rich to describe this new seam of emotion because I think it is infinitely preferable to the emotions experienced in the first five years. I have no objections to people going through this process. And I will always tell people that I am much prefer the company of people who are able to access this type of feeling. 
I don't mean people who are overwhelmed by this feeling or are caught up very unconsciously in this feeling. I mean people who are readily able to access this range of emotion. I am much less content with the company of people who do not have access to this range of emotion.

This 'material' could be from this lifetime or a past life, or inter generational stuff from an ancestor that is working it's way out after many generations. Who ? knows. It might be something collective, or from someone else in your family, or close circle. All I know is that it 'shows up'. That's all I know. 

All I know is that you start 'cooking' differently at about year 6 to 7. Stuff comes up which feels heavier than before, and a different level of commitment to honesty is asked of you to make this part of the journey manageable. Simply trotting out all the 'positive' stuff you've  read in books, or repeating what your therapist told you just doesn't cut it. I call that a bit glib, defensive and unthinking. It's a different sort of a challenge. Something 'more' is being asked of you that is less bullshitty than what you were doing before. We never really outgrow the capacity to bullshit, so there is always room for improvement there. That's what I find anyway. 


By the way I would not assume that if you relentlessly talked about your emotions that you were any less prone to bullshit than someone else. Being long winded and almost exclusively preoccupied with your emotional temperature to me would indicate another manifestation of unconsciousness. So please don't think I'm saying the first 5 years are emotionless. I'm not. I'm saying they are different. More 'basic' or something. A more subtle art is required when things start feeling 'heavy' in this particular kind of year 6-7 way..

I see it like a piano with dark notes and high notes. In the first five years people sound like they have a very limited range of notes they can't hit any of the low notes. They have plenty of drama yes. But they lack the depth and lustre of a rich full-bodied range of emotions. It's like choosing a very rich dark blend of coffee instead of a very light blend of coffee. As it happens I also like to drink very high roast rich blend of coffee. But what I'm saying is this rich darkness arises in the consciousness of people in the years from 5 to 10. I think it is relatively challenging containing this new type of emotion, but I absolutely believe that it is possible and that it is doable. Even for people with very limited skills and limited intelligence.

This process is something I like to observe. My only regret with this transition is that a lot of people I meet haven't yet developed sufficient ability to be "still" and practice a meaningful acceptance of these swirly states enough to "bear with" this temporary discomfort.

I've heard people describe a process called "holding a space" for a transformation to take place. All I know is that when I am dealing with Sponsees I feel as though I am "holding a space" for their process to emerge. It's as if I am creating a safe place for their process to unravel. I provide some kind of energetic ballast for their destabilising experience. So they sort of have this wobbly experience, but my presence relays the understanding that "everything is all right" and this makes them feel safe. The reason I'm explaining this skill of "holding a space" is it because it is the same skill I would expect a Sponsee to cultivate in respect to their own swirlyness. I would encourage them to "hold the space" for this process of discomfort that is arising. I would also suggest that they do very simple pragmatic things such as keeping the lines of communication open. Speaking to others. Confiding in trusted people. Trying to be helpful in a selfless way.

On the other hand I often hear people saying they are "sitting with it". I'm not always convinced that this is the right answer. Sometimes you need to just go out and spend time with friends. Sometimes the reason you feel lousy is because there is an important aspect of your life hasn't been addressed. Perhaps you need to change into a new career. Perhaps you need to change the friends you are hanging out with. Perhaps there is something that is way past its sell by date that needs to be changed. So it's not as simple as just sitting with these uncomfortable states. Very often a way of life has outgrown its usefulness. A domineering parent needs to be dealt with. A chapter needs to be closed. Painful relationship needs to be walked away from. Someone who is being bullied needs to stand up to the bullies. A persistent longing to find a solution to emotional problems in relationships needs to be outgrown. A victim mindset needs to be outgrown. Some basic pattern needs to be outgrown. If there is a difficult and painful habit that you haven't outgrown, then of course you're going to feel terrible about it until something changes. So in these cases I don't see it as depression and I see it as drawing of one chapter to a close. Walking away from an old way of life.

So on the one hand I advocate holding a space for these uncomfortable emotions, but I would not say that I was advocating "just sitting with it". Because I don't think that's what I suggest. I would also advocate exercise and a good diet. I would also advocate looking for areas of your life which are long past their sell by date. I would also advocate seeking out nourishing friends. I would also advocate attending a high-class meditation group in order to learn how to "hold a space" for these uncomfortable internal states.

All I know is that this chapter of "dark material" rising is much more likely to happen if you are from a background of some form of abuse in your childhood. Abuse is very common and so in most cases alcoholics will have had this experience. I don't want to say this to reinforce the idea of victimhood, it's just an observation. People who don't have this type of background may very well avoid this all together. But nearly every single alcoholic I meet encounters this dark swirlyness between five and 10.

When I sponsor people I always warn them about the years 6 and 7 in the first few years of recovery. I also encourage them to attend very grown-up meditation groups as early as possible, so that when this material "hits" so to speak, that they are strong enough inside to contain it without getting too disturbed or alarmed by it. In other words they have developed a sort of inner steadiness from helping newcomers and doing service in a day from attending grown-up meditation groups. This inner steadiness means that they are protected during this dark chapter. Sometimes people I have sponsored get therapists during this chapter but I don't think it matters you can do it either way. When somebody tells me that they have had a difficult or abusive childhood, I try to introduce them to a grown-up step 11 practice soon after they finish step 9 because I know they will encounter this dark material with some force later. I tell them this in advance that they are likely to encounter this chapter of dark swirlyness, and that this is why I am recommending step 11 before this period hits. This makes it a little bit easier when this chapter shows up. It's still very difficult because going through this dark swirlyness has a very negative effect on the thinking. But it does make it a little bit easier because I feel as though they have been forewarned and they know what to expect.

I get annoyed with Sponsees who haven't started practising step 11 by year 4 or 5 for precisely this reason. I get quite concerned about the prospect of this material arising at year six and seven without adequate preparation. Occasionally people don't decide to practice step 11 in earnest and I have seen people in that category drift off and become reliant on antidepressants when life delivers some uncomfortable chapter.

Even when all these preparations are in place, it's still a uncomfortable process when they enter into this dark swirlyness chapter. They can get temporarily quite angry and shirty. I know better than to take these spells personally. As long as they are helping others and service is a way of life for them, I feel no fear when they encounter this chapter. I am sure they will be looked after. Very often it is their service commitment that is the life raft. The mountaineering rope that keeps them moored to a safe place.

I suppose I am most comfortable about somebody's recovery when they reach year 10, because I feel assured by this stage that they have almost certainly encountered this dark chapter and have moved through it without drinking. In other words I feel they can navigate this dark stretch of emotions safely. I am confident that they have the ability to use resources to cope with this chapter without drinking.
Having said that I have met people who I haven't sponsored  who reach 10 years sober, but who I don't look upon as having developed this ability. So in other words even if you are 10 years sober I wouldn't automatically say that you have this ability.

I suppose the way that I sponsor people is very heavily dependent upon helpfulness towards newcomers, and helpfulness towards other people generally. I always say that I expect them to sponsor somebody else when they complete the first nine steps. It's not an option for them simply to not sponsor people. It's also not an option for them not to talk to newcomers after meetings. It's not an option for them to lie cheat and steal, and it's not an option for them to avoid step 11. So I don't think I'm particularly typical in that regard. But what I'm saying is that within that context I have seen people very safely navigate through this unsettling chapter and reach year 10. I see people come out the other side looking very different and breakthrough into a new and different life. It's not as if they are dragging themselves along maintaining that they are grateful. It's like an different way of life is opened up to them. It's like watching a caterpillar shed its skin and become a butterfly.

I think the most valuable thing Sponsees learn in preparation for this inner swirlyness is the ability to consciously "hold a space" for this swirly internal state. It means holding a space without judgement and without alarm. Being still. Being present. Being unafraid. It is my belief that it is the process of step 11 combined with continued work with newcomers and doing service that keeps them safe. People who 'give themselves' in terms of service are always looked after it seems. That's what I've noticed. But in addition to that a good step 11 practice enables you to have an internal steadiness when this swirly dark material shows up.

I wouldn't describe it as particularly comfortable or pleasant, but it is eminently doable. And you don't need to do it 24 seven, you can take a break and go to the gym or watch a film or spend time with friends or develop areas of your life that are very healing and balancing. I think very often these periods of dark swirlyness often precipitates the letting go of a chapter of your life that is long past its sell by date.

Anyway I am very sorry for rambling on at length like that. But as always I have no idea how to explain things briefly. I know that I haven't fully addressed the issue of the medication and  I'm not even going to try because that's quite complicated. But all I'm saying is that within the context of sponsorship the way I have taken people through the steps it seems to work when people come off medication. I haven't seen it not work. I've seen it not work when people are not helping newcomers and stop telling the truth. But I haven't seen it fail when people are going to any lengths and are helping others and are telling the truth.
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I normally avoid the whole subject of medication like the plague because it is quite contentious to say the least, but I'm just saying that's my experience. My experience is that I've seen Sponsees come off medication and stay off medication when they do the things that I do, which is try to help others, develop a step 11 practice, and confide in others when something is wrong. A fairly ruthless commitment to telling the truth at all times. Even when its very uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Well I hope you find some of that useful and  I'm very impressed that any of you find the time to read this. I've had to resort to software such as ace reader pro in order to get through lengthy posts like this one. I'm not sure how anyone else does that. But I rely on speed readers.

The weather is very hot over here and there's a great deal of preoccupation about the prospect of imminent financial collapse, Olympic explosions and other sorts of other disturbing world affairs which I'm not going to go into right now. :)
I hope that your’re all enjoying nice summer weather wherever you are, and thanks for taking the time to read this.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thinking of others who are in the bereavement process..


I've been thinking a lot about how death affects people recently. Reading Syd’s blog post about a good friend who passed away recently and his thoughts about what he could do for the person who is either dying or recently deceased. Plus all the poignancy that comes to the surface when a good friend dies. 
I was speaking to somebody else in the programme recently about a sibling who died. Similar to Syd’s in that they knew of the imminency of the death. The person had been ill for a while. I mentioned a passage to both those people about what Ken Wilber did when his wife died. I think it's useful to inspire the disembodied person as they are 'on their way.' I think if I had just died, I would want people to direct clear reminders of my true nature in the period just before I died and a little bit after. It must be like getting used to driving a new car or something. ..must be a very strange experience not having a body initially. If I was more diligent in my meditation practice I would be more prepared for the experience of being disembodied at the point of death. In the Tibetan tradition it's a fairly standard understanding that one of the main points of meditation is to train the mind so that the consciousness can move freely around outside the body. The whole point being that it's in preparation for death. It's like learning how to drive without a body in preparation for the point at which you are disembodied I suppose..
On the one hand I feel that death is a very positive thing because it has this wonderful ? 'shimmering transparency' that it brings to the quality of life that shines in the presence of the dying person. It's as if the veil between this world and the other is incredibly !! thin. Very magical and auspicious. On the other hand it is supposed to be terribly poignant and to involve a loss of one type of life in exchange for another. In other words it's supposed to break your heart in some form or other. The problem isn't the feelings as such, the problem is getting very attached to them or wallowing in them or pushing them away. In other words it's the relationship to the difficult feelings that is the problem not the feelings themselves. A bad workman blames his tools as they say.
I suppose I am saying that I am very conscious that people that I have got to know in a programme on going through this process of grief, and it kind of 'sits' in my awareness constantly that these people I know are having this experience. It's a little bit like walking through treacle because it is like you're operating in a different gear. Like walking in slow motion In a dream. It's a different sort of life having to process grief on top of all the other daily tasks. I also think that if we have developed our spiritual life, we are much more useful to be other people who are grieving and the deceased person. It is as if we are donating pints of blood every day energetically to the family and to the deceased person through our good will.
Anyway I feel for Syd and the other friend who is undergoing grief and the experience of recent bereavement. There is a whole other dimension to your recent bereavement if you have developed sensitivity. There is a much more keen awareness of the deceased person which is a bit strange to say the least. Not quite as dramatic as the little boy in the film who kept saying "I see dead people" but there is a much less dramatic awareness of the presence of the deceased person.
Probably all that has very little to do with recovery, but that's what's on my mind at the moment. I feel like I am with these people on their journey because of the feeling of fellowship that AA has created, so I suppose their experiences feel as though they are part of my experience.
Anyway..I hope you are all well and I will make a point of visiting a few blogs in the near future.. :)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Never underestimate how crazy family members can get when somebody dies

Firstly my apologies for being away for so long. I actually enjoy writing. And I enjoy reading what other people have to say. I also enjoy the online community of bloggers. It's an extension of my network of recovery that have in real life. I am looking forward to being a bit more diligent in posting a on regular basis. I hope everyone is well. There are one or two bloggers who were sharing that things were difficult and who no longer post and I wonder where they have gone. I wish them well wherever they are.

As for the subject of this post well, it's been 'interesting' ! to see how family member’s behaviour either degenerate or they avoid dealing with difficult situations when somebody is out of hand. I've spoken to a lot of people who have had this type of experience with their families. And I suppose that surprised me. But almost every family has one domineering overbearing member who sort of charges through the situation like a bull in a china shop and won't take no for an answer. Then there are the other family members who seem to do absolutely nothing while the domineering person charges around like a bull in a china shop.

They seem to fall into two categories. The controllers and those who stand by and do nothing, who are oblivious to the cruelty or bad behaviour. Basically some people have a kind of meltdown and behave badly. And others avoid acknowledging the elephant in the room for whatever reason. They simply do not confront the person who is acting strangely. Or perhaps they don't even see it. I have no idea. All I know is that they seem largely oblivious unless it is spelt out to them in the simplest possible terms and even then it eludes some of them.

So if your family includes someone who is at an age where they might die, or is dying already, then these are the things that I would recommend to be on the lookout for 3 to 6 months or a year before that person dies.
Theft. Look for items going missing from the dying person's home. Take photographs of items in the house. Try to obtain an understanding of the value of the house contents. The owner is the person most likely to know which items are valuable and which aren't. Once you have discovered which items are valuable or you suspect will have key sentimental value, then you can draft a document listing those items and make a statement along the lines of "this list of items in my home will not be distributed to individuals prior to my death, and are intended to form part of my estate, the distribution of which will be in accordance with the terms of my will." Get them to sign it, and somebody else can witness it and sign it as well. Make a note of the date on it. Photocopy the original. Keep a photocopy at home and post the original to a solicitor or a lawyer for safekeeping. The reason this is a good idea is that thieves will rely on the defence that the dying person consented to them having that item before they died. A document like this would make it very difficult for people to steal property from the dying person's house. Theft is actually very common when people are either dying, very physically vulnerable, or deceased.

Basically people who are preoccupied with money are the first to act when somebody is physically very vulnerable or dying. I tend to call them "money grabbing whores" but it doesn't really matter what you call them. It amuses me to use that particular term so I apologise if it offends. It makes me smile. The term I use for people who are not predominantly preoccupied with money, status, cash etc are "hippies." I understand that these terms are completely inadequate but they just happen to be the terms I use because I get tired trying to describe the people each time. The amount of money somebody has is of no relevance. You can have huge amounts of money and be a "hippie" and you can have a tiny tiny amount of money and be a "money grabbing whore." I find that people who are terribly preoccupied with money can often end up focusing on that and accumulating a lot of it, but it's not a hard and fast rule. It's a mindset that's important not the amount of money in the bank.

Anyway the second thing that's worth doing in advance if you have a vulnerable person in the family who might die is: nominating the most compassionate person in the family to take the role of power of attorney should the need arise. Also to nominate the most compassionate person or people in the family to take the role of legal guardian should that need arise also. Basically there are other legal roles such as power of attorney or legal guardian that money minded people tend to want to obtain. The problem is that if they succeed in getting their name on the sheet of paper which allows them to act in that role, then it's very difficult to undo that authority once the document Has been signed.

Basically, the vultures will move in get the dying person to sign a form that entitles them to access to their bank accounts or gives them the power to decide what sort of treatment they receive, and this is a tragedy if this happens because it's very difficult to undo. So don't let it happen in the first place. Don't let the vulnerable person be talked into getting the money minded person to have any authority over them. Figure out who the most sensible compassionate person is in the family and allow them access to the dying person's bank accounts. This is the only way you can avoid the money minded person stepping in and filling that role. If you wait until the vulnerable person is very ill when you've left it too late. You have to make decisions about this stuff while the person can still talk and think clearly. You can make this decision years in advance if you want. The good news is that when somebody dies their bank accounts are frozen. The problem is before they die. If the money minded person has obtained power of attorney they will probably know that the accounts will freeze on that person's death, so they will get busy spending money before they die. Thieves are quite devious unfortunately..

Expect people to lie and get hostile and attack you. It becomes very clear who has ways of managing their emotional states and who doesn't when somebody dies. The people who have no insight into their emotional natures throw a wobbly. They become hostile, making personal attacks and being very critical usually toward the person who is the most sane. Sane reasonable people are an easier target to somebody who is a bully or flying off the handle. People who are in recovery are more likely to have reasonable coping mechanisms in place. Although there are probably regular nice people in the family also who are not in recovery but are self aware and honest. So basically people go a bit crazy and start stealing things while other people stand by doing nothing which is equally as exasperating. Sad but true. Extremely common from what I can tell.

I would advise taking as many precautionary steps as possible before someone gets very sick. Put roadblocks in place that would prevent people from helping themselves to house contents either before the person dies or after. I would also put roadblocks in place that would prevent money minded family members from obtaining power of attorney or any other legal authority over the vulnerable or dying person. You can do this in the form of statements like the one I recommended earlier. The statements can say these items are part of my estate and they are not to be removed from my property until distribution in accordance with the terms of my will. Or you can say these are the people who I nominate to be powers of attorney or another legal authority should the need arise. They can say these people are not to be nominated for the purposes of power of attorney or other legal authority should the need arise. This would have the effect of road blocking the money minded person from obtaining access to the dying person's bank accounts, or from obtaining power over the ill or dying person. If you put together a statement such as the one I suggest it should be signed by the dying person and another person should witness it and sign it. It should be dated. You can make a copy either by photographing it using a digital camera or scanning it or photocopying it. Then send the original to a local lawyer and put their phone number and address on the statements so that the original can be obtained.

A good way to keep documents like this on file for your own reference is to e-mail yourself a scan or a photograph of the document. Most e-mail accounts nowadays stay open indefinitely. Things like Gmail will retain this e-mail forever so you can always have access to it at a later stage. Make the subject of the e-mail legal document pertaining to any legal authorities in relation to me and property of my estate. If you do this then a nasty person would find it much harder to swoop in and gain control of the bank accounts or gain control of the dying person's hospital treatment.

So yes the moral of the story is expect people to lie steal and become hostile when somebody dies. It happens far more often than you would realise. And don't expect other people to see things as clearly as you do. Most of the time they don't. They are much more likely to not see the elephant in the room unfortunately. Everyone will avert their eyes nervously and look the other way, which places a much greater responsibility on that one person can see what's happening. It's a huge responsibility, because the vulnerable person doesn't have to be the ability to be discriminating when they are dying.

One day I will learn how to make shorter posts :) Meanwhile I really hope that you are all well and recovery is working for you. My experience is that "it is a design for living that works in rough going." I had better get on with today's list of things to do.. I hope you have a great Sunday..

Friday, August 05, 2011

4 Column Worksheet: Magic Magnifying Mind: Where am I and where am I going?

The Doctor in "Acceptance was the answer" page 407 talks of a 'Magic magnifying mind' on page 420, and says on page 419 that "If I focus on a problem, the problem increases: if I focus on the answer, the answer increases."
You can see a pdf of Acceptance was the answer here http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/bigbook/pdf/theystoppedintime16.pdf

The picture above is a worksheet that I think addresses problem solving from this persecutive. It is based on something I was shown regarding Step 1, 2 and 3.
The reason I mention it, is because it is very useful long after step 1 2 and 3 is over. We all tend to dwell on the problem instead of trying to envisage the solution. For me, this is a useful way to get myself to focus on what I want instead of dwelling on the stuff that's not working. I find it very positive. Plus it forces me to think beyond what I think I can achieve right now, and if I keep thinking of the new picture or the new vision, my mind becomes adjusted to this new vision. Much nicer than thinking about how I get it wrong. :) It gives me hope, and gets me fired up and excited about how I could do it a better way. There is no pressure to get it right immediately because as you can see in the 4th column, I need only ask myself could a power make me into that kind of person. That's all.

Anyway, the picture is big enough to print out and be readable. This is not intended to be an overview of Step 1, 2 and three, instead I just wanted to share something which I found, and still find very useful.

Anyway I hope you are having a !!! lovely Friday :)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What you resist persists: 'We have ceased fighting anything or anyone' p84

Here is a phrase I use when I encounter something I dislike and want to get rid of promptly. I find it really helpful in stopping the rising panic when I see something I think is 'bad' that I must get rid of immediately. It helps me shift into a more open hearted space,

The door of my heart is open to you, X. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

and if I am willing to tolerate the fear that the 'thing' will never leave me, I find the inner conflict dies down and I feel much more peaceful inside. The drama disappears, and the object becomes much more peaceful to have to live with, and can often melt away quite quickly. Its a great trick, so I thought I would share it. Fighting all my defects would just be too exhausting and difficult. A full time job :) So this kind of acceptance is better. Yes, I encounter fear, but AA taught me to to 'do the next right thing' whether I liked it or not, so this is just another time when I have to have some faith in the process and just surrender and get myself out of the way. get rid of the self will, controlling neurotic tendency. Weirdly enough, it is when you surrender that you win :) Well thats what I find. I've put some examples of things I might want to resist, fight or correct, to give you an idea, but it doesn't really matter what examples you use. Just substitute the thing you hate the most about yourself, or others for that matter and see if it works for you.

Some bullet points which relate to this approach.
We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol p84
What you resist persists
Keep coming back. We invite even the most heedless and errant AA member to 'keep coming back.' Why not extend the same principle to ALL our 'visitors'. Including our internal visitors such as the emotions and thoughts that show up on a daily basis?
Acceptance. Some people call this 'radical acceptance'. Does not imply permission to 'act out' or 'indulge in destructive behaviors' or heedlessness. This is about an internal attitude toward things, not so much what you 'do'.
This does not mean being a doormat or a martyr. Or recklessly putting yourself in the line of fire.
Its about 'holding a space' for all these different 'people place and things,' instead of rejecting aspects of ourselves.
It means you never slam the door and say 'No room at the inn!' to any of these 'things'. You resolve to hold a space for ALL of them. Even the most intolerable.
Shadow work: What are you unwilling to acknowledge or permit in yourself? Acknowledge it. Integrate it. Stop running away from it. Let go of trying to 'control' it. Allow it a space at the table too. Show it compassion.

Blank examples.
We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even X.
The door of my heart is open to you, X. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even X.
The door of my heart is open to you, X. Come in. Pull up a chair. You're very welcome. Stay as long as you want.

Named examples.
We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even anger.
The door of my heart is open to you, anger. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even jealousy.
The door of my heart is open to you, jealousy. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even 'restless, irritable and discontent'.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'restless, irritable and discontent'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even loneliness.
The door of my heart is open to you, loneliness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even sadness.
The door of my heart is open to you, sadness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even weepy-ness.
The door of my heart is open to you, weepy-ness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even fear.
The door of my heart is open to you, fear. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even self pity.
The door of my heart is open to you, self pity. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even hatred.
The door of my heart is open to you, hatred. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even my broken-ness.
The door of my heart is open to you, broken-ness.. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even my 'wrong' components.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'wrong' components. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even my destructive behaviors.
The door of my heart is open to you, my destructive behaviors. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even judgmental thoughts.
The door of my heart is open to you, judgmental thoughts. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even obsessive behavior.
The door of my heart is open to you, obsessive behavior. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even the habits I hate.
The door of my heart is open to you, the habits I hate. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even intolerance.
The door of my heart is open to you, intolerance. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even impatience.
The door of my heart is open to you, impatience. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even confusion.
The door of my heart is open to you, confusion. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even being lost.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'being lost'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even exhaustion.
The door of my heart is open to you, exhaustion. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even negative entities.
The door of my heart is open to you, negative entities. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even rapists.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who has committed an act of rape'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even murderers.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who has committed an act of murder'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even lairs.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who has committed the act of lying'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even those who have no desire to get well.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who have no desire to get well'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even irrationality.
The door of my heart is open to you, irrationality. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even lack of clarity.
The door of my heart is open to you, lack of clarity. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even despair.
The door of my heart is open to you, despair. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even hopelessness.
The door of my heart is open to you, hopelessness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even purposelessness.
The door of my heart is open to you, purposelessness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even sorrow.
The door of my heart is open to you, sorrow. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even tears.
The door of my heart is open to you, tears. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even control-freak-ness.
The door of my heart is open to you, control-freak-ness.. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even frustration.
The door of my heart is open to you, frustration. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even depression.
The door of my heart is open to you, depression. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even negativity.
The door of my heart is open to you, negativity. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

Hope you all had a !! restful alcohol free 4th of July and are making the most of the great weather :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

70 things I have learned about what to do with a dying person

Well I'm afraid I was right after all about my dad, and he did indeed make the great transition. Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts because they helped a great deal ☺

Here are 70 things that came to mind about things I have learned about what to do with a dying person. I'm not saying they are gospel, I'm just saying this is the impression I got based on my own experience. Some of it might sound a little bit weird or ‘out there’, so like I always say just ‘take what you like and leave the rest’. If you think it sounds crazy then fair enough that's okay with me. I'm just telling you the impression I got. I wish someone had told me these things before, and that's why I'm mentioning them here. There are so many things about death that nobody really talks about which seems silly to me to be honest. But because I had such a positive experience with this death I thought I would pass on what I thought had made it work. The whole process felt really good to me. I'm not saying it was easy I'm saying that it felt good and I like to think I helped create a positive atmosphere for my dad to make the great transition in, and I am incredibly happy about that. As usual I've made a post much longer than I intended it to be, so I'm just putting it out here as a reference and you can read it whenever you get the chance, or if the situation arises where you think you can be dealing with a dying person in the near future. Most of these notes refer to people with degenerative terminal illnesses as opposed to people with sudden deaths.

1. The most difficult aspect of the dying process can very often be the siblings. They don't have a program, but we do. They cannot cope, but we can. We are very lucky.
2. If you look upon the dying process of an opportunity for service there is no time to create self-centred and painful stories about the set of circumstances you happen to find yourself in.
3. Create the widest network of support possible. Get as many people on board as possible. Communicate. Ask for help. Get your AA buddies on board. Tell us many people as possible. The purpose of this is so that when you need assistance in making a very quick decision, you will have many people you can e-mail very quickly or phone quickly and he will give you almost immediate feedback.
4. There is a great deal of time pressure with the dying person. You have to act quickly. You have to respond very quickly to dangerously unconscious siblings or relatives. This is a time in your life when efficiency is a very valuable capacity to have developed in oneself.
5. Should you be unfortunate enough to deal with dangerously unconscious siblings or relatives, look upon them as newcomers. Think to yourself "this is a sick man, God save me from being angry." Try to maintain an attitude of helpfulness toward the unconscious siblings or relative. If you do this you are less likely to be harmed by them. "Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed."
6. Do not under any circumstances allow yourself to be bullied or behave like a doormat with dangerously unconscious siblings or relatives. You must keep the interests of the dying person at the forefront of your mind. They are your priority, not your personal response to the dodgy relative. To behave like a doormat under these conditions would be to deny the interests of the dying person.
7. Bring your laptop into the hospital with you or an iPhone. You will need this to communicate with your team of advisers. Your peer group. Your network of support. Communication is one of the most important aspects. The lines of communication need to be open.
8. Use Skype video conferencing to allow the dying person to have face-to-face conversations with key friends and relatives as part of their process of tying up loose ends in their life. Hospitals will often have a WiFi network. If there is no WiFi network you can have your own Internet connection by using a dongle with your laptop.
9. Protect the dying person from dangerously unconscious relatives and siblings. Take whatever steps you can to reduce the exposure of negativity from the dangerously unconscious relative to the dying person. Keep their negativity to a minimum. If the dodgy sibling is behaving in a clumsy or inappropriate or negative manner, try in the nicest way possible to bring that to the attention of the siblings so that they will take on board what you say and modify their behaviour.

10. Be prepared for short tempers and uncharacteristic behaviour from relatively stable individuals. People behave very differently in the run-up to the death. They act uncharacteristically if they do not have a program. So be prepared for stroppy unhelpful and generally chaotic reactions from people who do not have a program or service mindset. This will be true regardless of how much professional expertise they may have in other areas of their life.
11. Follow your instincts, even if everybody else is doing something different. If you have a program and you are accustomed to doing things for the purposes of service, then you may very well be the only person in there who knows the next right thing to do.
12. If you can afford to buy essential oils from a reputable suppliers such as Fragrant Earth in Glastonbury, spend money on Melissa essential oil, Rose Otto essential oil, Chamomile Roman essential oil, Pine essential oil, Bergamot. Melissa is particularly useful for people who are dying. It is very expensive so you can use other less expensive oils but Melissa is by far the best oil for a dying person. Very nice for you too. For general nice -smelling effects I used cheaper oil blends on the sheets, blankets and pillow and on the perimeter of the floor just to make a nice smell. The room smelled a bit like being in a flower shop. Very heady. Lavender essential oil on his pillow helped him sleep. I have bough essential oils from Aroma Vera in the past and they seemed to be a bit rubbish so it doesn't surprise me that they don't sell them any more. Essential oils are not cheap so I tend to buy from Fragrant earth and wait till they have offers or annual sales because it's an expensive hobby. I used to put one drop of Melissa oil on his collar instead of using an oil burner or applying it onto the skin with one drop of Melissa to one teaspoon of unadulterated pure oil of some sort. Too much palaver, so was easier just to put the oils on his pajama collar regularly. One drop of Melissa is fine. When I knew he was dying in the next few hours I reapplied all the room oils and put three drops of Melissa on his collar. I also put a drop of Rose Otto on his pajamas over his heart centre as Rose opens and heals the heart centre.
13. It is normal for people who are dying to be uncomfortable and cross about their discomfort. Do not take this personally. Your job is to be of service to their often significant physical and emotional discomfort. Don't make a problem out of it, just try to be helpful instead.
14. Incontinence is a normal part of degenerative dying process. Don't be embarrassed by it. The dying person can find it very embarrassing indeed. Don’t make it worse for them by being uncomfortable as well.
15.It can be excruciatingly agonising for older people with aged skin to endure being cleaned up after soiling themselves in bed. Even if you have the very best kind of nursing staff, this process can be excruciating. Pure agony. Why? Because when you get older the skin gets thinner. If you have had repeated cleanups in bed, the skin becomes red and raw and even thinner. Like tissue paper. Trust me it's AGONY. One of the hardest things is observing the pain they are enduring when they need to be cleaned up in bed. If you can bring yourself to do it you would be a great help if you just try to be near them and to be a comfort in some form or other while they endure this immense pain. You can hold their hand or just try to be there for them in some form or other. Don't be embarrassed and leave the room because they are enduring what you and I would consider to be torture in terms of the pain levels. Because this is the most painful aspect this is where you are really needed so try to be there for this part if possible. It takes two nurses to do this job, and can take 30 to 45 minutes to do. It is not really a one man job, even with all the equipment an hospital facilities. Tell the dying person that you would be happy to stay in the room while this is done, IF they don't mind if you do, and that you are not embarrassed. It is VERY painful for them to be turned over in bed too. Even without bed sores or anything, just being moved onto their side can be extremely painful.
In retrospect I think it might have been a good idea to do a ? course or something on how to change a person in bed, but I haven't done one so I don't know much about that. Home help can be very expensive indeed and if the alternative is to spend $1200 a week which is the going rate for live in help here, you would save a LOT of money, but like I say I didn't learn that, and for all I know it might be very difficult, but if you got a job as a carer in an elderly home it ? might be part of the training I suppose..
But basically I was AMAZED at how problematic and painful this aspect of palliative care is. Why ?? isn't there a better and more painless way of managing this very !!! basic aspect? It's shocking really that so little can be done to reduce the pain and discomfort of bed-bound dying people. Everything hurts. Catheters, bed nappy type-things, everything! Just pain and more pain.. Even just wearing a nappy and weeing is disturbing because it goes against their instinct to wee in bed, plus the drugs make them confused, so they keep forgetting they are bed bound, and asking 'Is there a toilet on this floor?' which is tragic to observe. Also the skin can get damaged if it is left in dampness, so the nappy pad thing needs to be removed regularly and that means turning them which is really ! painful.. What a horrible additional burden for them to have to bear when they are already in a huge amount of pain and discomfort due to the fact they are dying.. I can completely see how the needs of the elderly have been forgotten now. If someone figured out a way to improve upon or master this palliative care issue they would make an absolute FORTUNE as nobody else has figured it out yet, which is shocking really..
16. A dying person needs almost 24 hour a day observation to receive the right kind of treatment. Do not leave them alone in the hospital thinking everything will be fine just because there are well-paid doctors and nurses on hand. You could not be more wrong. They need constant observation in the same way a small baby might need constant observation. It makes sense to have other siblings or people who can assist you in this process. You can't do it on your own because you wouldn't get any sleep. Their pain levels can be so high that they might find themselves in excruciating pain in a short amount of time. Because the dying process involves a significant reduction in mental capability, they are in danger of being left in agony for up to 30 minutes before nurse or member of staff notices that something is wrong. This is where you come in. If you are keeping an eye on them full time, you get to know what signs to look for that indicate they are in discomfort. The dying person is not good at articulating their distress, so you need to be their eyes and ears and communicate on their behalf that there might be an issue with pain but the doctors need to attend to. Basically it's quite a demanding state of affairs to be in, and when you are dying and you are doped up to the eyeballs with massive amounts of medication that makes you feel drowsy, you are not in a good position to be able to communicate to staff that there is a problem.
17. Like any job it starts off quite confusing and difficult, and after a while it gets easier. In the beginning you miss cues and the other person suffers as a result. After awhile you begin to recognise the cues that tell you something is wrong, and you are better able to guess the right action to take. So just show up and do the job badly to begin with, and very soon you will get the hang of it. Don't stay away because you think you are being ineffective. Being ineffective is normal in the beginning.
18. Ask somebody what to do before you make a decision. You will become very tired and emotionally drained by this experience, so as a contingency check with another person before you make a decision. Ask, don't agonise on your own, and don't rush in without thinking because you'll probably make a stupid mistake either way. Communication is everything. And don't waste time either because there is no time when somebody is dying. time pressure is there and it never goes away.
19. Bring in foods that you know the dying person will want to eat. Hospital food even in really good places is usually a bit rubbish. Bring in grapes, fresh fruit, ice cream, anything that you think the dying person will find it easier to eat.

20. Sips of water are very important because dying people are just not with it and can very easily just forget to drink water or fluids. Water comes first and food comes second. But every 10 minutes ask them who they want a sip of water. As soon as they wake up first thing they need is sips of water.
21. If you think something is wrong but you're not sure, ask for help from the nurse anyway. Don't wait until you are sure that the dying person needs assistance. If in doubt ask. Don't wait until you are 100% sure that the dying person is in agony or distress.
22. Bringing pictures of key people in the dying person's life. If you have a laptop or an iPhone you can load pictures onto that and display them that way. Those small picture frames that display changing computerised images would be ideal because they could also be visible as a night light in a hospital room.
23. The first track of the meet Joe Black CD on repeat play is very soothing for a dying person. At low volume.
24. Invest in an iPod and a small portable iPod speaker such as the JBL sound stage. This will allow you to play a restful music at low volume in close proximity to the dying person 's bed.
25. Play restful music at low volume when the dying person is in the last hours of life. Play it when they are snoozing or in their hospital room as a way of making a more soothing atmosphere.
26. Put a few drops of Pine essential oil in the four corners of the room in order to diminish the effects of negative energy in that space. Use it in the hours preceding death as a way of cleaning up the energy in that room in preparation for the transition. Pine essential oil works at the subtle level to cleanse the room of negative energy. This is particularly important when a person is due to die quite soon as you want the energy in that space to be as clean as possible so that when the consciousness leaves the body it is leaving the body into an energetically clean environment. Juniper has a similar effect but is more expensive.
27. If you have particular concerns about the negativity of people or energies in that room, you can call upon Archangel Michael as a protective force, or use the Green Tara mantra as a way of protecting the space from negative influences.
28. Try to avoid bright dazzling light in the hours before death. Cosy dimmed lighting is more restful and soothing. Basically apply the same rules as you would in a birthing environment. Gentle and soothing is good. Bright and aggressive is not so good. Soothing music and soothing light levels are a good idea.
29. Hold the dying person's hand. Look into their eyes. Do not get sidetracked by your own distress or personal feelings. Your job is to be there for the dying person. Your job is to be a positive force for good for the transition the dying person is about to make. My experience is that if you are doing your best to serve the needs and interests of the dying person, that you can feel great anyway, but if for some reason you don't feel great try to bear this in mind.

30. Have faith in the process. Apply the same rules as you would when dealing with a Sponsee. Even if I meet a Sponsee who tells me they want to kill themselves, tells me they live upstairs from their crack dealer, tells me they hate everybody including me, I do not lose faith in the program. Even if it is distressing for me to hear that person say that they want to kill themselves or that they live next door to their crack dealer I do not reflect hopelessness or despair back to the Sponsee. I reflect back my belief in the program and that I have faith that if I do the right thing is the right things will happen. I stand strong in my faith. I do not allow myself to be buffeted by their distressing conditions as they present themselves to me. The same rules apply when you are dealing with someone who is dying.
31. If they have access to a TV screen with Internet you can play you Tube videos of Thich Nhat Hanh or other wise beings or senior monks and nuns. not only is it very restful but it gives them very valuable information on the nature of death and dying. Restful is the keyword. It has to be restful and soothing. Belly laughs are not really what it's about when they are very ill and weary. They may be able to smile weakly when you say something funny, but meaningful connections take precedence beyond merely humouring them.
32. Don't feel guilty or like you've done something wrong if you feel fine. Whatever your feeling is legitimate. Don't be guilt tripped into thinking you ought to the feeling some other way.
33. Use your common sense. Don't adhere to anything in an unthinking way or blindly. God gave you brains to use so please use them. Re-evaluate things, on a moment by moment basis.
34. People who are dying or have died haven't really gone anywhere. They may not still be there in the physical form they once were in, but they are merely transforming into a different form. You will just have to learn how to recognise them in their new form. So try not to entertain the idea that they have literally disappeared because they haven't. They will always be available to have a conversation with if you really want to. If you miss them have a little conversation with them.
35. People who are dying become much more sensitive to the atmosphere in the room. Even if they have spent their entire life being oblivious to subtle changes in energy, this will not be the case when they are dying. They will know what mood powerful you are in and if you are insincere. They will be much better at reading you like a book. They will also soak up like a sponge either a good atmosphere or a negative atmosphere. If you spend time with them and you are in a good mindset you will emanate positive thinking and they will benefit from that and become more positive of themselves. They are basically like an energetic sponge. Much more so than they would have been before. Bear that in mind and tried to cultivate a good mind space in order to bring that to them in their room.
36. If the dying person asks for something that sounds irrational, don't dismiss it straight away. It might very well be irrational but why shouldn't they be able to do it. It might be a silly thing but accommodate their wishes as much as you possibly can. Don't just say ‘no’ thinking that there are being silly. It might be that it's a very difficult thing to actually do that it's possible. Basically listen to their requests as though they are all completely legitimate requests. It's very easy to listen to what they're saying and think that they are just too full of drugs and I don't really know what they're saying. Obviously it depends on the person, but try to listen with an open mind and determine whether or not what they're asking is doable.
37. If the dying person says they are uncomfortable or distressed don't dismiss it as a mood that has no legitimate basis. It's very probable that they have a very valid point. They might know something about the situation that nobody else has picked up on. basically give them the same credence as you would a person of sound mind even though it's very tempting to dismiss what they're saying as drugged out anxiety.
38. Sleep overnight in their room or hospital ward if you can. Or take it in turns to sleep overnight in their room or the ward. They are at their most frail and it is really hard for them to cope so they need all the help they can get.
39. View the body at the undertakers before cremation or burial (Ask them for a 'viewing') as this helps consolidate the reality that they have physically left their body which is god for your process. Attend the funeral because this also helps your process and is a great place to be of service.

40. They will lose the capacity to speak at some point so you need to have the conversations you need to have before this point is reached.
41. The last thing to go is hearing so you can speak to them right up until the moment they take their last breath. Try not to say anything remotely negative and tried to keep other negative conversations far away from the dying person right up until the point they take their last breath. The more peaceful the atmosphere and the more peaceful conversation the better.
42. The pain medication makes them drowsy and confused so you have to become a bit of a mind reader when determining what they want or they need next. It's like trying to understand a baby who was first learning how to speak.
43. Don't be fobbed off by the refrain that the patient or the nurses need 'space'. The dying person needs love and care and attention so provide as much of that as you possibly can.
44. The more work you do before the person dies, the less 'grieving' you will need to do after they die. The more you put in the more you get out.
45. Bring in crystals or sacred objects that raise the vibration of the room in which the sick or dying person is in. Essential oils have the same effect. Placing crystals on the dying persons energy centres can be very healing for them.
46. Dying people become much more porous to negative or positive energies. Mentally they become much more childlike and spontaneous. They can open up like a flower and become like a child experiencing the wonder of life. In the run-up to the death process they are at their most receptive regarding subtle energetic things, so anything you do that improves the energy for the better will not be wasted at this time.
47. Think of yourself as a death transition midwife. Create the most beneficial conditions for that person to make the great transition in. Create most positive energetic space for that person to make the great transition in.
48. They will talk of the journey, the long road, a train journey, an aeroplane journey. Dying people always know that they are dying but they often express it in terms of a journey of some sort, often in childlike language. When they start saying things like this this means that they know they are going to die. this is normal and do not be distressed by it.
49. Because dying people are much more tuned in to the death process and unwittingly tuned into these other realms, they know often when they are going to die. If they start to speak confidently about meeting people on certain days soon it might mean they will die on that day. Listen very carefully to clues that they give you in their speech. it might sound like they are speaking childishly that if they refer to a definite date in the future when they expect to see somebody who was not geographically near for instance, this is a very strong clue that they will die on that date.

50. Sometimes people who are dying are frightened by the transition process and will have a frightened expression on their face or may move their arms around like they are reaching for something. The nurses will tell you that this is the effect of the medication, but it is probably because they are seeing things in other realms which slightly frighten them. Using Melissa in combination with a protective oils such as pine, and also using Archangel Michael or the Green Tara mantra or to create a energetic space that does not feel threatening to the dying person.
51. If you go to sleep while watching a frightening and disturbing film, you are more likely to have a frightening and disturbed dream. If you go to sleep watching a kind and soothing film you are more likely to have a kind and soothing dream. It is the same sort of thing when you die. If you die in distressing and disturbing circumstances you are more likely to have a unhelpful rebirth. If you die in a soothing and kind mind state this is very helpful for your following rebirth.
52. According to a Rinpoche with 30 years experience in the robes, death converts the experience from the more gross manifestation of body to the more subtle manifestation of consciousness or mind. Once in the more subtle manifestation of mine alone, and the experience is much like a dream. So a good way to practice for entering this particular state is to become more conscious of your dreams. Try to become better at Lucid dreaming. If you can remain conscious whilst in the dreaming estate then you have a better chance of remaining conscious whilst in the post-death mind state. If you are planning on navigating well through this particular realm the best way to practice is to become very sensitively acutely aware of the variations of mind state using the practice of meditation during your lifetime. The more acutely conscious you are of fluctuating mind states, the easier it will be to remain fully aware of the movements of the mind once catapulted into this 'dream state' after the transition of physical death.
53. There is normally a soul group in attendance or preparation for the dying person to die. The dying person may say that they see people in the room, or see a familiar loved one. They may look as though they are looking quite intently at a certain part of the room, or listening intently to a conversation that you cannot see taking place. The presence imagined or otherwise of unseen people in the room might very well be their loved one or members of their soul group. If the dying person tells you that they have seen their deceased partner recently this may be part of this particular process and do not be alarmed or dismiss it as mere fancy.
54. If you know any healers you can either put the dying person's name on a list that remote healers use. Or you can notify healers that someone you know is dying, provide their name, and they will be able to transmit healing energy to the dying person. This will not prevent them from dying but can be a significant help as regards ameliorating their stress or anxiety in the run-up to the death.
55. Flowers generate a delicate and gentle vibration to a room. Dying people are able to appreciate flowers and birds and plants in a way that people who are not dying cannot appreciate. It is a kindness to bring beautiful flowers to somebody who is dying in can therefore appreciate them in a much more profound way. They also raise the vibration of the room and bring beauty into the room. They are a celebration of life; so do not think that flowers are wasted on dying people. It is for this reason that altars and Buddhist shrines contain flowers.
56. Animals can be very tuned in to the dying person. If there is a cat or dog they may be in distress or act differently when a person becomes ill and increasingly frail and also very close up to the time of death. If there is an animal nearby it may act differently if it knows someone is dying. It may enter the room and sit there when somebody is dying or about to die. Basically if there are animals nearby they may give you clues as to when that person is due to die.
57. Make sure the dying person knows that they are free to go with your blessing. As they say in AA "we don't make friends we take hostages". Is very important that they know they have your permission and blessing to leave. And in case you are not sure that this has happened, tell them in the nicest possible way that they are free to leave with your blessing. If you are holding onto them emotionally or mentally, or feel slightly offended that they are about to leave, they may delay their departure until you leave the hospital for instance.
58. Tying up loose ends. Dealing with baggage. Take a guess as to who you think is still alive that they really value and love. Contact those people, and make a phone call to them from the hospital so that the dying person can speak to them, or set up a videoconference using Skype and give them some privacy so that they can have a conversation between themselves without you listening in. Create opportunities for the dying person to have the conversations you think are most important to them. This is important because they may not be in the right state of mind or have the clarity of thought to be able to do this for themselves. It isn't too difficult to figure out who the people they cherish are. Also if certain people insist on visiting them who you suspect they don't really like, again try to limit their exposure to them as it will just rattle the cage and they are also very mentally vulnerable and susceptible to unpleasant environments.
59. Once they have stopped breathing it is still beneficial to sit with the body for hours afterwards. This might sound strange but it isn't. It is a gentle transition so too abruptly leave doesn't seem quite right.

60. Directing love and compassion and benevolent thoughts toward that person after they have physically died is very useful for them. So feel free to say mantras or pray for them or direct any form of positive thought and feeling toward them afterwards and this will help them. You can ask priests monks or nuns or anyone really to help you do this. The more the merrier.
61. Recently deceased people are very sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people about them. So it makes sense to maintain well-being and a benevolent attitude toward that person for long as you possibly can after they have died. Basically it's like they are a very unintentionally psychic, and therefore have the ability to eavesdrop on any thoughts that you might have about them. So it makes sense to have the sort of thought that you would be happy for them to be aware of. If you are particularly distressed or emotionally overwrought in relation to their death this will be a very emotionally charged thought form which would be quite noticeable and possibly distressing for the dead person to be aware of, particularly if they felt helpless about being able to ‘fix’ that distress because they had passed on. If they were somebody who in their lifetime fell very responsible for other people's distress and tried to fix people a lot, then that personality type is going to be even more affected by the awareness of family members or friends in a lot of emotional pain due to their death. Obviously it's a different sort of experience once you're in a different realm, but by and large it makes sense not to burden them with issues around your unresolved emotional baggage in addition to dealing with the difficulties of being in a completely different form, which is quite difficult thing to figure out. Why do you think monks and nuns devote entire lifetimes to learning how to navigate through this realm? It's because it's actually quite difficult. So don't make it more difficult by creating emotional waves that will attract their attention on and distract them from the task at hand.
62. You may have dreams about the recently deceased person soon after the death. It is very important to try and keep track of your dreams after a death as you may receive messages or important information from the recently deceased person via dreams.
63. Try as hard as you can to be physically present when the person dies. It is so therapeutic and beneficial to be around the dying person that you do yourself a great disservice if you miss the opportunity to spend time with them before they die and to be with them in the room when they die. It's an exceptional and sacred moment, so do not deprive yourself of this opportunity. This is the great secret that nobody tells you. You can feel the closeness of other realms in the room when a person dies. You get to share the perception of the preciousness of life from the dying person's perspective if you care for them in close quarters up to their death. This is priceless therapy so do not miss it. I love dying people because they are the only people who have the 'correct' perspective of life. It is the people that are not dying that I find more difficult to be around.
64. Watch the film Meet Joe Black. It’s a useful perspective and quite accurate in terms of tone.
65. Dying people take delight in simple things. Plants, flowers, birds. Holding their hand. Appreciation and kind words. This is what life is for and dying people know this only too well so they are your greatest teachers.
66. Because of this altered attitude in the run-up to death, the most stubborn and defiant personalities can open up like a flower and change in ways you would not expect when death approaches. So maintain an open mind about even the most stubborn person you know who might be dying. They might change right at the very end.
67. Don't talk to them like a child just because they are sick or under the influence of lots of medication. Don't patronise them. They will know that you're patronising them because dying people can see through you much better than normal people. They will see through your insincerity and it will make them unhappy.
68. Don't be overly sentimental or awkward or embarrassed they will see through that to and it will make them uncomfortable. Be as comfortable in your own skin as you possibly can and do as much as you can to put the other person at ease. Self forgetting and being a considerate human being will make it easier for you to concentrate on putting the other person at ease as much as you can. It’s not about you, it's about them. And they will be very tuned into your distress so be a benign and easeful presence for them and they will benefit from that.
69. It's physically and emotionally and mentally exhausting looking after a dying person. If possible get them to set up a guest bed for you in the dying person's room and use every opportunity to take a power nap during the day while they are resting because you're going to need all the sleep you can get.

70. If you know any priests or monks and nuns or healers or devoted meditation people, or people in 12-step group that you know are living a spiritual life as opposed to merely talking about it, ask those people to direct positive thoughts towards the dying person and a family generally, as prayers really do work. All thoughts are prayers so any kind and positive thoughts that you can muster up amongst your friends will help tremendously. Post it on Facebook and ask for positive thoughts on there. It all helps.