Principles Before Personalities

One of the tougher issues I have to deal with as an artist, person in recovery and micro-businesswoman is dealing with personalities. The vast majority of the feedback I get for my work is positive and supportive.  It makes me feel good to be of service, and people love what they have purchased for themselves or their loved ones. However, I get the rare comment that somebody really despises my work. Not straightforward criticism like that it’s just okay, or that they don’t really like this or that about a piece — they hate it and go out of their way to stick the knife in and twist it. I have gotten so very offended a few times by customers who really let loose if their expectations were not met for whatever reason real, imagined or mistaken.

I try not to let my ego get bruised and to remember Principles Before Personalities but, oh boy, it’s so tough sometimes. The rational part of me knows that’s the price I pay for being publicly visible, that there’s always that 1% of needy people who are never happy with anything, who spend their lives looking for any excuse to pick a fight. Yet, those comments still really sting! This is one biggest challenges that I face as an artist, since this is my work, not just something I am reselling.

That’s not to mention that it is also a big challenge for me as someone in recovery. Before I got clean and sober, situations like those would make me lash out, attack and then try to numb out the hurt but using or drinking. When this sort of thing happens now, the impulse is still there but I learned to step back and not give it power, no matter how mean and hateful the comments are. Don’t get me wrong, I still get really pissed off, sometimes I get so angry I have to take a long walk to cool off. I tell myself over and over that I’m not going to let some troll threaten my serenity or my sobriety. Principles Before Personality is about humility, tolerance and patience.

What truly makes up for those negative comments is hearing from everybody who takes the time to let me know how they appreciate my work or how it touched them or their loved ones. I never get enough of those positive and inspirational comments from my customers. I get such a nice warm buzz from those comments, it’s almost like an addiction in itself. Thank you again for your continued support.

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Promises Promises

Gorgeous hand made wallets are a wonderful gift for people in recovery. Wallets have a deep symbolic meaning because just about everyone in recovery has had financial problems due to their using or drinking. Sobriety brings more financial stability.. Giving a wallet sends he message “now that you won’t be squandering all your money on drugs or alcohol, you’ll be needing a nice place to put your money.” Sobriety is its own reward, but as the Big Book promises: “Fear…of economic insecurity will leave us.” As a matter of fact, this is one of the AA Promises that I can personally vouch is so true!  AA logo and other styles available soon.

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Circle of Sisters NA Convention Tulsa OK

I am honored to be have been selected to be the official jewelry designer for the Circle of Sister upcoming convention on March 15, 16 and 17, 2013 “Stepping into the Circle of Recovery”.  My designs will be featured at this event.  This is my all-first all-women Narcotics Anonymous Convention and I am thrilled to be part of it.  Thank for considering my artwork.


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Thank you for the bottom of my heart

I just wanted to say how honored I am that people in recovery and their loved ones have chosen my work to celebrate their sobriety milestones. Any length of continued sobriety is an amazing accomplishment yet lately I’ve been making many 20, 25 and even 30 years items that continue to inspire me. Again, I am so incredibly honored. Thank you so much for supporting my work.
Stephanie P.

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Relapse Scares Me Still

Relapse from recovery is my number one fear. Falling off the wagon, going out, screwing up: same difference. As a person in recovery for over 10 years, the fear of relapse still scares me sober. And it seems like everyone in recovery I’ve come in contact with has exactly the same fear.

Once an alcoholic or addict is “in recovery” and has been clean and sober for a while and continues to go to AA or NA or other 12 Step meetings, relapse is still a very real possibility. Although I have over 10 years of sobriety, my recent bout of chronic back pain pointedly reminded me of how fragile I am. I was very close to relapse and deadly afraid that prescription painkillers would lead me back to that dark place I thought I would never escape over a decade ago.

The loved ones of addicts and alcoholics in recovery feel the same way. They remember what it was like to stand by and watch their loved one spiral into self-destruction. In many ways, it is worse for the loved ones because they feel so powerless in the face of the addiction that has completely possessed the person they care for so deeply. They want to help their son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother, friend stay sober, but there seems to be so little they can do.

It is natural for loved ones to want to help in any way they can to maintain sobriety. Sobriety is still ultimately up to the addict/alcoholic, but encouragement and letting the person know you believe in them can help make that crucial difference. Recovery can be touch-and-go, so every little bit helps. That person is crawling out of bad place and there are many forces in life that will try to suck the addict/alcoholic back into their addiction.

So how does one offer encouragement and show that person that you love them, that you are their number one fan? Those of you in Al-Anon already know that you can hurt the alcoholic’s or addict’s recovery by helping too much. This is the same whether the addict/alcoholic is active in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or any other 12-Step Recovery group. You must not enable that person, you cannot bargain with them to stay clean or sober, and absolutely no bribing either. Of course, a little token of support or appreciation now and then is fine but, say, a luxury watch would be way over the line.

During my first year of sobriety, I was struggling badly. My husband never missed a chance to speak positively and tell me how proud he was of me. He offered me little tokens as I reached each milestone like flowers, making a special dinner or rearranging his schedule to accommodate my meetings. He even attended a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings to see what they were all about.

As for myself, I started making bangle bracelets as touchstones which helped me focus on my staying clean and sober. I wore them all the time and I felt protected by The Serenity Prayer that I had inscribed on them. Even though they were just inanimate objects, somehow they made me feel better and reminded me of the love I still had for myself and my family. It was important to me that I could actually feel them to make the Serenity Prayer seem more real and close to me. I started making recovery jewelry for friends in the program who felt they too needed touchstones as reminders and as sources of inspiration to carry on.

When I achieved my first year of sobriety I proudly took a medallion, but I also made myself something special to wear around my neck with the number One on it. Acknowledging that I had accomplished that first year was vital to me as it proved that, if I had come this far, I could keep on going. I shared these tokens with my fellows in the program. By popular demand, I have branched out to sharing my touchstone artwork with the world.


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New for NA Peeps!


Brand new design, hot out of the oven.  Come and get yours!  Officially licensed by Narcotics Anonymous.

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My stuff is at Bill and Lois W’s House!

I am so honored! Some of my artwork has been chosen to be showcased at Stepping Stones, the historic home of Bill and Lois Wilson, respective co-founders of Alcoholic Anonymous and Al-Anon in Bedford, NY. Stepping Stones operates as a historic home museum and has a gift shop on site and will be selling some of my jewelry.

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Alcohol – the cheapest drug in America

I was shopping at Trader Joe’s today and came face to face with a display for house brand Vodka priced at $10.99 for 1.75 litres.  Wow that makes for some cheap booze!  You are looking at 40 drinks for about $0.27 per shot.  Then I looked around some more, I noticed they have wine priced at $2.00 a bottle and that’s a big $0.40 a glass.   That wine has been famously dubbed TJ’s Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw Vineyard).  Beer was just as cheap too.  Depending on one’s tolerance, a person can get a pretty serious buzz for just a buck or two.   Alcohol is so inexpensive in America that almost anyone can afford to drink on a limited income.  In other countries like Canada, alcohol is pricer.   It doesn’t stop people from drinking but it does make it much more expensive to acquire the habit.  From prohibition to plenitude, America is the land of the best and the very worst.

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Spanish Serenity Prayer is Beautiful

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for over 20 years and I very much admire and enjoy the local Hispanic culture and language.  For years now, I’ve been meaning to offer a Spanish version of the Serenity Prayer to my customers. I believe the Serenity Prayer is beautiful in any language but it is particularly lovely in Spanish.  Have a look at my latest Latin edition to the Serenity Prayer family.  Muchas Gracias!

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Supportive. Not an Enabler.

I get many emails from mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends of those who have just come into sobriety.  It is to these people, my own loving husband included, that I want to dedicate this blog entry.  Let’s talk about how difficult it is for you to do your part:  You can help. You can encourage.  The most important thing is to not enable the addiction.  Show moral support, faith and love but never enable.

Although this Thanksgiving marks a decade of my own sobriety, I can still remember those early days of recovery clearly.  Specifically, the extreme emotional turmoil I put my husband through.  I remember his frustration, his disgust, his fear, his pity and his worry.  But when I was using, I just didn’t really care about how he felt.  I just collapsed into this self-made prison of isolation, apathy and self-loathing.  Nothing he said to me seemed to sink in. I was deaf and dumb to all of it.  I just wanted to be left alone with my crippling anxiety that I believed I could only relieve my own way, by self-medicating.

At that time I wasn’t working. Holding onto a job would have been impossible for me and besides, my husband was supporting me.  Nevertheless, I had my own money problems.  I had accumulated thousands of dollars in credit card debt due to taking weekly cash advances to support my habit.  When I turned to my husband to pay the bill, he simply said to me, “I am not financing your drug habit.  I will help you find a drug-addiction counselor, I will support you in any way to sobriety, but I will not pay for your habit.  Go flip burgers, do whatever to pay your drug debts but I won’t give you one cent.”

Boy…was I angry with him!  I thought he was being a cruel bastard by not supporting his own wife.   It was only months later, after I achieved some longer-term sobriety that I realized he was doing me a big favor but not enabling me.  Today, he tells me that it was the hardest thing he had to do but he had no choice.  My husband found guidance through Al-Anon.   And it was that confrontation that finally led me to see a counselor who took me to my first meeting.  The rest is history.

For most people, not enabling is the hardest part of their loved-one’s recovery.  They feel like they are abandoning them, especially because not cleaning up the addict’s mess feels like the easy way out. It feels like a convenient cop-out but it is anything but.  Obviously, the addict needs to feel the consequences of their behavior, but a huge part of the message of not helping the addict is: I know you have what it takes to get out of this prison, so just do what it takes! When a child spills a glass of milk, which of these is more likely to help raise a strong, capable individual: chastising her for being sloppy and making work for yourself as you clean it up, or giving her paper towels to fix the problem?

To all of the people who consistently give love, moral support and other little tokens of encouragement that stop short of a bailout, I salute and sincerely thank you. I’ve had a front-row seat, and I must say that you’re the real heroes.

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