Patti Clark joins us today on this special 100th Episode of The SHAIR Podcast. Patti is an accomplished speaker and workshop leader dedicated to helping people through various life transitions on their journey to an extraordinary life. For more than 30 years, and over several continents, Patti has been sharing her knowledge and wisdom with others. She is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from U.C. Berkeley. She has taught English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and at Oregon State University.
Patti’s work has been featured in several publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and The Mindful Word. Patti now travels around the globe facilitating workshops, and is about to launch a new series of interactive workshops online. Patti spends part of her time in the United States, and part of her time in New Zealand. She and her husband and their two sons live near the beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. This Way Up is her first book.
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Omar: Tell us Patti a little bit about what your daily routine looks like, including recovery.
Patti: My daily routine, and if we are going to start with the full day, I don’t leave my bed until I say the Third Step Prayer. That’s first thing I do in the morning, is say the Third Step Prayer because I feel like that’s the safest way for me to start. Then I will either write down or often just staying in bed and thinking of at least three things I’m grateful for. Starting with turning my wheel of my life over and then focusing on gratitude. That’s how I start every day. That’s what I’ve found the best way to start a day for me.
Because I’m an author and I’m self-employed, my day to day life is different each day. To just talk about yesterday, after I did my gratitude and my journaling and my Third step Prayer, I went to Auckland, which is about an hour and a half outside of where I live in Thames, on the Coromandel Peninsula. I brought some books to a bookstore. Then I had an interview on a TV station in Auckland, and then I did a book event at a library, and then got home at about 10:00 last night.
Omar: First of all, tell us how much clean time you have and when is your anniversary date?
Patti: Okay. I got sober in 1988 and I was sober for 12 and 1/2 years. I got sober just before my 30th birthday, my first sober date was January 26th. I got sober just before my 30th birthday. I wanted to be sober because I grew up in alcoholic family, as many of us did. My mother died of alcoholism. My father was a functioning alcoholic and looked good, drove a nice car but was … He wasn’t the identified problem, my mother was. I didn’t want to be like my mother so I swore that when I had kids I was going to be sober.
I got sober before my 30th birthday. I was clean and sober for both of my kid’s pregnancies, through breastfeeding and was sober until they were both in school. Then what happened Omar, and this is so embarrassing. It really is, it’s literally high school never ends. When my kids got to primary school, all the really cool moms went to each other’s houses on Thursday and Friday after school while the kids played and there’s really good wine in New Zealand. I said to myself, “Golly, I’ve been clean and sober for 12 and 1/2 years. I know how this shit works. I can do this.”
I decided I can have a glass of wine or two with all of the yummy mummies at my kids primary school. These were the mums, as they say in New Zealand, these were the mums that were the wives of the doctors and the dentists and the bankers and they lived on the beach. The kids would all play together after school. The mothers would sit out on the deck and have really good Chardonnay and really good Pinot Gris and I said, “Well, that’s where I belong, obviously.” I’m fine. I know what these steps are. I’ve worked them and I know how to stay connected to God. I only drank a little bit at first. Yeah. Anyway, you’ve heard it before.
Omar: What was keeping you from getting clean or staying clean when you first got introduced to recovery?
Patti: Fear and shame. Twelve-step programs seemed like a shameful thing to do. It seemed like giving up and I was embarrassed. I was really embarrassed. Only deros, real derelicts, go to AA and I’m strong. I’m strong, I don’t need it. That’s what was standing in my way. That early point when the person that I got the astrology chart done stared me in the eye and said, “Are you an alcoholic?”, it was so intense and so facing into the mirror that all I could do was crumble, and thank God that I did.
Omar: Well, I’m wondering if that’s the answer to number two? My next question is at what point did you have a spiritual awakening, that ah-ha moment in recovery, when you accepted that you were powerless over drugs and alcohol, but for the first time had developed the hope that you could recover?
Patti: It would have been one of my very first meetings, in the women’s meetings in Tucson. I had an amazing sponsor that I got my very first night. The first part of it was very tangible, just energetically. Sitting down in that women’s meeting with this circle of women where I looked around and thought, “Oh my God, I’m home.” I felt safe for the first time ever and I started crying. It washed over me. It was very much a spiritual awakening. I just absolutely submitted to it and that was it. My very first meeting.
Omar: Tell us Patti, do you have a favorite book that you would recommend to a newcomer that you read in early recovery?
Patti: Yeah, “Each Day a New Beginning”. That’s mostly for women. I really loved that feminine support that I got in “Each Day a New Beginning”, and it was a daily- that was the other thing I loved- short, sweet, daily. Every day starting with something. Daily meditation books were essential to me in early recovery. I really loved it. They were gentle, nurturing, yeah.
Omar: Number four, what is the best suggestion you have ever received?
Patti: Lots of them. Go to meetings. Talk with your sponsor. I guess the best advice really was if you don’t like one meeting, go to another one. My problem was that I didn’t like certain meetings, and so I just quit going instead of searching out and maybe having to drive a little bit. Now, most of the meetings that I go to are online so there’s no excuse for not going to meetings now. There’s none. There are meetings 24 hours a day online. I go to women’s meetings online because they’re still not a lot of women’s meetings around me.
I really crave women’s meetings. I like that nurturing spirit that’s there. I have a sponsor that’s actually in the States, but we Skype. I’m doing the steps again with her. We’re doing it digitally. Really, now more than ever, there’s no excuse. Number one piece of advice, number one thing that’s important, go to meetings. If you don’t like one, go to another one. There’s always another one and there are some great meetings. If you have a sponsor that you don’t like and that doesn’t work, fire that sponsor and get another sponsor, but don’t decide you don’t need one.
Omar: Beautiful, beautiful. If you could give our newcomers only one suggestion, what would that be?
Patti: Yeah, along the same lines. Keep going to meetings. Also, just- I don’t know the best words to say this but- be authentic with it. One of the problems that I had once I had been in recovery for a while was that I felt like I wasn’t being authentic with my recovery. I wasn’t finding certain meetings or resonating with certain things and so I sort of put on a mask. That’s bullshit. You’re in recovery that’s the beauty of it. You get to take off all the fucking masks. Be authentic. Be real.
Find a sponsor that you can absolutely be totally authentic with, one that will let you lay on the ground and kick and scream or will let you crawl into their lap and cry or will stroke you while you’re losing your mind or will listen to you while you rant and rave and will be firm and set boundaries when that’s needed. What I did early on that I made a real mistake with was I tried to be something that I thought they wanted me to be. That screwed with my head. That’s co-dependences, trying to be taking care of other people with your own actions, it’s like crazy-making.
Be authentic and you’ll find somebody that you resonate with and you’ll find meetings that you resonate with. Be authentic and be true to yourself in your recovery. That’s where that strength and that power comes from. The one biggest piece of advice is stay connected with your higher power. Pray every day. Start every day with the Third Step Prayer. Talk to God like God’s your best friend. Go to God. God’s bigger than you. That’s the whole point. Came to believe in a power greater than yourself, that’s the magic. Turning it all over to that highest power.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER
“Be authentic and you’ll find somebody that you resonate with and you’ll find meetings that you resonate with.”
Omar: Tell us real quick Patti, what’s the best way for our listeners to get ahold of you, your website, the book, or whatever message you’d like to give to our listeners so they can find you?
Patti: Excellent. Thanks so much for asking Omar. It’s thiswayupbook.com is my website. Thiswayupbook.com. There’s a contact sheet there, but you can also contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. I really love hearing from people so much. I’d love to talk recovery. I’m open. I answer emails immediately. I love connecting to people. I’m such a firm believer in, man, life is amazing, it’s just so wonderful, and that getting into recovery and experiencing it and not numbing out is the first step in realizing that amazing beauty of life.
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.