June 11, 12, & 13, 2010 at DeSales University
Center Valley, Pennsylvania
HIGHLIGHTS: Another fantastic weekend for Women for Sobriety and 4C women! We had 109 members booked in at DeSales University Campus in Center Valley, Pennsylvania from June 11, 12, & 13. As many of you know, this weekend conference is WFS’s MAIN FUNDRAISING EVENT for the entire year...so we devote a great deal of time and resources in getting information distributed and encourage a lot of participation from the women who use our program in their recovery. It is with much anticipation and excitement to announce that our annual fundraising auction raised $13,581! We had the largest amount of items ever donated to the auction: 326! The spirit of generosity was truly in the air and in the hearts of our members that weekend. When you have everyone focusing all their passion and support for this recovery program and for their 4C Sisters...amazing amounts of positive energy is created in those 2 hours of the auction! WFS is ever so grateful for the financial support we continue to receive from our annual fundraiser. We also held a raffle to win a full set of WFS DVD’s; and also, to win a free registration for next year’s conference (we were able to pick TWO tickets for the free registration plus two winners received 50% off next year’s conference). A total of $2,400 was collected from all the ’extra’ fundraisers during the conference: including generous individual donations, ’round-ups’ at the bookstore, open donation table for assorted used books and items, f2f group meetings, etc. Thank you to all who participated in raising much needed funds throughout the conference weekend!!
Becky Fenner, WFS Director
…As the words echoed…DO NOT HIDE IN YOUR DORM ROOM…repeatedly went thru my mind........I kept trying to say I can do this. I am going to spend close to 4 days with women, women don’t like me. How am I going to do this? I can’t back out of this, can’t make excuses - I was given this as a gift, I was there on a work scholarship - someone thought I was worth it. As I showed up at airport to pick up Razz, I had no clue what she looked like (accept for “pink ugly” suitcase). I had no clue what her flight was - was hoping I had it right. I only remembered what time it came in, used puterduh’s info and came up with what I had hoped it was. My directions were not the best but I got there. All of sudden thought huh, I don’t even know her name, phone number?? Razz. Oh well, I stared at the clock, got there about 10 minutes to the time I had hoped I remembered. Well, I saw “pink ugly” - I sorta stood up, walked closer and whispered Razz?? She didn’t respond, oh boy, lil louder, Razz?? My heart was racing, finally she made eye contact - it was Razz, it was “pink ugly”.......first part of adventure was complete. I met Razz - lil baby steps - picked up another competent woman at airport, this amazed me by the way. We found our way to campus - do not hide in dorm room, breathe in and out. Unloaded, had front door parking (see I could run if I had to), there were a lot of women, women that in my mind really will somehow not like me for some reason. I didn’t pack so well, but it’s ok. I saw 80 degrees all weekend so that’s what I packed for, was lil chilly, threw in last minute pair of sweats and sneakers, my feet don’t like shoes. My dorm room was freezing with air blasting - that will keep me out of there. Slept with heat on all weekend long. I started to meet others - screen names that I recognized, that their words echo in my head. The welcome from women was overwhelming for me but I could not hide in dorm room right?? Ok, snuck up few times to make “excuse” to hide, kept telling myself it’ll be ok. I listened to others, breathe.....don’t honestly know when I started to talk but something was different here, when I actually used a “voice” these women wanted to hear what I had to say?? Nah, not possible - tried lil more - guess what? It was possible. The patience that most do not have with me when I try to speak started to be here. I am now using my own “voice” to tell, tell of things I have only spoke to counselors about. You see they were paid to tell me this stuff, these women are not being paid and to me these women seem to actually hear me?? WOW, blew me away. Do you know how many people have not heard bull frogs and seen fireflies (as I call them lightning bugs) before?
Some things I don’t have issues with, a lot this weekend was into “play” – well, for me, that is the easy part, it is using my voice and “feel” are my issues. I started to do this. I started speaking and others listened to me. I asked questions and was not “judged” for asking. Time I was lost on; I turned my cell phone off - the one and only time I checked it was Friday - I turned it off. Life at home I needed to leave there. Stopa’s campfire meeting - I have not laughed that hard in a long time, and every time I hear it, I still respond same way. I learned some zumba - I enjoyed it so much.
By the end of conference my scaries had lessoned so much, I was not repeatedly focusing in on the words regarding dorm room, plus it was so darn chilly in there LOL. I started to hear the “words” others were telling me, I had blossomed? From beginning to end - was told I was so different - I actually received some hugs and wasn’t, at least don’t think so, as scared. What I want to hold onto was this reality - I need guidance and help but as long as I continue to reach out - REACH OUT - listen - and do it anyhow even with scaries - I will continue to grow and become more at peace with how I am, who I am meant to be.
“rainbow” on WFS Online Forum
Have you ever gone Geocaching?
Geocaching is like a treasure hunt on technology. There is a website that gives you locations/clues to a hidden treasure. You use your GPS and start your search for the treasure with coordinates. You follow those directions to find the “cache” or the treasure. There are very clever clues to the treasure, guideposts as it were, left by the treasure hider. There are little tiny treasures and larger caches. When you find them, you can take the treasure but you must replace it with a treasure of your own. You sign a log and leave a comment. Then you go to the website and record your achievement. The treasures are hidden by other geocachers. They can be cleverly hidden. Some are very difficult to find. No matter what the little treasure is, it is always an absolutely wonderful to find. It is a great sense of achievement - almost a triumph, always a victory. Occasionally you say, “Oh, for goodness sake, it was right in front of me.”
Conference, for me, was like a great geocaching adventure. I traveled across the country with my map; the program, my GPS; the statements and most importantly belief in the energy of the game and my love of it.
Man, did I find a boat load of treasures. I found so many treasures that I had to pay for extra luggage on the flight home. Here are some of the caches I found:
~ I was looking for a few New Life friends that I could safely add to my human “toolbox.” What I found were 100+ women that “got” me. I wasn’t cursed with a unique burden. I was part of a very large homogenized group of women. I found strength in the stories, the testimonies, and the remarks. Although they all took different paths, the end point of the journey was the same. Not just sobriety, but growth and health and joy and community.
~ I was looking for some coping strategies for certain circumstances or those nasty “triggers.” I found tools that I could use for my entire New Life. Oh my goodness, the strength and calm you can feel after 5 minutes of yoga, that dancing blindfolded can take me to a place that is clean and sweet, that being an artist is more about expressing the person inside than it is about being an “artist,” that women are powerful within themselves and that power just needs to be released.
~ I was looking for some fun and relaxation. I found that self-care may not be a manicure but it most certainly can be a good old-fashioned belly laugh. We deserve to laugh. Laughter is part of our joy. Sobriety is not drudgery, not a burden. It is a source of tremendous energy and power. It does not shame me; on the contrary, it makes me proud.
I walk tall carrying all these treasures in my soul, wearing my superwoman cape. Thank you, Jean, for these treasures. Thank you, WFS, for the conference. Thank you, sober sisters, for the caches. Thank you, universe, for this marvelous experience that really changed me.
“sweetwife” on WFS Online Forum
I gotta a story to tell, oh yeah!
You gotta a story to tell, oh yeah!
We gotta a story to tell, oh yeah!
Let’s tell our stories.
This was the chant I learned at my first workshop led by “O,” who has been presenting at the WFS Conference for many years. I heard some stories (sad, funny, moving) and I told some of my story to some wonderful 4C women. What a great weekend - my first with WFS - I don’t want it to be my last.
I came away with food for thought on ways to continue to improve my life and some new friends.
Thanks to all involved for putting together an inspiring weekend.
Carolin ~ Canada
Most Touching Moment (for me):
It’s a toss up between watching Legs while her SolCatchers were being bid on during the auction and another moment that was one on one with another sister. A wonderful woman came up to me, kind of out of nowhere, and told me how much my story and my journey had helped her find her own sobriety. She thanked me and it was very heart felt. It was very touching for me because, in that moment, I realized that one of my biggest goals had happened: something wonderful had come out of the horrible bottom that I hit before I got sober. That made it all worth it right there. Thank you to the sister who went out of her way to let me know that, you know who you are.
An A-Ha Moment:
I’ve always had a major problem relating to women. (I think this is true for many of us.) This weekend, I felt a major shift in me. I love my fellow womankind! Women are amazing. We are all miracles (as “O” says). I am in awe of what a group of women who come together for common good can do. I am so joyful to have some amazing women coming into my life, thanks to this incredible program.
There are so many more moments I had, but these stick out in my mind. Whether you were at the conference or not, I love you all! We truly are “bonded together” in so many ways. Let the countdown to next year begin!
“SlightlyOff” on WFS Online Forum
It was great this year having most of our activities in the same building. Although it did cut down on the walking I did; but, I can only blame that on myself. I did have many wonderful walks with some of my 4C sisters. It was a good way to discover what diverse women we are, sharing a common illness. The first morning, one gal showed up with her iPod. We soon relieved her of that, and the other mornings it stayed in her room. This was a time to share.
The only disappointment was having to ‘tidy up’ in the morning in the lounge area of the dormitory… we are 4C women and should be picking up after ourselves.
All the sessions I attended were great. Rita Miller’s Saturday morning session gave us great insight into ourselves. The auction was a success and it was wonderful to see all the competition for the prized items we got to take home. Closing ceremonies is always sad, but all good things must come to an end. It was great to have “O” back in our closing program.
A great conference and already have plans made for next year. See you all there. Have a safe and healthy year.
Shirley ~ Canada
What was my favorite moment at the 2010 WFS Conference? I have two. The first favorite moment was at the closing ceremony. I didn’t expect this to hit me like it did; but, at the end of a slide-show of past WFS Conferences, there was a big picture of Jean, our founder. Now passed away and knowing that she created the possibility of WFS, sobriety another way, and this sisterhood, we all had major tears in our eyes and started crying. I was humbled beyond words that this woman created a “New Life” program that is TRANSFORMING my life and others lives. I was much moved. I was reading Turnabout (again) at the conference and it kept me in touch with Jean and what she went through. This weekend, I was feeling particularly close to the struggles she went through.
My second favorite moment: ZUMBA class led by IslandGigi on the front “porch” of the dorm!!! We danced to Latin music and IslandGigi taught us some moves. I felt free, classy, sexy, sober, womanly, and it was just an incredible feeling. With the rolling hills of the campus out before us, the birds chirping, and us dancing freely, I thought: can life really get any better than this? No. I was full, complete, satisfied, happy, and very, very thankful.
Meeting so many of my sisters in sobriety, getting to know others better, was all so fulfilling and rewarding. Laughter was the medicine of the day and we really laughed constantly!!!
Love you ALL. We are doing it. We are getting and staying sober. And, we are ENJOYING LIFE! Who would have thought? Thank you, Jean. Thanks to all of YOU.
“christyinva” on WFS Online Forum
This was my second conference. I found myself approaching this one with a bit more confidence. Having continuous sobriety between conferences helps! It was heartwarming to see so many faces I recognized from last year. Memories came flooding back. The highlight for me was speaking with so many great women and feeling connected. I met one woman who I felt connected to even before we spoke to one another! Our chakra’s communicated first.
I felt very emotional during the closing ceremony, especially when Jean’s face flashed on the screen at the end. I looked around, surprised to see so many faces showing similar emotion. At that moment, I wrote in my journal, “I feel calm and patient. I feel cared about. I want to feel like this always.”
Thank you, all you 4C women – for making this possible.
“Skier” on WFS Online Forum
My mind is so overwhelmed with so many very vivid memories...
I arrived to the airport in Virginia and Christy and I were madly texting…where are you, I’m here, is that you?? Purple sign...I asked did your daughter make that?? NOPE it was hand made by Christy!! I felt so welcomed and touched. I didn’t let it show. I’m a big girl! On Sunday, the moment I ran upstairs to my dorm room to retrieve my sign, I realized that the conference was really over and inside I went to mush. I can’t write about it.
I met the most AMAZING women. Teddy and Lambie and Legs and JT and “Crox” and Blondie and Slightly and Babcia and Kym and Ananda and M & M’s (Laura) and Jenn, Southie and Sweetwife. I am a bit overwhelmed with names and screen names now that it is really hard and I don’t want to leave anyone out that touched me. Rainbow is an Amazing young woman and Karen and that sprite Razz had me rolling on the floor.
Yes, I did do an impromptu Zumba demo…it was hilarious... Belly Dance, Salsa and Reggaeton. I wrote that I would do a workshop next year if they would have me. That would certainly “make” me go, right?
THE most important event for me was when I realized that women had been coming to the conference for over 10 to 15 years and that WFS had continuity and that feeling as if I were home was not foreign.
The opening introductions were so inspiring for me. I “met” all of the women on the message boards and felt so connected. With each story told, I let my heart feel the joy that has come from a New Life in Sobriety.
So many women touched me deeply and I laughed and I cried and I felt. This is what I am taking away and holding dear until next year.
Thank You So Very Much, Jean, for reaching deeply into your soul and creating the safety of WFS.
“Islandgigi” on WFS Online Forum
Every year I get stuck in real life, wandering through my days. Sometimes I don’t know who I am, where I am going and even if I make a difference in the lives of those around me.
But, every year, I return to conference knowing I will be refreshed, exhausted, but refreshed!!
I led the “Affirming Self” workshop this year. I changed it up a little bit. I wanted to make a real impact on the participants, not for myself, but for them. I had everything planned out to the last minute, but we began late. No problem, I figured I could still keep things moving along and complete my workshop agenda.
I shared my story. Not the story everyone here is used to hearing but the rest of the story…the parts that I have omitted over the year. The parts that caused me great pain, shame and guilt. I have never done this before and I had not planned on it either. When I began talking, introducing myself, something came over me to be REAL, HONEST, and TRUSTING. I remember taking a breath in, to myself, and saying, “YES, Julie, now is the time...” So I began.
I didn’t think I could carry the ladies to positive, affirming, life-changing thoughts if I did not first carry them into my story, my dark, negative, paralyzing world of grief and alcoholism. I wanted them to see both the good and the bad, so that they would see growth in a long ago broken woman. I wanted to give them hope.
I introduced myself as the first WFS Louisiana Coonass Member... and that it is not considered a cuss-word because in Louisiana “Coonass” is a proper noun. Someone brought up Boudreaux’s Butt Paste and I said how wonderful it is for diaper rash. One participant laughed and said she thought we cooked with it. I looked at her and said I just might have to make you an honorary coonass if you cook with it!! And, so, the workshop began first with laughter.
I was moved to tears, though I am not sure anyone noticed. I felt their pain physically and just wanted to lift them up and say, “No, you are wonderfully made.” But, I didn’t have too, because all the ladies joined in an exercise that was soul-lifting and self-esteem building.
In mid-sentence, I was reciting the 4C’s... and I forgot the last two! It’s like my brain just shut off on low battery! I sat there stunned... and everyone could see the look on my face... and they filled in the other 2 C’s with laughter... Jan was sitting next to me and moved her chair over 2 feet from me... and I looked at her, puzzled again, and she said lightening was about to strike, sent by Jean! I loved that!
I planned a small gift for them. Little Treasure chests filled with small items so that they remember to speak with love to themselves. There was an affirmation card they made and decorated, a small round mirror (to remember to speak affirming thoughts to themselves), a small purple flower (representing WFS), a butterfly (to be born again) and a heart shaped charm that said Love. It seemed like Christmas! I believe they really enjoyed them.
We were moved from tears to laughter throughout the workshop and I figure if you can make them laugh and cry then it was pretty successful!
I wrote my story for a WFS booklet about 3 months ago and chickened out sending it to Becky, the director. Because, in the booklet, I told my whole story and it was painful to write. I spoke with her and explained and she said that those are the kind of things she likes to read at home without the interruption of the busy office. I asked if she is the only one to open emails. She said she opens every email that comes into WFS. She reads over 100 emails a week! And replies to most of them. She is truly beautiful and sincere. Hopefully, in the near future, there will be a new booklet in the WFS catalog called, “No Matter What!”
I realized this year that I have become one of the “veterans” of WFS. I had evolved from a broken, sick woman in October 2000, to one of Anne Fletcher’s (author Sober For Good) “Masters.” There is a sense of peace here. I have begun reading all the conference stories and see fairly new, but seasoned, sisters posting about their magical and delicious conference and they are shining! I am so happy for them.
Legs with her SolCatchers, Rainbow stretching across her own sky, Caveil moved beyond words every few minutes, Toots calling my cell saying, “I can’t believe ya’ll are there without me” and me saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t come!” I guess I will have to go get her next year! BeckySue appearing magically at the conference was a nice surprise, Blondie and her welcome group, quick to get us decorated! Puterduh feeding the multitudes of weary travelers, TG becoming the official coffee patrol, LilBear getting to chuckle at me in person, LauraMM hypnotizing me in our chat leaders meeting, signing these enormous underwear! Finding out I am Jill’s alter-ego, not knowing that 4crox meant 4 C Rox!, or saying Mize in Place instead of Mees in place, in Louisiana it would be Mize! I don’t think I have an accent! Creating my Mandala, during art therapy, representing my soul…myself, and the presenter saying, “I see you all over this mandala.” Late night talks, early morning coffee, lambie slippers, sitting at different tables with different sisters at every meal, all added up to a completely wonderful conference.
I know who I am, where I am going and that I make a difference in WFS. This is where I belong. I am Julie and I am a capable and competent, car.......and umm....... humph (what are those other two C’s?
“Lambie” on WFS Online Forum
Hello my Wonderful, Amazing, Loving, 4C Sisters… at 4 am on Friday, I was not going to make the conference. I was so full of anxiety that I actually had physical manifestations...and they were not pretty. When my ride called, I said I couldn’t possibly be ready on time, and she should, by all means, go on without me. She said she would not be my excuse not to attend. That if I wanted to go, she would wait. Thank you for that. I would have missed one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
My favorite moment(s) were Saturday evening on the dormitory patio. I “parked” myself on a bench for about four hours and just watched the world come by. I met and talked with so many lovely women in that four hours and it filled my heart with joy. I do not use the word “joy” very often as I feel it is such a pure and almost holy description of a feeling. But it was definitely a joy...especially my “foreign friends” from Canada, who had a bit of trouble with the American language. I absolutely had the time of my life laughing with you ladies. The Zumba trio was heart-lifting. I couldn’t dance with you physically, but my spirit sure was right there beside you. Yes, you made my spirit dance. Thank you, Islandgigi, for sharing your wonderful lighthearted self and talent with us.
A very close second was the closing ceremony and the fabulous woman that is “O.” What a presentation! She spoke directly from her heart, and it was evident in every second of her presentation. When we all stood to sing Helen Reddy’s, “I Am Woman,” I got misty-eyed and overwhelmed by the positive energy and the pure power of our Sisterhood...and I am not one who often gives into such emotion.
The Saturday opening session was just what I needed, laced with humor, making me feel like I was where I belonged. Humor is a major part of my life, and Rita Miller, using so much of it in her presentation, made me feel so at ease.
Every woman I met was amazing in her own way. I was blown away by the fact that there I was, among all these wonderful women, having the best of times without a single pill, joint, or bottle of booze in sight. Who would have ever thunk it?
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you to every woman (and “THE MAN”) who had any part in the planning and presenting of this awesome weekend. Thank you to every single woman who attended, for you made it exactly what it was. Without you, it would not have been the same as it was...and that would have been less than perfect. And perfect it was. Most of all, a thank you sent to heaven to Jean, for creating this sisterhood of beautiful 4C women. May God bless us, everyone.
“Babcia” on WFS Online Forum
Overheard at the Opening Night Ceremony
Cathy ~ Houston, Texas
My Trip to Sober Summer Camp
I’d like to invite you to join me on a visual journey of my experience at this year’s WFS Conference. If you know me, you might gather that I’m a storyteller, so brace yourselves as you’re about to get a “Stopa Story” in its finest form. I had arrived on Thursday evening with part of my face-to-face group in tow who were later dubbed the “Stopa-ettes.” (Whoever was responsible for that one, it was quite clever and I’m still laughing.) There were a total of 7 of us, all wearing our leis, and it was the first time attending for each of them. Some of them were really scared, just like I was at my first conference. I, being the capable, competent, caring, and compassionate woman that I am, assured them that they could stick right by my side the entire time if it made them feel better. I knew full well that they would feel right at home in no time, even if they didn’t know it yet.
Early in the morning, on the day we were heading to the hills, I had the bright idea to have a little procedure done on my arm since I had to have it done anyway and this way I wouldn’t have to take any additional time off work. By the time I arrived at the conference, eight plus hours later, I had a prize winning bruise the size of a cantaloupe on my inner arm and couldn’t move it. While I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting to be called, I had sent Blondie a text message to see what time she was arriving and asked her to sign me up for a massage “anytime around 7 pm” if she got there before I did. (I never got her reply message until arriving back home from the conference on Sunday evening.) The joke in the car was that there would be no stopping for potty breaks because I might have a massage at 7. As the 7 o’clock hour approached and then passed us by, they started teasing me that I had already missed my appointment and persuaded me into stopping to get gas and use the bathroom. (I’m not really that mean, as we stopped a few times and once was even for an ice cream.)
We finally arrived at the conference and two of my conference virgins (the two who were the most anxious about attending) were starting to check in while I was bopping around hugging everyone hello. I suddenly spot out of the corner of my eye, Sheena holding the massage sign-in sheet in her hand, and I quickly ran over to try and book myself for a massage before the rest of the weekend became all filled up. Sheena looks at me and says, “They are all booked for tonight already.” I was convinced that I had already missed my chance at getting in that evening because we arrived later than I had anticipated. Sheena says to me, “But you’re in there for a massage already.” I was shocked and thrilled at the same time and asked her what time I was booked for and she tells me 7:45. I looked at the college kid handing out the keys and asked her what time it was and she said it’s 7:42. I left my poor newbie’s there at the check-in table while leaving skid marks to Jackie’s massage room. I was stripped naked in about 30 seconds flat. Believe me, NONE of them have let me live down how I deserted them. We are all still laughing pretty hard as a group about it today. I don’t think I even left them the car keys to get their suitcases out of the vehicle. By the time I came out of my massage, they were laughing and smiling and had made a host of new friends while eating a plate of yummy food. I try to chalk it up to a lesson in self-care but they still tease me ruthlessly today.
Friday and Saturday were filled with more emotional hellos from old friends, the meeting of new friends, workshops, meetings, the Welcoming Ceremony, pajama parties in the dorm, Rita Miller’s speech, and lots of walking to and fro. By Saturday afternoon, I had noticed that I, along with a lot of other women, was on overload from all of the new information gained, coupled with the positive energy and affection which was permeating everywhere. My scared little face-to-face group had been flying around like little caterpillars, magically transformed into butterflies. They had been making an impact on a lot of the women who just adored them as much as I do. They must have been saying some really nice things about me as a moderator because I was flooded with comments from so many of the women about how we seem like such a great group and that they wish they had the opportunity to come to one of my meetings.
By dinner time on Saturday evening, I decided, “ask and you shall receive.” If you want to come to one of Stopa’s WFS meetings, you’ve got it. I was going to hold a casual bonfire meeting to unwind at dusk to discuss our conference experiences thus far. I had been walking around campus earlier in the day when I stumbled upon this area which looked absolutely heavenly. (For those of you who know how this story ends, pun intended.)
The pictures of this area do it no justice. It had three gorgeous fire pits, wooden benches, comfortable seating, tables, fire stokers, electric bug zappers, and a full supply of nicely seasoned, split logs for the fires, wedged in between gorgeous trees manicured with beautiful spring and summer flowers. I thought to myself, what a perfect place to hold a meeting. I hold my regular WFS meetings out of my home, and since I live in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area, nice weather is hard to come by. When we have a nice evening, I treat my ladies to a meeting by bonfire. They are some of the best bonding moments we’ve had.
I packed up my group in the minivan and we all headed over to University Center for dinner. They were feeling the same overwhelming feelings that I was feeling and seemed like they wanted to have a meeting as well to unwind and share their experiences with me and each other. However, I told them in the car that the rule for that night was that they were not allowed to sit with me for dinner and they were not allowed to sit with each other or anyone else that they had already met at the conference. Their mission was to find at least one new woman that they had yet to meet or talk to at this point and have dinner with that person or group of people. After the moans and groans, they did it and I felt like a little detective as I peeked around to see where everyone was while winking at each of them, giving them a knowing smile when I saw them all at separate tables facing fears and conversing with new friends. It was a cool experience for each one of us in the end.
At dinner, I sought out Becky to ask permission to hold an impromptu bonfire meeting and told her about the area I found to see if it was okay with her. She thought it was a great idea too and didn’t see a problem with it since it was right on campus. I started to spread the word that the meeting would be held at dusk and described where the area was.
Razz and I headed over to the spot while it was still pretty bright and early. We were equipped with Wal-Mart bags, one filled with leis for anyone getting laid at the meeting (the way my group celebrates milestones), one filled with fairly clean pink paper plates and napkins left over from the dinner to start the fire with, and another bag or two of small twigs we gathered on the way for kindling. Razz and I sat there with the fire started and waited. We were chatting together and admiring this gorgeous area, thinking out loud about how awesome it would be to have attended college there. If you’ve never been to the conference, it’s a campus surrounded by nature’s beauty. All of a sudden, we see another woman, wandering around lost, who asked if we knew which way it was back to the dorms. I directed her but then waived her over and said, but come join us instead, which she did. So, here sit the three of us women chatting away when all of a sudden, poof.....the entire area became lit up with lovely patio lighting all around us. We all looked up in awe. Next, relaxing music comes out of surround sound speakers set up in all of the trees surrounding us, and I am thinking to myself, “Whoa....I didn’t expect all of this too.” A few moments later, two older men and one younger man come walking out of the building, which is closest to this relaxation/fire pit area, and sit down at the middle fire pit. At first, they didn’t seem to notice us there, but I stuck my arm up in the air waiving and said, “Good evening, gentlemen,” and we carried on with our own conversation.
I start to feel like these three men were really staring at us, so I look back over at them and I was right. They were looking at us like we were from another planet. Okay, so Razz did have a HUGE sparkly pink butterfly in her hair and had pinned numerous crocheted teddy bears all over her shirt that our TeddyBearCuddle had handmade for conferences past, along with our decorated name tags hanging from our necks, but this heavy staring left a sort of coldness in the air. I stared back at them and began to make small talk about what a nice night it was, etc. It was so tense at this point you could cut through it with a knife. All of a sudden, I noticed that the one older man had a huge goblet of WINE in his hand!!! I started to panic and thought quietly to myself, oh no....this is NOT a good scene for a sobriety meeting...what the heck am I going to do now? I finally spoke up and said, “Um....are we allowed to be here?” and the older man with the wine replies, “Well...this is a private residence.” I swallowed hard and said “Oh it is???” in my dippiest blonde voice (because I was in such shock that my voice actually squeaked) followed up by a “but it was so inviting.” I figured it was better than saying, “But, but, Becky said we could. She said so.”
There was total silence. A long sort of silence which seemed like ten whole minutes and just at that exact moment, our little fire had gotten a whiff of air and the big log caught on fire, lighting up our three faces with its glowing brightness in the dusk night. I didn’t know what the heck to do next so I did what came naturally to me and said, “Well, would it be okay with you if we just stayed for a little while longer?” The three of them went into a football type of huddle to discuss what I just said and came back with, “I guess it would be okay for a little bit.” Poor Razz was wiggling in her chair like there was a lit ember under her butt because she wanted to bolt from the scene so badly. In addition, she has to use the bathroom. She announces that she’s going to start heading back. My voice morphed right into my mother’s voice when she would cover the telephone and say to my brother and I, who were punching each other when we were little, “You just wait until I get off this phone.” I looked at Razz and in that same voice said “SIT DOOOOOWWWWN.” She was not going to desert me after I just raided someone’s front yard, helped myself to their beautifully split firewood, and then invited all my friends over AND had just gotten permission to stay. I felt like Goldilocks and the men were the three bears who just came home to find me in their bed! We stayed about 10 minutes more and then headed back, laughing all the way. Razz practically ran back to the dorms, so she was ahead of us and, thankfully, was able to stop a pack of women who were just heading over to join us for the bonfire meeting. As I was walking back, I see my group along with a bunch of other women in a separate crowd also heading over to the bonfire meeting. I was able to deflect them by saying, “abort the fire meeting now and head back to the dorms!” They were so close to being right there and we were trying to make a very subtle exit when my group starts shouting out in their loudest voices, “WOW!!! Look at all the fireflies!” as I’m trying to shush them and explain what happened at the same time.
Before I could even get the story out to them while trying not to pee my pants from laughing so hard, Sheena was all upset saying to me, “This really stinks. I invited my new friend to the fire tonight. You told me I had to make a new friend at dinner and I did, and she said she was going to meet me here tonight.” At that point, I think I was in the fetal position holding my bladder. The next best line of the night was when Cindy, from my group, said to me, “Uh huh.....I see how it is. You tell US all in the parking lot, before the conference, to be on OUR best behavior and not to do anything to embarrass YOU and what do you go and do?” I think they were purposely trying to make me laugh harder so I would actually pee my pants. I never realized how funny my group really was until they were spitting out the sarcastic digs left and right. There was even the comment, “Gee Stopa....what were you trying to do? Give us our final test and take us miles and miles from home and stick us out in the woods with men drinking wine to see how we would handle it?” We had tears streaming down our faces from the laughter at this point.
I did finally figure out who the heck would have their residence in the middle of a private Catholic University. We had made ourselves comfortable at the home of the priests who lived there. Could you imagine coming home and finding a bunch of fun loving sober women who are high on life in your backyard, sitting around a bonfire? So, if next year, all of a sudden the annual WFS Conference is no longer held at DeSales University, you will know why.
“Stopanator” on WFS Online Forum
Editor’s note: I really didn’t have a clue where Julie was telling me she found a place for an outdoor meeting…I figured it was a picnic area for students and said that if it’s on campus grounds, it should be no problem…well, now we all know better! I think the priests forgave us since I didn’t hear a word about it from the college.
My first WFS Conference was in 2009 and I had such an amazing time that I promised myself that I would return every year. It was so wonderful that first time to feel that I had come home to my “tribe” of women, with whom I had an instant connection and bond, no matter our circumstances, age, lifestyle, or geographic location!
2010 was no different, except that I had another year of sobriety and recovery under my belt, with more and deeper tools to use with the routine challenges of life…like would my friend and I miss the opening ceremony because we weren’t able to leave Philly until 6 pm? I could have stressed and worried about it; but, I decided to focus on the positive of being with my dear friend and enjoy the beautiful drive (Statement #2 & #4) and lo and behold, we made it in time to hear everyone’s introductions! I am/was so moved by what the wonderful women shared about themselves and was so excited to be there that I blurted out my intro without saying where I was from or that I shared moderating duties with Leah in Boulder. Oh well, instead of being embarrassed, I used Statement #2 & #4 again.
This year I volunteered to help out in any way that I could with the conference and Becky asked me to facilitate the “Relapse Prevention” session, which I was happy to do. Ever the over-achiever, I prepared for the session diligently, talking to the Denver and Boulder groups about the topic and asking for their thoughts and experiences with relapse. I decided to rest after a quick lunch the day of my session. Well, I was so relaxed that not only was I running late (and was offered a ride by a compassionate 4C woman), but I forgot my notes, which I didn’t realize until I was setting up the room. Once again, I was faced with a choice--was I going to stress out about it? or do the best I could under the circumstances? Once more, I decided to go with Statement #2 & #4 (kind of my theme song these days). I was blessed with participants who had many years of sobriety experience and was able to rely on their wisdom. It was especially meaningful to have Janis Corbin in the session, who is a longtime Houston Texas moderator where Denise, who moderates the first group meeting I went to in Denver, got sober, so I felt an instant kinship with Janis. Plus, her thoughts on relapse prevention were the first article in the packet that Becky put together; it felt like the universe was working to support me, despite myself.
I could go on and on in great detail about other sessions, intimate conversations over meals, early morning walks, talks in the lounge at night, and full belly laughs over nothing, but I won’t. Come next year and experience the truly wonderful sisterhood of 4C women all on the path of recovery.
Paula ~ Boulder, Colorado
Well Sisters, I know all of you that were unable to attend Conference in person are dying to have stories about it. So here is my second most memorable moment.
Since it IS all about me…and I donated 4 of my SolCatchers to the auction, I was, of course, anxious to see what kinds of bids they would draw. On Friday morning, I dropped them off at the setup table and left them in the competent hands of the ladies working the auction. I spread them out, attached the descriptions to them (had a frame to go with the metaphor for the largest one). I gave the ladies there the amount that I would retail them for and then had to rush off to my first workshop. You know me – typical Legs, always running just a couple of minutes behind schedule. I told them I would stop by later to see if they had any questions.
Several hours later, after a very moving, uplifting, and connecting session with “O,” and a fantastic nap on the lawn under the shade of a big, majestic oak, I finally remembered I needed to go back and check on them. So I did. Imagine my surprise when I found out that ALL FOUR of them had been chosen to go in the LIVE auction!!! Wow…I had thought that maybe one would make it to the ‘big’ table but all four??? My anxiety took a little hop at that!
When the auction started, I was running around, making my silent auction bids…silently threatening anyone who looked like they might want to outbid me on that PERFECT gift item. Back and forth I ran…guarding the treasures that would soon be mine. And, of course – I was bidding on things on every table!
When Zeecha said the word “SolCatcher,” I froze. My heart leaped into my throat, my stomach went to visit my feet, the room swayed a bit and I could hear the blood rushing in my ears. It was time – time for that ultimate ‘test’ of my art. While I KNOW in my head – and in my heart in my saner moments – that my art is not me, that I am more than my art, that my art IS beautiful, all of that seemed to leave me in an instant. Zeecha announced the opening bid of $40 and thus it began.
She asked for $50, then $60, then she said “I have $80, do I have $90?” “I have $90, I have $100, do I have $110?” WHAT???? Did I hear that right? Well just so you know, at that moment, good ole Legs – the one who you all say is brave and strong? Well, Legs made a beeline for the door. I couldn’t listen…but…I had to. So I came back and hid behind the corner, peeking out, tears streaming down my face as the bids just kept going higher and higher. And, then, HIGHER still! Thank god for Teddy who came over to prop me up. Thank god for Slightly and Razz and QuietStorm and Saraday, and Susan and Rainbow and ItsANewDay and all the other great 4C ladies who wouldn’t let me “hide” alone.
It was at that moment that the power of this program really struck me. This was my art – MY art. Something that came from me, from my heart, given with love and hope and joy, being received with enthusiasm, love, hope, and joy. This little piece of me was going to go home with someone with whom, in some ways, I probably have nothing in common with. But in other ways – we ARE sisters.
This little piece of art – that would never have been had it not been for WFS and sobriety – was doing good yet again! It did my heart and my head and my soul good to bring life to those little pieces of glass – pieces of glass that were deemed “scrap.” Scrap, as in not good enough for use. Scrap, as in something to be discarded. Scrap, as in something that was flawed, broken…much like I used to view myself. I took those little pieces of “scrap” and with a little love, a little shaping, and some connections to other little pieces of “scrap,” turned them into something beautiful, unique, wondrous, and alive.
I believe that first piece finally sold for…. drum roll please…. are you ready? Are you sure? Because I sure wasn’t! That first piece sold for $270!!!!!
Altogether, the SolCatchers raised $1,180 for our beloved WFS. I cried harder with each successive piece that went home with another sister. Tears of joy – both at what it meant to me personally and what it meant to this organization.
So, that was my second most memorable moment. The first “most memorable” was making a true connection with another sister. For confidentiality reasons, I cannot expand on it other than to say that I was incredibly honored that one of our sisters chose me to open up to. She shared things with me that she had never spoken about to anyone before. I say honored because she trusted me with this information.
I was awed – simply awed by her courage, her beauty, her strength, her being. I was honored to be by her side as she took her first step toward healing. And healing is what this thing we call ‘sobriety’ is all about.
If you take nothing from this post, take this message: Healing is possible.
Peace and love and gratitude, “Legs”