IMG_0554I recently heard that if you have a close associate who has lost weight, or quit smoking, your chances of also doing so are greatly enhanced.  I believe it.  I was unable to quit smoking while Carole still smoked.  When I quit drinking, I was in a (terrible) relationship with someone who was not an alcoholic and who would refrain from drinking around me to help me.  I then got involved with my ex, who was also sober in AA.


So now Carole and I (also my work partner and I) struggle with eating right, and so often we drag each other down.


But in just about every other way, I do believe we are good for each other and bolster each other and support each other and succeed together.  I know it is that way for our long-term sobriety in AA, at least for today.  Without looking up the meaning, I’m taking “codependent” to mean “too dependent,” and there probably isn’t a way to live in a marriage with at least some of that.


As well there is unfortunate truth to the notion that a wife and mother will have a hard time being happy if everyone else isn’t happy, especially with young children.  We should be peaceful, knowing we’ve done our best, but if our best isn’t good enough, there won’t be peace.


AA helped me through the years with all of that.  It gave me endless resources of sober people to guide me and make sure I didn’t go off the rails with anything, relationship-wise and with my children.


And now, Carole and my work partner make me more friendly, and I make them more the thoughtful.  And the three of us need to lose weight.

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September 8, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0558I just got home from a meeting where the topic was today’s Daily Reflection.  I don’t like that book.  I also really wonder about blogs that repost today’s gift from Hazelden.  If I wanted to read today’s gift from Hazelden, I would.  Those blogs clog up the ‘alcoholics anonymous’ feed.


Anyway the Daily Reflection had to do with ‘complete abandon.’  I thought about ‘abandon.’  Giving up completely.  Ceasing to take care of or look after.  Completely leaving.  Somewhere in one of the books it says “abandon yourself to Him.”  Abandon myself.  I was so very bad for myself that I had to abandon myself in order to stop killing myself.


Today, as far as my relationship with alcohol, I will call this abandonment a success (just for today).  Today I didn’t drink it.  I went with God’s will rather than my own will, as an alcoholic.  Although since many many years have passed since I last drank alcohol, I do believe my own will conforms for the most part to God’s will in this matter.  I will never think it’s safe for me to drink again (God willing).


But there are other ways in which I have not abandoned myself to God’s will as completely as I finally did with alcohol.  I still “take care” of myself in many ways, and my will doesn’t get closer to God’s will and doesn’t conform, and my mind doesn’t get changed, and my brain doesn’t get washed.  There are character defects that make themselves known to me many times a day, often many times an hour, and I still don’t do what I know very well I “should” do.  I’ve come to think of that “should” as a sort of voice of God.  When I know what I “should” do I know what the right thing is, and I very often fail to do it.  Even though my one complete abandonment (maybe two, counting cigarettes) has gone so well, improved my life, and given me life itself.


I wonder what Hazelden’s gift for today is.

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A Death in the Family by James Agee (Literature as a Tool)

I had no idea when I started listening to this book that it had anything to do with drinking and alcoholism.  I knew that it’s a story about a boy whose father dies when the boy is six.  I was six when my father died.  This book won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction so I thought I’d give it a try.


The writing is poetic and beautiful.  The voices of the characters seem authentic, from the six-year-old boy’s younger sister to his grandmother and in between.  Because my father died when I was six, I have some understanding of what that’s like, though of course my memories aren’t very long or detailed.  This child noticed different things than I noticed, remembered different things, and understood things differently.  It was very good.


I was astonished part way through by the description of the feeling of wanting a drink.  This, by an older character, not the six-year-old boy.  It was an excellent telling of what that feels like, and the rationalizations that go along with drinking alcoholically.  I actually asked Carole to listen to it, it was that good.


There’s also a question of whether or not the death was caused by drinking, and that’s an important question.  Today I imagine we would mostly know if alcohol was involved, but back then they may not have investigated that, or reported it if it was indeed a factor.  It was the factor in my father’s death, though that didn’t get made public, I don’t think.


When I finished the book I looked up the author and found out that he died young, like his father.  He has been described as a “hard drinker.”  The book brought together those elements for me in a way that is not like what I experienced, and yet it also is like what I experienced.  It leaves me with a sense of gratitude that in my own personal legacy, I have broken that chain.

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August 31, 2014 (this day)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s me, years ago, on the sixth step of Dr. Bob’s house.  I understand it was a contrived thing to give the house twelve steps, but no matter, the symbolism is wonderful.


Today would have been my grandmother’s birthday, and I do believe she would have been 111 years old.  When my uncle, her son, died last March, the witnesses to my last drunk were gone.  My grandfather died when I was 18.  He never knew the sober me.  He knew the child me, and the drunken me.  My grandmother did not understand my last drunken episode (so far) for what it was.  She thought I was being hyper-emotional, which of course I was, and she looked at it as a good thing, which of course it was.  But not for the reasons she recognized.  She died when I was five years sober.


My uncle died when I was 29 years sober, and I don’t know if he understood my last drunk for what it was.  I never talked to him about it.  I have to live with knowing that I could have made a difference, and I did not try.


I’m trying with other people’s aunts, though, the ones who present themselves at AA meetings and ask for my help.


Helping others.  When I am privileged to be at the scene of what I hope is someone’s last drunk, my sobriety is strengthened in a way that no other experience provides.  The drunks are often apologetic and sorry for wasting my time.   As I watch time go by in this way, my gratitude grows, my acceptance of my condition grows, my diligence about my sobriety grows, my acknowledgement of the miracle grows.


And I so hope that these desperate drunks change from my “go visit when relapsing” category to “call and include when visiting someone in relapse.”

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Non AA-Approved Literature


The house next door to Dr. Bob’s house in Akron Ohio is filled with books.  Books they used in early AA, when they were forming the program, before there were any AA books.  My little corner of AA is generally afraid of books that aren’t A.A. approved.  A confused newcomer, the thinking goes, could be turned off by one of these books, given the wrong idea about AA, driven away to drink and die, all because of a non-approved book.  Groups are afraid even to use, it seems, the “original” text of the Big Book because it is not, alas, AA approved.


I’m an extreme liberal when it comes to books, no doubt, and if someone talks of banning it I try to make sure to read it.  But in AA I’m afraid that using only “approved” books narrows our world and cuts us off from our history.


Carole and I read non-approved books that helped form the program.  We learn a lot about the history of AA and the concepts that helped form it.  For me, after 30 years of sobriety and 36 years of attendance at AA meetings, these books add interest and depth to the program and they help me understand it more completely and love it more dearly.  These books didn’t hurt the program when it was starting, they helped it, and I believe they can help it now.

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Came to Believe (Step Two)

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


The moment they read Step Two, most A.A. newcomers are confronted by a dilemma, sometimes a serious one.  How often have we heard them cry out, “Look what you people have done to us!  You have convinced us that we are alcoholics and that our lives are unmanageable.  Having reduced us to a state of absolute helplessness, you now declare that none but a Higher Power can remove our obsession.  Some of us won’t believe in God, others can’t, and still others who do believe that God exists have no faith whatever He will perform this miracle.  Yes, you’ve got us over a barrel, all right–but where do we go from here?”


I was extremely fortunate at the beginning of my AA experience that I saw with wisdom in the concept of making the group my higher power.  I cringe when I hear people say were told that a doorknob or a rock could substitute, in the beginning.  I have never heard this suggest nor condoned.  The group, I believe, is suggested as a collection of people who have solved their alcohol problem.  In that way, they were a power far, far greater than me.  I understood it and I accepted it.


I had turned away from the church in a big way and at first I didn’t pray with the people at meetings or pray at all.  Not until I was desperate.


Now it seems to me that the belief in a higher power is necessary for newcomers to stop thinking they know everything, and that they can run their own lives.  We show up at AA because we are desperate for help, then we refuse to accept the help offered because we can do it ourselves.  Such is often the dilemma of the chronic relapser, a group I belonged to for a long time.


So now, oldtimer that I am, having had the alcohol problem removed from my life, how do I let my higher power restore me to sanity?  I think of it in terms of other physical things that bind me and make me unhealthy and unhappy.  I stopped smoking ten years ago now after many many attempts and partial victories.  I battle food now in a way that really isn’t very sane.


I also have to record that my little corner of AA suffered yet another loss, though this time the gentleman was older than the aforementioned Shaums, and this time he was sick.  He died sober, a victory.  They show me I can hope for this, and that is amazing.

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Clarity of Thought

IMG_0516The difference between clear thinking and drunken thinking is vast, and one of the first reward of sobriety that I experienced as clear(er) thinking.  Not only did alcoholism distort everything thought I had when I was under the influence, it also dominated my thoughts on the rare occasions I may have been more than halfway sober.  I always knew how much I had, where I had it, what my plan was for getting more, for getting enough.  I stayed in a terrible relationship and barely scraped through at school or any job I had.


Once I became sober for what would turn out to be a good long time, I was better able to work on the brainwashing that is the AA way of thinking.  And I use the word “brainwashing” with the utmost love and respect.  My brain was in desperate need of a wash.


The way I see it now, all the things that being active in AA mean worked together and over time to clear my thinking.  They still do, though the results are less dramatic as time goes by.  For me AA provides a plan and a map to follow, and it gives me the unlimited help of people who are being successful at it to guide me through my everyday life and huge events that I experience.  I understand people and things better than I ever had, and it’s not because I read a book or took a class or paid a therapist.


And if anyone reading this knows the answer to this question, please tell me:  What does the “Think Think Think” slogan mean, and why do we put the sign upside down?

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