More from Bill W’s birth place

IMG_0145Historical marker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0147The Wilson House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0150Historical documents and the story of the renovation of the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0151A somewhat creepy bust of Bill W.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0159The kitchen with many original features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0161Lois’ grave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0162The view from their graves.  Much more awesome than it looks here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0175Bill’s grandparents’ house, where he lived for much of his childhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0181A lamp that is always kept on in the room where Bill W was born.  Now I think that’s a little bit creepy, but I love the verse:

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.

~2 Corinthians

And of course I must love the camel.

 

IMG_0185One of the meeting rooms in the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, this was an amazing experience and I’m glad I got to go.  If you can only go to one place, though, I would recommend Akron over this.

I’m grateful again for all that happened there and for all the people who work to keep it alive and accessible.

July 31, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0168We went to Bill W’s birthplace, and grave, and childhood homes, and for me, it was profound.

AA is careful not to own anything and they don’t own these sites.  AA is also careful not to consecrate or hold places or objects as holy, and I’m grateful for that.  I won’t do it either.

But there is power in a place.

I have a few qualms with the way the Wilson house is decorated and some of the sayings and verses and things around, but I’m mostly grateful it was saved from ruin and very grateful I was able to visit.

I thought about these people as ordinary people.  There is the room where Bill was born (his poor mother), and the yard where he made his boomerang.  All these events had to happen the way they did in order for me to be here and whole at the age of 51.  I cannot help but feel lucky and grateful and some kind of power.

The Wilson house has a video about its history, and part of it says that people come there to thank God for working through Bill to save them.  So I will do that as well.  Thank you, God, for working through Bill to save me.

I really don’t know if Bill exists in some other dimension and has knowledge of me, or us, or what he did, but it’s nice to think that he might.

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Bill W. A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson (literature as a tool)

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Carole and I read this book together in the morning on days that I went to work.  We read just for a few minutes, so it takes us a long time to get through a book.  I chose this book because I truly enjoy learning more about AA, and I enjoy history.  Books like this can make me just a little bit nervous, because I don’t want anyone to get turned off of AA and also because I don’t want to learn things I’d rather not know.

I have to say that the author is a Bill W fan, and so am I.

Most of it is familiar territory.  The book covers a bit of Bill W’s family history before he was, and continues until his death with a few anecdotes about after his death.  Although the tone is very positive toward Bill, it does include negative things like his infidelities, his love of niacin and his inability to quit the thing that ultimately killed him, smoking.

What was new to me or more in-depth to me than I’d gone or understood before is the way Bill W stepped down from the head of AA and created a structure that has stood the test of time until today.  It’s amazing, but it’s dry stuff, and I needed every ounce of it to happen in order for AA to be there when I needed it.

One of the last paragraphs says ” . . . we can hardly imagine what the world would be like without him . . . ”  I can’t be anything but a fan because without him, I wouldn’t be.  I’m afraid my objectivity gets swamped every time by my gratitude.  And for that, I am grateful.

Willingness

I looked the word up, because I wanted to see what the dictionary definitions are.  I looked at one or two and I’m baffled.  They list meanings like “eagerly disposed” and other very affirmative things.

In AA my experience with willingness has been grudging.  I wasn’t willing to consider a higher power, to pray, to do lots of things they told me to do until I was completely beaten into the ground.  I became willing through hard, hard knocks and experience.

When I finally became willing, it was almost as if I was willing to try each and every thing as an “experiment.”  I know that I’ve heard recordings of Bill W telling us to  pray to a higher power that I may not know is there as an experiment, if nothing else.  That this experiment may bring about the desired result of belief.  “Willing to experiment” is hardly “eagerly disposed” or “cheerfully consenting.”

When I hear willingness discussed at meetings, it’s usually in the context of reluctance.  I have experienced a few lucky souls who showed up at AA very willing to take suggestions and change, but they are the minority in my opinion.  I was very, very unwilling to change and so six more years of drunkenness was my result.

My willingness today . . . I know I’m not so hard-headed as all that but I can be very stubborn and rigid and …… unwilling.  I’m going to think about that one and see if I can’t see my unwillingness in terms of a character defect that is here, now.

Tradition Twelve

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The last line of the text:

We are sure that humility, expressed by anonymity, is the greatest safeguard that Alcoholics Anonymous can ever have.

The oft misunderstood “principles before personalities” comes from here.  It does not mean, though it could, that because we are fellow ship wreck survivors, trying to work the program of recovery, we need to let go of and overlook the faults of our fellow AAs.  For sure, I love most of the people in the program just because they are there, but AA should not be, in my opinion, any kind of harbor for criminals or worse.

Over the past month I’ve read in the news about people arguing that anonymity is out-dated and needs to go.  On the one hand, they are right, I believe, that alcoholics in recovery do not need to be embarrassed by our present state of affairs, although I have plenty to be embarrassed about in my past.  But my status as an alcoholic in recovery is not of itself a shame-worthy thing.

Those people are missing the most important aspect of it anonymity, though.  First, they are NOT being humble, and second, they are risking the reputation and good name of AA by publicly attaching themselves to it.

THE GREATEST safeguard that AA can EVER have.  AA saved my life and it’s extremely important to me that it be there for people in the future.  Yes, for my children or possible descendents, but people unrelated to me as well.  I want it for the future of human beings more than I want nature or religion or culture or government for them.  Why would I take a chance with the greatest safeguard ever?

**************

I’m happy that I read the traditions and I’m very happy that I’m done with them for now.  The exercise has increased my knowledge and understanding and appreciation of the program.  Over the past few months, I actually witnessed (through the kitchen door) a slightly heated argument between two people at a meeting regarding the traditions.  It’s the only argument I witnessed at a meeting lately (because the time some, um, gentleman? tried to call me out at a meeting, I didn’t respond, and so, no argument).  It’s one of the only two topics I’ve seen in the news about AA (the other being the Toronto groups who edited the steps and still want to be recognized by AA – which probably is a traditions topic as well).

I was recently listening to a talk Bill W gave and part of what he said had to do with circumstances that came together in provident ways to bring the program into being.  These traditions are a whole other truck load of magic to me.

I love AA!

Cultish Aspects, Part II

More from Antonahill:

>Second, AA does NOT encourage members to leave society, but rather encourages them to become contributing members of it.

True (to some extent), but Scientology doesn’t encourage people to leave society completely either. This is a question of degrees. Is it possible to be in AA, be an active member, and have “normal” friends outside who engage in behavior that AA looks down on? Sure. But the fact of the matter is that the level of encouragement or discouragement that AA and its members levy upon certain behaviors is very much in a cult mindset.

“Normal” friends who engage in behavior that AA looks down on.  Well, being an active member, I would also then look down on those behaviors, wouldn’t I?  The truth is that many sober people, and speaking for myself, I find absolutely no fun or enjoyment in hanging out with people who are drinking or taking drugs.  Really it lost all its charm for me when I stopped.  At the beginning, I may have been vulnerable to relapse and so well-informed AAs would encourage me not to hang out with people who are doing the thing I seek to avoid.  This only makes sense.  Now, most days I am well beyond the danger of relapse and I have no desire to be around people who are engaging.  Once in a while, an occasion demands that I be around them, and this shows me again from time to time that this is not where I want to be.

At this stage of my life and my recovery, there really isn’t anyone who’s concerned about it if I should decide to go to happy hour with the people from work.  No one views this as dangerous for me and they neither encourage nor discourage me.  When someone is new in the program, it’s important that the newcomer experiences some sober time, to see if this will work for that person.  In that case, it’s very human to be tempted and to succumb, and so I, along with many other AAs, would discourage it and expose it as potentially dangerous.  We also suggest that the newcomer bring phone numbers and maybe another sober person along for support.  And you know what happens when someone doesn’t follow those suggestions?  Not a darn thing.  No cultlike behavior here.

>There are some lesser points that show to me that AA is not a cult in the negative sense. AA does not take financial control of a person, and is actually free to members, and discourages large donations made by individuals. There is not a charismatic leader.

I’ve already addressed this point, but yes, there are two. Any figure who is lifted onto a pedestal over the “regular” people can be considered a charismatic leader. In my experience, Dr. Bob and Bill W were treated as saints. Every word they had written was held aloft as divine wisdom. And so what of criticism? Plenty of cults, such as the Chabad movement, employ self-criticism.

OK so we’ll ignore the financial aspect, since AA is decidedly not cultlike in that way.  And that is not to be minimized.  Much of what we fear and dislike about cults, much of what is dangerous, is the way they take what ultimately matters, the money and property, of their adherents.  AA does not do this.

As for the sainthood of the founders, what they have written is certainly held aloft as wisdom, divinely inspired or simply divine.  Much more so Bill W than Dr. Bob, and personally I am always astonished and eternally grateful that the man had such a gift for writing.  I’ve heard plenty of criticism of Bill W and of some, admittedly few parts of what he has written, both in and out of AA.  It’s also been my experience that some AA members revere and try to interpret the AA literature literally, and try not to deviate from what they see as the exact written word.

I’m not like that, and I have had no problem getting on in AA with my liberal point of view.  To me, people who try to do this are like people who try to literally interpret the Bible, and I think both camps are missing the point.  Just as there can be fanatic and rigid Christians, there can be fanatic and rigid AAs.  In my experience, there are not many AAs like this.  But the fact that they exist does not negate the fact that there are many more moderate, thinking, questioning, practicing AAs than there are fanatics.  Extreme Christians would not make me suggest that Christianity is a cult.  Extreme AAs do not make me see the point that AA is a cult.

I thought I could wrap this up but there’s too much here.  More to follow.

Keep coming back!

March 2, 2009 (this day)

This day this week this month this year.

As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening at one point to a prayer over the phone.  The woman spoke of Jesus’ fast of 40 days, and how he would not turn a stone into bread afterward.  Just then, a very very very strange operator type voice said, “I’m sorry, zero is not a valid option.  Please try again.”  Right in the middle of the prayer.  I hung up in FEAR.

A few things are coming together as I approach my 25th sobriety anniversary, which will be, barring any unforeseen circumstances, May 1.

The regular stuff.  My daughter is living on her own, my son is in his junior year of college.

I’m most certainly having (no matter what the professionals say) perimenopause, on my way to the real thing.

My work situation has come full circle again, and I have to decide what to do about it again.  I have to decide to act, or to refuse to act.

My mother truly seems to be losing her eyesight.  She is 69, and lives with her husband, far from me.

I really need to change my name.  I have the name of my ex.  It isn’t an awful name, but it isn’t mine.  I hate my “maiden” name (as well as I hate that term).  My birth name.  It’s not attractive, and I have no connection to that family.  I was glad to give it up when I had the chance, and I don’t want it back again.  Which causes the dilemma of what name to choose.  I think it will be my grandmother’s “maiden” (birth) name.  The only thing that’s stopping me, really, is that it feels somehow embarrassing, like I’m taking myself too seriously, or doing something goofy.  Ego, that’s what it is.  My ego is stopping me.  But I’m going to do it.

I’m reading a book by Germaine Greer about the “change of life,” menopause.  I just started the book, but already I’ve loved where she points out that women of a certain age who spend tons of time and money trying to look younger, are trying to look like girls, and this is a sick thing.  She also says this is the time for me to plan the rest of my life.  She says that if something is lacking, there is still time to get it.

I want to get a certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis.  I have the means and the time, and if they’ll have me, I’m going to get it.  If not that, something else.  I want to go to school.

A while ago I was saying something goofy to someone, something about AA, and I said, “I don’t want to sound like Miss AA.”  A friend said, “Well, you are!”  So I’ll confess it here and regret it later.  At work today, I was taking a walk with someone.  This is someone who can’t take a walk without me or someone else giving him very close supervision, meaning someone has to be right there all the time.  I was turning some of this around in mind, wondering what I should do specifically with the work situation.  I have known for a long long time that AA tells me I am to serve God and my fellow human beings, that I am to be useful. In the past, at work, I have even voiced this exactly, that I want to do what it is that is most useful for me to do.  I sort of said to myself that I don’t know what is useful at this point.

Now that’s true, I don’t know what is useful.  I don’t know if some of my actions, for example, cover up the fact that someone else isn’t doing his job, and that this is a bad thing, because he won’t be found out and he’ll continue.  I don’t know if I should try again to make the situation right (according to my definition of what is right, of course).  I don’t know if I should wait to see what others think would be best, or if I should put my opinion out there, as someone who has been working there a comparatively long time.  I don’t know if the lessons of the past say that nothing changes – same song, different verse, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.

But standing in front of glass doors with streaming sunlight and a happy person who I was enabling to take a walk, I pictured for a second Bill Wilson himself saying something to me like, “Really?  You really don’t know if you’re being useful?”

So that’s really odd for me.  I’ll blame it on the fact that I’ve been reading As Bill Sees It every morning, so maybe I tend to think in terms of his voice speaking.  I hope.

I’m going to hit publish now before I come to my senses.  Zero is not a valid option.

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Let Go and Let God

This past summer I traveled to Akron, Ohio, to revisit the birth place of AA.  It’s in Akron that Bill W met Dr. Bob, and that together they formed the beginning of the program.  A woman of Akron, Henrietta Seiberling, introduced the two, and she remained instrumental in the founding and success of AA.  I don’t know if she came up with the saying, but I learned there that Let Go and Let God was a favorite saying of hers, and that she has it on her tombstone.

I’ve been exposed to the saying ever since I first went to AA, but hearing that it is on her tombstone revealed another layer of it to me.  Like any person, I suppose, I can get caught up in a fear and dread of death.  I guess it can be the ultimate Let Go and Let God situation.  Many people fight it, but none win.  And it does seem that God made us this way, to die and, to a certain extent, to fear and fight it.

There are so many letting go situations.  I have to let go of people, things, places, times, outcomes of situations.  At times it’s very hard for me to see when to let go, dealing with my children jumps to the front of my mind in that case.  Too much letting go of them is negligent, even at their advanced ages, I would think.

It’s hard for me to know what’s right in work situations.  To a certain extent, again, I am called not to let things go.  Remembering the phrase of Let God and Let God, I hope I’m better able to back off when I should without being harmful or negligent.  I’ve actually put the phrase on my bulletin board where I hope it will remind me.

I’m trying to use it as a big phrase, something that resonates beyond the tiny details of whatever situation I’m dealing with.  In general, God will handle or fail to handle our human existence and that of the planet and the universe.  Sometimes, the things I wrestle with will matter in five or ten years, but usually not.  Also, I cannot cannot control other people.  Sometimes I can be a bit of an influence, but that’s it, and it’s mostly by my example that I influence anyway.  What I do is more important than what I say.

Still More Akron

Dr. Bob and his wife are buried in a cemetery near his house.

Next to their headstone, a marble urn type thing is inscribed with these words. These are the “Four Absolutes” of the Oxford Group. It seems to me that the Oxford Group and the concepts of it get a lot more attention now than they used to. I just don’t remember hearing much about it in the past. A few months ago, there was even a special study of the group that went on in my area. I have no problem with it at all, I just honestly wonder what ‘absolute purity’ would look like. Not enough to look into it this time, though.

People leave sobriety coins at the grave. Last time I was there, I left my current coin, whatever that was. Here we left a “man on the bed” coin. One of our group left her 9 month coin. I left my 24 year coin.

I know some of this can seem cult like and bit spooky. I don’t mind. These people were real, and what they did, long before I was born, changed my life for the better and really gave me life.

We also visited the Gate Lodge, but didn’t take pictures this time. It’s where Henrietta Seiberling lived. She is the woman that got the call from the pastor that got the call from Bill W looking for an alcoholic to help. She arranged for Bill W and Dr. Bob to meet, which they did, in her Gate House.

I like the way my coin looks on that grave stone. The credit for my 24 years goes to him.

Akron continued

A room in the ……. I’m drawing a blank! This is the house next door to Dr. Bob’s house, which is also dedicated to AA history. At the left of the picture are some artifacts from Dr. Bob’s medical practice. Within the room are many many books, some photographs and other things.

This is me looking at some of the pictures of some of the first hundred members. Most of the books within these cases are not AA books, but rather are books that the early members used to study and actually develop the steps.

More of the first one hundred, as well as letters and other documents that were saved and preserved.

It amazes me when I think for minute what recovery must have been like for those early few. I struggled so, even with the vast network of people and meetings and books that were and are available to me. I owe an awesome debt to those people and their courage.

A painting of Bill and Bob.

The Mayflower Hotel, now a personal care home. It is where Bill’s business deal fell through, and where the bar and the pay phone both beckoned him. He called a random pastor, asking for a drunk to help, and from there was lead to Dr. Bob.

From there the series of coincidences is amazing, and goose bump producing. The personal care home allows AA visitors to enter the lobby where Bill made that phone call. There is a replica phone and phone list, and we sat for some time in that space. This time, with five of us on the trip, I really couldn’t think about it as much as I did seven years ago, when there were only two of us. I suppose it is a form of meditation to sit there and imagine the scene, and try to imagine myself in such a position, and to imagine all that needed to transpire in order for me personally to recover from alcoholism through the program of AA.

I have more pictures and I’ll continue with these next time. Now, though, something presents itself to me that I want to write down. It happens to me almost daily that coincidences occur that make me wonder if this is a higher power’s earthly influence. Surely the coincidences that occurred to result in the meeting of Bill and Bob seem to be just too handy to be real. It truly does seem as if there was a benevolent, guiding hand in all of it, making it happen.

OK fine. Let’s say that’s true. I just can’t wrap my mind around the pitiful drunks who died the day before this miracle. Why didn’t the higher power make this happen much, much sooner in human history? Why?

I understand this is a perennial question of human existence, and that I will not know the answer in my lifetime. And I do so appreciate the depth of what went on before me, and the fact that I benefit from it every single day. Even in the midst of my cynicism and doubt, I do get goose bumps at times. My emotional reaction is so strong, it causes my body to react.

I feel bad, in a way, putting these thoughts down together with pictures of that incredible, miraculous history. But I am, after all, trying to work the program in the 25th year of my recovery, in some new and deeper way. If nothing else, I hope this is at least honest.