A Drug is a Drug

*******Disclaimer!  This is my opinion only!  I don’t speak for anyone else, any organization, and I have no training or education in medicine or psychology!*******

Sometimes I feel like the only unmedicated person in my world.  I take no prescriptions and not much over the counter anything.  I have no chronic conditions that require medications yet, aside from annoying allergies.  I’m sure there’s plenty wrong with me, and that a doctor or psychologist or psychiatrist could find lots to medicate.

It’s my own personal experience that I have to remember the terror of not being able to stop drinking.  When I experienced that somewhat sanely, it was terrifying, and that’s what it should be, for someone who wants to live.  It’s hard to remember, decades later, but it was dramatic enough to stay with me, and that’s part of what has kept me sober.

I have dental problems and I have to go to the dentist every three months.  I haven’t had laughing gas for years, but I used to get it regularly.  Every time it hit my central nervous system I decided that as soon as I was done, I was going to go drink.  That drug effected me dramatically, because I have an alcoholic brain.  Every time I came down from the gas I returned to my senses and did not go drink, but that experience tells me it’s right there, waiting to grab me again.

I had Demerol in labor, and whatever they give you to put you under for surgery.  Pain pills after surgery, and that’s pretty much it for me so far.  I know I could legitimately get a doctor to prescribe something for my pain, my anxiety, my sleeplessness.  I may do that some day.

But I can name many people who went out after using legitimately prescribed and needed drugs.  It can happen, and sometimes I’m sure it’s not the fault of the person who does it.  We can’t all have our medications held by someone and doled out to us as prescribed.  And taking things as prescribed has also lead to relapse.  It just has.

It will be a bit of a surprise to some people that the spirit of AA is that is a person takes a mood-changing, mind-altering drug that has not been prescribed and/or is not needed, that person is not considered to be sober in AA, even though he or she has not taken a drink.  But that’s the way it is.  These drugs change our mood or our mind and so we are not sober, and will probably soon drink.

July 8, 2016 (this day)

IMG_0492I don’t have much to write about today.  I don’t comment on current events because I don’t now much about them.  I don’t watch or read news when I can avoid it.  I find the local news to be stressful in that it mostly has to do with fires and murders and other bad things that happen to people.  I feel, really, that I don’t do enough to improve the state of things.  I work with people who have multiple, severe disabilities.  That is not enough.

Regarding my program there are two things on my mind.  One is that I’ve tried to help a young lady who is worried about her daughter in a way that I used to worry about my daughter and, at times, my son.  I suggested to her that she give the issue several  quiet minutes a day.  I remember that as I worried about my daughter and dealt with her issues day to day, I tried all the time to keep gratitude up front.  My friend and I have some of the best resources in the world available to us.  We have great support systems and we have hope that our daughters will be independent and happy, at least some of the time.  Remembering these facts helped me get through.

My second issue is a character defect of mine I’ve been attacking.  Attacking!  Something has been bothering me, and I don’t know why, and I might at times even blame those pesky female hormones.  As I seek to overcome this character defect, at least as much as possible, I’ve looked up prayers about it and read about it and I keep deepening my understanding of it and resistance to it.  I want it to be removed, as much as that is possible, and I’m willing to work for that.

Maybe this all Sounds Mysterious (Step Three continued)

Maybe this all sounds mysterious and remote, something like Einstein’s theory of relativity or a proposition in nuclear physics. It isn’t at all. Let’s look at how practical it actually is. Every man and woman who has joined A.A. and intends to stick has, without realizing it, made a beginning on Step Three. Isn’t it true that in all matters touching upon alcohol, each of them has decided to turn his or her life over to the care, protection, and guidance of Alcoholics Anonymous? Already a willingness has been achieved to cast out one’s own will and one’s own ideas about the alcohol problem in favor of those suggested by A.A. Any willing newcomer feels sure A.A. is the only safe harbor for the foundering vessel he has become. Now if this is not turning one’s will and life over to a newfound Providence, then what is it?

So here possibly lies some of the key to my early chronic relapsing.  It took me six years of drinking and attending AA to finally achieve a sobriety that would last.  I didn’t feel AA was a safe harbor.  Although I believed that the sober members were telling me the truth.  I believed they had been just like me and that through following the program they had achieved sobriety, I was not completely sure that I could.  And I held on to a tiny straw of hope, for the longest time, that although I knew I was alcoholic and that alcoholism always gets worse, I would learn to drink successfully.  So I didn’t entirely give my will concerning alcohol to AA.  Almost all matters, but not completely all.  And I did intend to stick.

Now I’m writing this blog with 32 years of sobriety and counting.  I want to work and rework these principles in my current, sober life.  I suffer still from many disturbances of my peace of mind.  They are nothing like they used to be, and when I was drinking that disturbance was quickly bringing me to my death.  No, sobriety gets better and sobriety is worth it.  If I didn’t have sobriety, I wouldn’t have the life nor the ability to grapple with my current state of mind.

Day to day, alcohol is not an issue for me.  Character defects are.  I cannot completely surrender and abstain from anger and fear, anxiety and jealousy the way I can from alcohol.  There is no religion that would guide me thoroughly enough to give the rest of my life over to it.  There is in me, after all the time, still the hope and faith that by continuing with the program I will continue to improve.  Just grappling with this one paragraph of this one step of this one book has hopefully brought me closer to that ideal me I want to be.  Maybe this is mysterious – impossible to explain.

June 25, 2016 (this day)

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Back from vacation which presents challenges physical, mental, emotional and spiritual!  No more time to watch turtles cross the road unless I take time away from my doggie and travel a bit from my home.  Leaving the pets, especially the dog, is a huge stress for me and as soon as I’m back I’m worried about the next time I have to leave her.  The worrying is a character defect, for sure, and as she and I get older, I am more in its grip.  I also worry about the effect my worry has on my relationship, as my wife is much much more keen to travel and to leave the dog than I am.  And all the while I realize I am so blessed to have this special old girl with me still to worry about, as well as people to care for her while I’m gone.

I came home with many bad bug bites, and one swollen lymph node, which may or may not be related to the bug bites.  The doctor said to come back with the node if it’s not gone in a month.  Three weeks and one day to go on that.  It’s smaller but still there.  And the tops of my feet have been sore, which Dr. Google is very unhelpful in diagnosing.  The doctor checked my feet out and said they’re not broken, etc etc, but would do an x-ray.  I said I’d look into that next month if, when the lymph node fails to unswell, the feet still hurt.  I don’t do well with doctors.

I had to say goodbye to mother and I had to go back to work.  I have to deal with hot weather, and the responsibilities of my home group which is mostly a joy but can feel like a burden.

AA away on vacation made me grateful for my own little corner of AA again.  It always does.  We went to three meetings and saw mostly the same people who had to travel distances we do not have to travel to get there.  I’ve been spoiled in AA my whole life and I doubt I’d be able to gracefully put up with the same small cast of characters at every meeting.  Or, more likely, I’d have had to grow in tolerance in ways I haven’t had to, given the plentiful AA community I’ve always been a part of in all the places I’ve lived.

While we were gone, a member of our local AA community died unexpectedly at the age of 61.  He had only a few years sober, I’m not sure how many.  He was sober, a certain victory.  This always makes me conscious again of the miracle of my long, long sobriety and entire adult life spent sober.  It also makes me think that it’s never too late to get sober.  Going to the funeral parlor, I’m sure that his last years with his family were much better than they would have been had he kept drinking.

I have so much to be grateful for.  This post lists just a fraction of the things.  Vacation, home, pets, wife, mother, job, AA, meetings, health, health care, weather, computer, internet, blog.

Drinking Occasions

Our literature is clear that if we have a good and right motive for being around people who are drinking, and if we are on a good spiritual footing, we can go without fear of drinking.  But, it says, if our sobriety is shaky, we’d better work with other alcoholics instead.  In my world, this would usually mean “go to a meeting instead.”

I can’t get away from alcohol.  I don’t have it in my house, but it’s just about everywhere else.  The literature says something about having to go to the North Pole on an iceberg, or something, but that even there, I could encounter the demon rum (or other alcoholic beverage).  In my best frame of mind, I have a neutral attitude toward the stuff.  Or maybe I can say I should have a neutral attitude.

I don’t attend drinking occasions if I can possibly help it.  I don’t go to happy hour.  I don’t go to wine tastings or beer tastings or anything else where alcohol is the primary activity.  I choose not to.  I am not afraid I would drink at these things, but since I don’t drink, I really don’t want to watch other people do it for any amount of time.

A few years ago one of my cousins’ had the most elaborate wedding I’ve ever been to.  Not only did the alcohol flow in many forms for many hours, most of the food was also cooked with it.  I didn’t like that aspect of the wedding.  I didn’t like watching my relatives drink, and it had a really bad effect on one of my aunts and one of my uncles.  I think that wedding would have been much much better alcohol free.  My wedding was alcohol free, and no one threw up passed out or missed any part of it due to drinking.

In my early sobriety, if I was truly worried about being around alcohol sometimes I didn’t go.  It’s not worth my life.  If I went, I either took someone from the program with me for support or I made plans ahead of time to call people from the program at certain times during the event, just to check in.  This would be much easier to do in this day of personal phones than it was when I had to find a use a pay phone.

It’s unfortunate but true that I just don’t like drinking occasions now that I’m sober.  Sometimes I sit in a meeting and try to imagine all of the people there drinking as they once did.  What a miraculous gathering a group of sober alcoholics is.  How fortune am I to be one of them.

June 15, 2016 (this day)

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I had to consult a calendar to know what day it is.  I’m on vacation!  These signs were leading the way to a meeting I tried to go to.  Carole and I scoped it out, but when only four or five men showed up for the meeting, we decided not to go.  Now we have no doubt that we would have been welcomed.  We know we would have been.  And I have no doubt that if either of us felt in danger of drinking, we would have gone.  But we didn’t feel that way.  The next night we found a bigger, mixed meeting, and we went there, and all was well.

Vacation is a huge stressor for me.  There are many things I “worry” about, and anxiety is maybe my biggest character defect.  There many things I like about vacation as well, and this one is turning out to be a beautiful one.  I still have a mother, grown children, and an old dog to leave at home, and they all have the desire and the means to get together while I’m gone.  My wife and I still want to travel together (still, after 19 years).  There’s no one I’d rather go with.  I hope she feels the same way.

AA can be a major activity for us on vacation.  I’m so fortunate to share this with my life partner.  It always makes me feel grateful that it’s everywhere I want to be.  It also makes me grateful for AA in my area, because I places I go never have as many people or meetings as my home town does.  AA away is always different, but the same.  As Carole and I were waiting to see if the second meeting would pan out, I started to read a story from the big book to her (against her will) just to give us some semblance of a meeting if it turned out to be just the two of us.  The story was by the man who started AA in Canada.  His drinking in 1924 was exactly the same as mine was in 1978.  He got sober, and so did I.  Miracles, both of us.

This Step Looks Hard (Step Three continued)

To every worldly and practical-minded beginner, this Step looks hard, even impossible. No matter how much one wishes to try, exactly how can he turn his own will and his own life over to the care of whatever God he thinks there is? Fortunately, we who have tried it, and with equal misgivings, can testify that anyone, anyone at all, can begin to do it. We can further add that a beginning, even the smallest, is all that is needed. Once we have placed the key of willingness in the lock and have the door ever so slightly open, we find that we can always open it some more. Though self-will may slam it shut again, as it frequently does, it will always respond the moment we again pick up the key of willingness.

I remember being comforted by the thought that all I had to be was willing.  I still am comforted by that.