The Spiritual Malady

Resentment is the “number one” offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease, for we have been not only mentally and physically ill, we have been spiritually sick. When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.

 

I have always felt that resentment was not my “number one” offender.  I think, for me, it’s been fear, and a kind of resentment turned inward.  I see resentment and fear and part of the same thing.  I do experience resentments though, for sure.  Just not quite as often as fear.

This quote, from page 64 of the Big Book, precedes the fourth step inventory.  It’s saying to me that if I can dig out my character defects, I can stay sober and live well.  And from where I sit, with 34 years of sobriety, I can stay sober, and I do live well.  I live at least well enough to stay sober!

The promise that when my spiritual malady is overcome, I will straighten out mentally and physically….well.  Again, it is all true and all well as far as it goes.

Although I’m well enough, I’m not all well, and I do believe that the program and the steps still have promise of better living for me.  I read this passage, and a bit about it, and then I went to a Quaker meeting and sat silent and still for an hour.  I pictured my character defect of fear as a root that does deep within me, that I can dig out and destroy almost entirely.  A piece will always be alive, I know, but it can be a very small, tiny piece, one that doesn’t play an important part in any day of mine.

I am not spiritually, mentally, or physically “straight,” or well.  In fact physically things are tending to trend downward at my age.  But I can still do more to be more straight and well in each of these areas.  I hope the fourth step I’m working on will be a step in that direction.  This passage spells out that the spiritual comes first, before the mental and physical.  I’ll try to keep that consciously in my mind as I go forward, especially when times are tough and I’m having an excess of negative emotion.

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January 26, 2019 (this day)

cropped-retirement07-015.jpgLooking back over my photographs for something to share here that tells what I’m up to, I found myself linked to all the pictures I’ve posted on this blog since I began in 2009.  I realize I used the passive voice there – “I found myself linked to.”  I know it’s not magic but it’s technology beyond my understanding, and so “I found myself.”

This image is the first I ever used, I guess.  I took it from inside my car when the car was covered with ice.  It seemed like an artsy metaphor for drinking and the danger of drinking, the hopeless nature of alcoholism and my own triumph, for today, over the bottle.

I’m blessedly not facing any new challenges today.  All is well in my little world, at the parts I see clearly.  The weather still does challenge those of us in my part of the world, but I’m still capable of dealing with it.

This brings to mind a story.  I’m driving a Dodge Charger, and not because I want to.

In November, I bought a new car.  This is an event for me, because I have been able to pay cash for my cars by saving money every pay period for years on end.  So I traded my 2011 with 90,000 miles for a new one, and all was well.

A few weeks ago, a shingle blew off of our roof and landed in the yard.  We called the roofing company that had put the roof on several years ago.  In an unrelated event, someone up the street from me called the fire department because they smelled smoke.  Eight fire trucks responded (8)!  Happily, there was no fire but there were eight fire trucks and their attendant firemen all over my street.

Roofers call, they can come over in 15 to check the shingle.  They arrive, and put a ladder up, the the two men climb up on the roof.  Inside my house, I hear a crash.

I went out the front door and some firemen were in my driveway.  I asked them if everything was OK and they said, “I guess so.”

Ladder had blown down while the guys were on the roof.  One roofer JUMPED off the roof (with 40 firemen present to help, since there was no fire to fight) to get the ladder and thank goodness he wasn’t hurt but, when the ladder blew, it hit my car.  My less-than -3,000 miles on it car, and it did almost $3000 worth of damage.

Carole says I’ve handled it well.  Honestly, the biggest surge of negative emotion I’ve had over it was the first night, before I knew what would happen with insurance, etc, when I was too worried to sleep much.  Worry.  Hello worry, my old friend.  I came to dance with you again.

The insurance, etc, has so far been very easy.  I do not love the Dodge Charger but it’s getting me where I need to go and keeping me warm so, gratitude.  And another example for the continuing fourth step.

Spiritual Axiom (page 90 12 and 12)

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us.

When there’s something wrong with me, there’s something wrong with me.

This idea has been a linchpin of my sobriety, something absolutely vital.  The Twelve and Twelve goes on to explain that even when I’m all right, and the other person or circumstance is completely wrong, I still need to get over it and find serenity in order to practice the program and live well.

There are examples throughout this book and the Big Book of times when life can be very very hard.  Here it says what if I’ve been cheated?  Elsewhere the books mention having a marriage proposal turned down, or losing a son in war.  These are tough and terrible things.

The idea if I’m disturbed by them there is something wrong with me seems wrong.  If I’m not disturbed by them, there’s something wrong with me!  What the concept means in my life today is that I’ve got to walk in the direction of getting over it, whatever it is.

This spiritual axiom (which means, by the way, something that is true) appears in Step 10 and is meant as part of the spot check inventory taken when daily events cause negative emotions.  A rejected marriage proposal or a son killed in war would obviously take more time and work to get over than a staff shortage —

I searched through my blog and I found when I had written about this before, almost ten years ago.  Back then short staff was causing me anxiety and so, one decade on, it still is….

So, freshly trying to apply these principles to all of my affairs, it has been good to revisit and reread and retry to understand.  When other people are wrong, which they frequently are, I’m to remember that I am often wrong as well.  I am to forgive them.

It is also here where the phrase”progress, not …. perfection” is used.  Jealousy, envy, self-pity and hurt pride are also listed as triggers for bad behavior.

When I look at myself in these situations, I have some hope of improving and changing for better, and so being happier.  When I look at others, and the wrongs they are doing to me or to the universe, the only chance I have is to become more angry or depressed or self-righteous.  I can’t change the other person or the universe.

(PS – just before writing this, I called my senator to tell him what I think about an issue at hand)

Before Tackling the Inventory Problem (Step Four continued)

Before tackling the inventory problem in detail, let’s have a closer look at what the basic problem is.  Simple examples like the following take on a world of meaning when we think about them.  Suppose a person places sex desire ahead of everything else.  In such a case, this imperious urge can destroy his chances for material and emotional security as well as his standing in the community.  Another may develop such an obsession for financial security that he wants to do nothing but hoard money.  Going to the extreme, he can become a miser, or even a recluse who denies himself both family and friends.

There’s something somewhere.  Maybe further along in this step?  Where we who have escaped such extremes congratulate ourselves, or something like that.  Right now, I’m looking for the “world of meaning.”  I recently went to a meeting where they discussed Step Five, and I thought then that the “exact nature of my wrongs” has changed drastically since I stopped drinking.  The “wrongs” of the active alcoholic are a world away from those of a sober alcoholic.  Thank goodness.

I’m not so much trying to understand what I did wrong between 34 and 40 years ago when I was for most intents and purposes a child of sorts.  I’m trying to understand what I do wrong now, in old age and in old sobriety.   The sex maniac and the miser aren’t ringing any bells for me.  I need to get a better handle on the low level procrastination, mid level fear, high level sloth.  These are my basic problems.  I think.

December 15, 2018 (this day)

This………month?  I think that last month is probably the first time I didn’t write here for an entire month.  Yet, everything is pretty much the same.  Seeing that I’m being a terrible corespondent I feel like looking back on the year 2018 since I probably won’t make it back here before the calendar changes.

If all goes well I will not have had a drink or drug in 2018.  I had my 56th birthday and my 34th AA anniversary.  I have been with my wife for 21 years and we have various anniversaries with that.  My children turned 33 and 30, and my daughter got married.  I’m at my same job, have my same two cats, am at my same house and AA meeting and all is well.

I have spent the past two years being shattered by politics, and I can’t say that’s gotten any better, but two of my chosen candidates did win their elections so that doesn’t feel completely hopeless.  Along those lines I spend $20 a month on the New York Times to support them and to be informed (although the article I read today was an update on Octomom, it still supports the Times).  I subscribed to The Atlantic, The Nation, The New Yorker, and I read around a bit in them.  I read We Were Eight Years in Power, Night Comes to the Cumberlands, Their Eyes were Watching God, What Happened, Barracoon, American Rust, The Audacity of Hope, Clotel, Shattered, and The Underground Railroad – all to better understand what has happened and is happening with the country.

Related to AA and my identity as an alcoholic I read The Story of Mrs. Murphy and The Lost Weekend.

I gave a small bit of money to candidates and other organizations I wish to help.

I experienced 2018 as another bonus year, one I didn’t deserve to live to see given my self destructive behavior in the past.  I spent it as a sober alcoholic, and in that I consider myself among the luckiest people who have ever lived.

Spiritual Awakening

I didn’t post in September and that’s probably the first whole month I missed since I started.  Just starting to to address the topic of spiritual awakening seems daunting, but I decided to give it a go and to edit it as I got.  So I’ll add to it until I feel done and then move on.

 

First, what a promise!  What a dividend!  I cam to AA to learn how to drink without causing havoc.  Because I am an alcoholic, that wasn’t possible.  That was an awakening of sorts.  Maybe the “spirit” is the opposite of the physical, of the real, but I feel that mine took a giant step forward when it finally admitted the reality that I cannot chemically alter my reality safely, or with any kind of positive outcome.  But anyway it seems to me like an amazing offer.  Stop drinking and have your spirit awakened!  To be continued.

August 29, 2018 (this day)

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I’m being fairly successful, for me, in continuing to bring my character defects to mind and to think about how they hurt me and others.  It’s a good time for this at work, since we are deep in the midst of “not enough” staff and that is so very hard for me to handle.  Politics also gets stickier and more frantic as we approach another election.  My character defects that come into play with “not enough” staff and anything political are vicious and strong and I am certainly powerless over them on my own.

Day to day, Carole and I have joined a gym and we’re actually going.  My character defects around that are, mostly, self-consciousness/shyness/introvertedness and sloth.  And gluttony.  I’m shy, fat, and lazy!  Life is, truly, good.