How persistently we claim the right to decide (Step Three continued)

But the moment our mental or emotional independence is in question, how differently we behave. How persistently we claim the right to decide all by ourselves just what we shall think and just how we shall act. Oh yes, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of every problem. We’ll listen politely to those who would advise us, but all the decisions are to be ours alone. Nobody is going to meddle with our personal independence in such matters. Besides, we think, there is no one we can surely trust. We are certain that our intelligence, backed by willpower, can rightly control our inner lives and guarantee us success in the world we live in. This brave philosophy, wherein each man plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet the acid test: how well does it actually work? One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic.

I vaguely remember wrestling with the God problem, because when I came to AA I was very anti-God.  I would hold hands but not say the prayers.  Things like that.  I was such a mess, and I wasn’t at AA because my intelligence and will power put together could do anything. My intelligence and will power up against alcoholism were powerless to keep my alive.

It’s an amazing experience to watch new people get it.  The degree to which they can go along is so often the degree to which they will be happy.  I struggle with that now, today.  I’m sure my intelligence and willpower still seek to control me in ways that are much less deadly than active alcoholism, but deadly none the less.  What kind of old-timer am I?  How much have I given over, and how much do I still withhold?

September 14, 2016 (this day)

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I’ve been trying to grow plants that my indoor cats will eat.  They like wheat grass, and I sprouted that, but everything else is a bust.  My previous cats ate every plant in the house, and my daughter’s cat a few years ago ate my “poisonous” poinsettia.  The cat lived.  I don’t mean that it’s safe at all to do that.  I know what doesn’t hurt one cat will kill another.  But anyway my current cats are finicky.  This pot held an old sunflower sprout they wouldn’t eat, and parsley they wouldn’t eat.  And a caterpillar they may have eaten but I didn’t take it inside.  I let the caterpillar have at the parsley because no one else was eating it.  What I don’t know about caterpillars could fill many volumes.  Like why it arrived in September, and where it disappeared to.

This all has nothing to do with sobriety.  My sobriety news is sparse.  My meeting marked its twelve year anniversary, so that way nice.  The attendance is down a little bit and that’s also nice.  We’re getting just over 20 people instead of just over 30.  I don’t like the book “Daily Reflections.”  They read it at a meeting I go to and it often confuses people or, to my mind at least, sends them off on a faulty path.  My mother is upset with her sister and so she drinks, and tries to make plans.  My kids have a sober mother and I’m so grateful that they don’t know this particular experience.  And those are random thoughts for sure.

The drunk who brought you in will take you out.

This means that I have to change.  Some fortunate people come to AA and get a little sober time.  For whatever reason, they are able to stop drinking.  Some to be sure get a sponsor, work the steps go to meetings…and drink.  Some do it again and again.  I did it again and again.

I had heard the expression, “If you sober up a horse thief, all you will have is a sober horse thief.”  Now I think the automobile reigned even in AA’s early days but the point is that unless you change, you will drink, just as you always have.  That dysfunction person that made you first darken the doorstep of AA is still there, and that person will drink again.  You have to change.  No one comes to an AA meeting because life is good.

Happily, the way to change is laid out in the twelve steps, so there’s that.  It’s a very difficult process, and life long, so only a very few very fortunate individuals get to stay and change.  The drunk who brought me in cannot take me out.  She doesn’t exist any more.

August 28, 2016 (this day)

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Vacations are over and Carole, as a teacher, will go back to work tomorrow.  Always and adjustment.  We’re still living with a little fear inspired by very minor vandalism inspired by our very big Hillary sign.  I always try to take these things as a lesson to be more compassionate toward people who have real problems, and to do something to help them.

We went to a church gathering yesterday and took a quiz about our spiritual gifts.  My top gift was MERCY.  Hm.  That was followed by writing and administration, then exhortation and service.  I can say that all these gifts have been given to me by sobriety and AA.  And, AA style, I looked immediately to where I scored the lowest and these would be music-vocal (not much I can do about that), then hospitality.  The people at the gathering said I am hospitable enough to their eyes but there are people I’ve known for many years.  I question how much I should push myself and how much is my inborn personality that will not be altered.  I NEVER enjoy meeting new people.  I know my objective is to not let them know this, to not make others uncomfortable because I’m uncomfortable.  How much should I seek to meet new people?

At meetings, of course, this is my context.  I being greeted by an uncomfortable but trying to hide it me better than not being greeted by me?  Can I let the extroverts socialize until over time people become familiar to me?  What is best for the blessed newcomer?

 

Suppose that Instinct Still Cries Out (Step Three continued)

But suppose that instinct still cries out, as it certainly will, “Yes, respecting alcohol, I guess I have to be dependent upon A.A., but in all other matters I must still maintain my independence. Nothing is going to turn me into a nonentity. If I keep on turning my life and my will over to the care of Something or Somebody else, what will become of me? I’ll look like the hole in the doughnut.” This, of course, is the process by which instinct and logic always seek to bolster egotism, and so frustrate spiritual development. The trouble is that this kind of thinking takes no real account of the facts. And the facts seem to be these: The more we become willing to depend upon a Higher Power, the more independent we actually are. Therefore dependence, as A.A. practices it, is really a means of gaining true independence of the spirit.

Let’s examine for a moment this idea of dependence at the level of everyday living. In this area it is startling to discover how dependent we really are, and how unconscious of that dependence. Every modern house has electric wiring carrying power and light to its interior. We are delighted with this dependence; our main hope is that nothing will ever cut off the supply of current. By so accepting our dependence upon this marvel of science, we find ourselves more independent personally. Not only are we more independent, we are even more comfortable and secure. Power flows just where it is needed. Silently and surely, electricity, that strange energy so few people understand, meets our simplest daily needs, and our most desperate ones, too. Ask the polio sufferer connected to an iron lung who depends with complete trust upon a motor to keep the breath of life in him.

Instinct and logic always seek to bolster egotism, and so frustrate spiritual development.

When I consider a character defect, or a way in which I think I should change, this is exactly what happens.  I’m grateful that I have the huge, miraculous example in my life of getting sober.  I can remember that instinct and logic fought my sobriety at every turn, and that it was an act of will to give up my will and do the program thing.  Now I try to apply that concept to my present difficulties which do not involve alcohol.

A list of things I’m dependent upon is long.  Along with electricity there is water, central heating, and all that goes into making food available to me since I could not feed and support myself without many complex systems and many varied people.  I depend on the police, firefighters, doctors, the list is really endless.  All this dependence makes me free to pursue things that don’t have to do with basic life support, like writing in a blog.  I also have the experience of working with people who have multiple, severe disabilities.  Some of them depend on others to give them a drink and for every movement they make.  My society at this time and place is incredibly supportive.

I had to depend on the program in order to stop drinking and live.  A crucial point of that was to understand that I couldn’t follow my own will any longer.  My own will was trying to kill me by driving me to drink.  My own personal logical experiments with drinking sanely did not work and nearly killed me.

Today, honestly, I’m dealing with a little bit of fear inspired by the current political situation.  My support of Hillary Clinton is making me a little bit of a target for some negativity and violence.  Instinct and logic are telling me, at the extreme, to move, and start my life over again as someone who doesn’t particularly care who gets to be president.   It is a complete and total coincidence that the portion of the 12 and 12 I was set to write about today addresses just this dilemma.  Spiritual development, here I come!

 

 

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.