January 26, 2021 (this day)

I’ve gotten my first dose of the vaccine! I’m grateful, and anxious that my mother hasn’t gotten hers. I hate it that people have to compete to get what they need.

My work place is still not open. My wife and I play hours of Animal Crossing…..

Some meetings have opened back up, but we continue to go to zoom meetings. I’ve gone to more meetings that way than I have in the past ten years, I think. I’ll be very happy if zoom meetings stay after the pandemic is over. I’ve gotten to know people and I’ve hopefully carried the message. I’m very fortunate.

….his case is not strange or different…(Step 4 continued)

At this stage of the inventory proceedings, our sponsors come to the rescue. They can do this, for they are the carriers of A.A.’s tested experience with Step Four. They comfort the melancholy one by first showing him that his case is not strange or different, that his character defects are probably not more numerous or worse than those of anyone else in A.A. This the sponsor promptly proves by talking freely and easily, and without exhibitionism, about his own defects, past and present. This calm, yet realistic, stock-taking is immensely reassuring. The sponsor probably points out that the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities. This tends to clear away morbidity and encourage balance. As soon as he begins to be more objective, the newcomer can fearlessly, rather than fearfully, look at his own defects.

One of the gifts of AA for me has been hearing the stories of so very many so very diverse people. This wide perspective has enriched my life in ways I can’t list or understand. And one of the principles of AA is that I am the same as everyone else. My details can be different, or they can be the same. It’s always a mix of both and I always have what is for me the most important characteristic in common with every alcoholic, and every alcoholic in recovery. This is part of what I understand to be the necessity, for me, of having AA to stay sober. I’m not strange or different. Not in the rooms.

December 20, 2020 (this day)

A friend at a meeting remarked, “In the past, I would have used over this.” In the present, I hear that as, “In the past, I would have killed myself over this.” I have to consider the seriousness of what I’m saying, thinking, feeling. I have to use the program to not reach that level of desperation anymore, not ever again.

Step 2

I was just at a zoom meeting where someone commented that we don’t need to rely on meetings, we need to rely on a higher power.

The higher power daunted me in the beginning, for sure. I still hold it as a very loose concept.

A different zoom meeting I attended read the second step from the 12 and 12 and I was convicted by this part, on page 30:

……we had substituted negative for positive thinking……this trait was an ego-feeding proposition. In belaboring the sins of some religious people, we could feel superior to all of them……..self -righteousness, the very thing we had contemptuously condemned in others, was our besetting evil. This phony form of respectability was our undoing, so far as faith was concerned. But finally, driven to AA, we learned better.

I’d like to think I’ve learned better, and maybe I have in that I can recognize it more easily now. But if I substitute conservative for religious – in belaboring the sins of some conservative people – I feel like I am back at square one.

The paragraph ends there, at “we learned better,” and it doesn’t give instructions for how to learn. Be my right size, I know. Many of the people I view negatively because of their political beliefs are certainly “better” people than I am, doing more good than I do, and possibly not viewing me negatively, the way I view them.

Trudging. The. Road.

December 6, 2020 (this day)

My AA and work life remain the same. Meetings open and close, my work place opens and closes. The virus is worse in my area that at any other time, though more things are open than were in March and April. I haven’t seen my mother in over a year, the longest time apart in my lifetime. I haven’t seen my daughter since July. That may be the longest time apart there as well.

I continue to mostly zoom with a small group of people five nights a week. People join AA who have never been to an in person meeting! This is hard for me to comprehend.

I do have a history with online meetings. I met my wife at one way back in 1996. Back then you took turns typing. It was tedious, but I did it mostly because I had small children. Once they were big enough to stay on their own while I went to a meeting, I stopped going online.

Now I wonder why, a bit. It’s super convenient. I would not attend a meeting five nights a week if I had to drive there, be there, then drive home. There was a time in my life when I was new(ish) to AA and I did that. That time is not now. I hope this online community is something that stays in the future, anyway. It will help as I have old me at home, rather than young children.

Otherwise……..people talk about post traumatic stress but I think we are still in the trauma, aren’t we? Let’s have traumatic stress and save the “post” for another day. Hopefully soon.

We May Clutch at Another Excuse (Step Four continued)

We may clutch at another excuse for avoiding an inventory. Our present anxieties and troubles, we cry, are caused by the behavior of other people–people who really need a moral inventory. We firmly believe that if only they’d treat us better, we’d be all right. Therefore we think our indignation is justified and reasonable–that our resentments are the “right kind.” We aren’t the guilty ones. They are!

Happily, I really haven’t been treated badly in my life. I mean I can and do blame my mother for stuff, but really I’ve had it very easy.

I can blame other people for causing my excess of negative emotion though.

My blog has seen me through several presidential elections at this point. I’ve been hopeful and happy and crushed. I’ve been privileged to say alcohol has not played a part if my coping mechanisms or celebrations since my very first election, when Reagan first won. As my grandfather had just died and I was at his visitation when I heard Carter had conceded, announced by my mother’s husband, well it all just fit…….

Now, I have trouble understanding voters on the other side of this debacle. I cannot understand them. I don’t know why mocking a reporter who has a disability was not a disqualified. I don’t.

I do understand that intolerance is a character defect of mine. It’s not pretty and it isn’t righteous. The behavior of those who support what I consider to be unsupportable can’t make me turn away from what is ugly and rotten in me. I am the guilty one. If they are, or if they aren’t, that isn’t my concern.

I was recently at a meeting when someone commented that, when making amends, apologizing for “my part” is really pointing out that you have a part as well. And that’s not what I’m here for. It is never about them, it is always about me. That’s the only thing I can change, so that’s the only place I can find real hope.

September 8, 2020 (this day)

And so it still goes.

It’s an incredible miracle and a blessing that people continue to meet on zoom. I have been lucky enough to go to a meeting just about every day since our meetings stopped meeting in person. I go to one in person meeting that takes place in a parking lot. I don’t know what will happen with that once it gets cold.

I honestly love the zoom. I love not having to leave my house. I love the intimacy of the meeting I attend. Since it’s held six out of seven days a week, I get the know the people so much better. We spend as much time each week as a weekly meeting would give in a month and a half.

The meeting is still anchored by my wife and I. Really by her. An interesting cast of characters has passed through and many have come to stay. We get newcomers and relapsers and people we’ve known for more than 20 years. The sobriety in the meeting ranges from more than 30 years to just a day or not even a day (I suspect some are drunk, or drinking, at the meeting but hey, I did that, and look at me now!).

It’s especially wonderful to have this community now. Our work places have opened up and shut down. My blood pressure has acted up and gotten better and gotten worse again. My mother shows up drunk on the phone with regularity. If I want to see my daughter, I need to take a COVID test. Which I understand. But still.

We’re all traumatized and experiencing trauma. An election is looming and I worry about my ability to cope with the outcome. I am so, so grateful for the foundation I have in AA, and for the continued support of the people in the rooms. And in the parking lot. And on my computer.

July 12, 2020 (this day)

Photo on 7-12-20 at 6.29 PM

Waiting for another Zoom meeting to begin.

The virus us surging in my area.  I’m still not back to work physically, though the constant trying to reopen our program is so stressful.  I have been to an outdoor meeting several times.  The weather is good, and I think it’s safe.  Of course I could be tragically mistaken.

Confession:  I love the Zoom meetings!  Except for a very few others I’ve attended my wife’s meeting every night at 7.  Pretty much every night!  It’s a small group, that’s probably what suits me the most.  But the lack of virus germs is a major plus.

I still don’t know anyone with the virus, and I haven’t heard of anyone in local AA getting it.  I can’t help thinking though that an indoor AA meeting would be a very likely place to spread it.  I’m extremely grateful that this has happened at a time when there is technology to meet without spreading germs, and that I have the resources to use the technology.

The small group has made it obvious to me how we so desperately need newcomers.  It’s mostly people with lots of sobriety.  These are the people we’ve known over time.  But when one or two new people are there it just focuses us on why we do what we do, what we owe, what we escaped.

Grateful I can go this mile.

Step 1

Unmanageable!

A lifetime or practicing powerlessness has prepared me, as much as anything could, for this moment.

My work will begin bringing people back into the building beginning July 8.  Our situation will be similar to a nursing home or preschool.  There may be some people we can’t bring safely back while the virus is in play.  We’ll have to see.  I feel more frightened of the virus now, like I did when we were shutting down.  I doubt my ability to go show up Monday through Friday, 8-330, even though I did it for 22 years and up until 3 months ago.  A line in the literature about being alarmed at the prospect of actual work comes to my mind.

I’ve attended the meeting in the parking lot a few times.  We hear of meetings in person inside but haven’t been to any.  We hear people do not wear masks or social distance.  This was my experience as things were shutting down.  We continue to keep the zoom meeting going and I love that.  I hope some stay permanently for many reasons.

I’m grateful for the concepts of powerlessness and unmanageability.  I just read Jack London’s book John Barleycorn, written in the 1920s about how he is not an alcoholic.  Alcohol wrecked his life and his body and killed him at 40.  The book is one long denial.

That’s an extreme example, and I learned early on that all that objecting too much pointed to one thing.  People who are not alcoholic don’t go around saying they are not alcoholic.

As I move forward in this unique and fraught time I keep those concepts in mind and it really helps me distinguish where to spend my mental energy.

At our meeting the other night we were talking about some negative topic.  Everyone talked about how we are frightened and angry and worried and sad.  Someone commented “we are not coping well, are we?”  And someone else pointed out “we’re not drinking.”  Admitting I have no power over that gives me the ultimate power to abstain.  I’m not fighting alcohol or anything else.  Except my own character defects.

May 9, 2020 (this day)

Photo on 5-9-20 at 10.34 AM

My desk chair I took from work to work at home and my work buddy for the past – six weeks?  I went into my workplace yesterday.  It was frightening and cheering both.  Through a government program the people I work with are being put back on the payroll even though we have no clients to serve yet.  It’s the present task to find things for them to do while keeping them safe, which means keeping them at home.

My wife has a zoom room and we’ve been meeting there nightly inviting any and everyone but not publishing it, so there are usually six or seven of us.  We usually spend one hour talking about some aspect of AA in relation to this present circumstance.

I’ll admit that zoom AA is something I will miss very much.  I attend in my pajamas, having had taken a bath before the meeting, after work.  Getting dressed and crossing the street for that weekly meeting now seems like a terrible chore.  Also, because our group is so small, I talk a lot, which I really don’t like to do in person, but on zoom the silence feels worse to me.

For the record, I still don’t know anyone who has gotten the virus.  It’s my experience, being in this strange bubble, and I’m grateful.  I fear the virus, and I see fear as a defect I should work to eliminate.  Not take crazy chances, but act responsibly and well and not out of fear.  Going to work was a much better experience than thinking about going to work.

I’ve been working at home on my father’s desk from around 1960.  He died when he was 33, in 1968, from alcoholism.  I’m sitting at the desk writing this now.  Had he lived, he’s be approaching 90.  I feel (though of course I can’t know – alcoholism made sure I can’t know) that he wouldn’t have imagined me here at his desk doing this in this day and this age.  He missed so much.