But in AA we slowly learned (Step Four continued)

But in A.A. we slowly learned that something had to be done about our vengeful resentments, self-pity, and unwarranted pride. We had to see that every time we played the big shot, we turned people against us. We had to see that when we harbored grudges and planned revenge for such defeats, we were really beating ourselves with the club of anger we had intended to use on others. We learned that if we were seriously disturbed, our first need was to quiet that disturbance, regardless of who or what we thought caused it.

I find this to be a bit old-fashioned and male. I hope I don’t play the big shot, it’s really not my style. I also don’t think I turn people against me on anything like a regular basis. Turn them off, maybe. It all sounds to me like what business men do when business men do business.

I do know something, however, about resentment, self-pity, and unwarranted pride. And unfortunately I am at times seriously disturbed. The step goes on to talk about erratic emotions. These excesses of negative emotion that we hear about again in Step 10 are a signal to me to think about my character defects. What in me can’t stay calm no matter what’s going on? Why do I revisit, again and again, fear, worry, anxiety – especially why, when nothing is actually terribly wrong?

I’ve learned to quiet the disturbance sufficiently to stay sober and also sufficiently to live calmly and happily most of the time. I give more mental time and space to things than I want to, though. I’m grateful today that the road map of the steps points me toward a solution that may really work. It tells me to get better.

July 10, 2021 (this day)

I was having a bit of writer’s block, so I looked back to the first image I had posted here, 13 years ago, in 2008. I took this picture through my windshield after an ice storm. I still think it represents how I felt before I got sober. Thirteen years ago I started telling my story here, my drinking story. The sober story is less dramatic and at times I feel like “this day” holds no interest to me or to others. I took the title “this day” from the Lord’s Prayer, intending to chronicle in a way the sober day of a long-sober person.

So this actual day. I work Monday through Friday so I have this day off. It’s cool here, in a place that can often be hot this time of year, so my wife and I walked on a river trail for two miles. That’s about all I can stand on this day. I have knee problems, foot problems, endurance problems. But I’m healthy. Tonight we’ll go to our in person meeting and not, I hope, hold hands. The virus is low in my area.

My AA friends and I made it through the pandemic this far. New people have joined us and I feel it now more than ever, how the presence of new people gives life to the meetings, the program, my sobriety. My wife and I have gone to a few other in person meetings. We sit less than six feet apart for more than 15 minutes and it makes me nervous. But it’s really good to hear different people say different things. We became rather insular this past year, and we made it through.

My health concerns continue and in a week and half, I’ll be getting hearing aids. My hearing loss is mild but my tinnitus is awful. I’m hopeful the aids will help it, but I don’t want to be too disappointed if they don’t.

Every morning before week, we listen to “Writing the Big Book.” It’s long and little boring and a little sacrilegious. “Worshipping the book” has always worried me, and Big Book thumping turns me off. At the same time the pending revisions of the Big Book worry me and I’m grateful my relationship with the books has been so long. Living in sobriety through multiple additions is an extreme blessing.

Step 4

What’s wrong with you?

Why won’t you take the time to learn Word Press?

Step Four, made a fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves. This is where we list character defects. This is where some people object that I am not defective. In today’s enlightened world, we are are to ask, “What happened to you?” rather than, “What is wrong with you?” I am to ask this of myself. This is where instincts on the rampage balk at investigation.

I have done several formal fourth steps. The idea for me is that I have every character defect to some degree that every other human being has. That these defects have caused all of my problems, the most serious problem being my alcoholism, because that nearly killed me. I have to name what’s wrong (what happened?) before I can effectively address is.

The literature tells me that my instincts have gone astray and overboard. I am, after all, an animal, one that seeks security and comfort and to go on indefinitely. The birds may not worry about obtaining food but they sure will fight for it when I fill the feeder. Where have I demanded more than my fair share? Where has fear crippled me when I’m afraid I won’t have enough?

This past year changed my concept of how vulnerable I can be even as I have had every need filled and more resources than I can ever use.

Now I demand answers, and none or forthcoming. I want a diagnosis and a treatment and a cure for everything that ails me even as I understand I’m privileged as few people have ever been, to reach this age in this health with all the things I bring to it.

And still, the thing that degrades my quality of life that I can control (if I ask god to remove it?) is gluttony. Overeating. Overweight. And fear, of course, and worry.

May 23, 2021 (this day)

My meeting has made masks optional. I do not approve! A few people wear them. The virus continues to go down in my community, so hoping it’s all for the good. We learned that the language of the preamble will change soon. We won’t be “men and women” but “people.” Still a fellowship, though, no sisterhood yet.

I’m struggling still with physical stuff and anxiety about it all (about the physical stuff, the virus, work and…..etc). I’m now seasonally depressed, as the sun is beating and it’s over 80 degrees. My least favorite weather.

I don’t have much to say about any of it, really. I’m continuing to turn it over by going to the doctors and doing what they say. Looking forward to a time when physical stuff and anxiety don’t intrude into every moment.

….we needed to change ourselves…(Step 4 continued)

The sponsors of those who feel they need no inventory are confronted with quite another problem. This is because people who are driven by pride of self unconsciously blind themselves to their liabilities. These newcomers scarcely need comforting. The problem is to help them discover a chink in the walls their ego has built, through which the light of reason can shine.

First off, they can be told that the majority of A.A. members have suffered severely from self-justification during their drinking days. For most of us, self-justification was the maker of excuses: excuses, of course, for drinking, and for all kinds of crazy and damaging conduct. We had made the invention of alibis a fine art. We had to drink because times were hard or times were good. We had to drink because at home we were smothered with love or got none at all. We had to drink because at work we were great successes or dismal failures.. We had to drink because our nation had won a war or lost a peace. And so it went, ad infinitum.

We thought “conditions” drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct those conditions and found that we couldn’t to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions, whatever they were.

It’s the last sentence that I want to focus on as drinking is far behind me, but conditions still abound, and change, and demand that I change myself. And changing myself is still a struggle.

My body is giving my difficulty in a long list of ways. I could do my usual gratitude list around this, and that list is extensive, but I’m going to skip it. My list of conditions I need to meet, however: ears ringing, hearing going, headache, neck ache, chest ache, hips and back ache, knees shot, feet arthritic, high blood pressure, irregular EKG? Overweight. Changing myself: losing weight (actually doing it, must continue), going to doctors, going to PT, starting yoga, monitoring my blood pressure, refraining from monitoring my blood pressure, exercising (a bit), agreeing to talk to a therapist.

I have work stress I won’t get into as it involves other people, some of whom are innocent. Let’s say serving adults who have intellectual and development disabilities, with staff who make $11 an hour, in a pandemic, is a condition I must change myself to meet.

As this is Step Four, which is a personal inventory, let me list a character defect or two that is hindering my personal change to meet conditions. For one, I’m lazy. I DON’T WANT TO MEDITATE. Confessions of an old timer. I have never been good at this. I say I’ll try and I don’t. It’s somehow easier for me to submit to yoga than to meditation. And my old friend fear. All of these conditions are shot through with it, the corroding thread (that’s somewhere in the Big Book).

So, onward. The direction is clear. The instructions are there. Writing this post at 730 in the morning, before work, is a feeble effort on my part to move forward in a more constructive manner. I would have otherwise spent the time engaging my fear around my body and my work.

March 31, 2021 (this day)

I had a companion working from home today.

I have been extremely privileged to be employed and safe through all of this. My program is actually open on a limited basis, but like lots of folks it has been found that I can do some parts better from home.

My meeting has been open for a few weeks. We wear masks and sort of distance. We made it! We’re still zooming meetings also. It amazes me how life goes on and AA goes on. A year ago I really worried about it (character defect, stop the worry). AA found a way.

Step 3

There are a few things on my mind (in my worries) that are in and out of my control.

My work is reopening. There are many details that go along with that, but uppermost in my mind is the fact that they expect me to show up. Five days a week. It’s been a while…..

Medical tests. Routine, but I’m older than I’ve ever been. I’m unhealthier than I’ve ever been.

Meetings opening. Visiting possible.

So. Did I make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God? My lengthy sobriety tells me that I did. So I’ll go forward. With the work, with the tests, with the life in the receding shadow of the pandemic. There’s some comfort in the forward motion when I realize it is not initiated or sustained by me.

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.