A quick update on “my” meetings in this place at this time.
Before covid, I went regularly to two meetings, one on Saturday night and one on Sunday night. Both shut down when everything shut down. The Saturday night meeting met outside during that first summer, then opened with restrictions put on by the church. Eventually the church lifted all the restrictions.
The Sunday night meeting went online and picked up people from several different countries, all by word of mouth. That meeting generated some strong feelings among participants, and some of the people who had been in person and then online left. It is now trying to go back in person, though the online version survives. The in person group is very slow to start up, and I’m afraid it might not make it.
The Saturday meeting is doing well with good attendance. The group is refusing to ask for masks or distance. The covid risk where we are is “extremely high.” The room where the group meets in extremely big. No reason to be on top of each other, but they are.
I remember when things first closed down, some of my non AA friends said maybe it’s not a good thing for AA meetings to close. I know that many never did close, and I hear, I guess, that there are meetings out there distancing and masking.
“To see how erratic emotions victimized us often took a long time. We could perceive them quickly in others, but only slowly in ourselves. First of all, we had to admit that we had many of these defects, even though such disclosures were painful and humiliating. Where other people were concerned, we had to drop the word “blame” from our speech and thought. This required great willingness even to begin. But once over the first two or three high hurdles, the course ahead began to look easier. For we had started to get perspective on ourselves, which is another way of saying that we were gaining in humility.“
Perspective on myself. I fairly automatically think these days about what’s wrong with me when I’m upset, even though pop psychology would have me ask rather what happened to me. Whatever it was the happened to me, it created plenty wrong in me. I’m sticking by that.
Thinking about leaving my job. This is no small thing. I’ve been there for 25 years. What keeps me there is probably fear, and fear is my number one defect. So I can be humble and say that I’m plenty wrong and very fearful. It is not what others do to me that makes me this way.
Erratic emotions. Unpredictable emotions? How do they victimize me? My answer in this moment is that they take too much mental space, keep me from serenity, reduce my effectiveness. Possibly even make me sick!
I need to think about humility and where to go next.
Generally what’s up with me. My mother visited for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years. I usually see her twice a year, once at Thanksgiving and once in the summer, but covid made us pause. My son is temporarily living with us as he’s having a bad break up. My daughter, who lives about six hours away, came with her husband and they stayed, looking for a house where I live in order to move back. So there were for a few days six of us in my house, plus two cats.
Some of my previous FB Thanksgiving posts note that everyone got along! They still do. I am so incredibly grateful that there is no alcohol in my house and no one drank at the house. No alcohol induced drama or sickness, no apologies necessary from anyone to anyone. The kids do drink, and I’m sure they did at their friends’ houses over this time, but no one got into a kerfuffle bad enough to get my attention as a result.
In my drinking days I would have been the one under the table throwing up. I took secret alcohol to family gatherings and drank all that was offered, which was a lot. Right before covid, my daughter visited my mother and said she would never go back to stay with her because my mother got so sloppy drunk. When I return from family functions that are held away from my house where there is alcohol, I’m always struck with gratitude at my next AA meeting where everyone is sober. Theoretically.
I heard a lead last night by a man who had many similarities to my own story. His father died from alcoholism when he was 7 (I was 6 when mine died). There were other things, but the difference is what caught my attention. I got sober at almost 22, he got sober three years ago in his 50s (guessing). So I was identifying with his story strongly, which is such a cool aspect of AA and meetings, then our stories departed ways in our early twenties, to come together again in our 50s, being together at that meeting, sober.
“To those who find no faith within themselves, I say no seed is so dry that it does not hold the code of life within it.” ~ John Updike
I (convinced my wife to ask) at a meeting about the “exact nature” of my wrongs, and was told that, come on, you know what you did. You know what’s wrong with you.
So I say I know I am frightened, lazy, a liar. I don’t take care of my body or my house or my job to the best of my ability. I waste time and money. I neglect things and people.
The gift of Step 5 that is uppermost in my mind is it’s insistence that I turn inward to find what’s wrong. What I’m wondering at this late date is how to use this anew to 1, make me more useful to others and 2, make me happier.
The man on the bed hears the story of Bill and Bob, and AA is born. This is a picture of a window in the Akron archives. I’ve been there a few times and it’s an amazing place.
I’m just back from two nights with AA friends and we told each other our stories. I told them how my mother’s husband called my wife a few days ago to tell her that my mother was drunk on the kitchen floor. My mother is 82. Her husband is 94. They live far away from me. He’s hoping she can move to be near me sooner than later.
Our group of friends ranged from the oldest of old timers to new women who have gotten sober for the first time during covid, at online meetings. It’s wonderful to gather with a group that won’t get drunk and sloppy and nasty and stupid. I’m home now waiting for my wife to have some surgery on Friday, then I have some on September 1. My main activator of character defects, my work, it still my main activator of character defects! At least there we have to wear a mask…….
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.
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 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.
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.