February 23, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0316Sometimes it’s really hard not to congratulate myself that my kids have turned out so well thus far.  I know I played only a part in it.  I know tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.  But lately my mother’s drunken shenanigans have made me wonder how I turned out as well as I did.


My daughter’s plans go forward for Greece.  My wife’s plans go forward for Alaska.  And my mother, who will also be going to Alaska, has one of her sisters, who will also be going to Alaska, not talking to her.  My mother is going to push the idea of counseling on her sister.  I wonder if her sister will push back with concern over my mother’s drinking.  Someone should take the log out of her own darn eye.


I’m grateful my kids will never know what this is like.


I have a fairly set pattern where I go to two meetings a week.  I like to vary the second meeting.  I always go to my “home” group if I’m at “home.”  I also like unnecessary quotes : )  Carole and I often go together but I don’t like the meeting she attends on Thursdays, and I’ve pretty much stayed away.  I’m thinking of going to one after work tomorrow near where I work, which would be very different for me.  Chances are I may not know anyone at all.  How interesting that this would take all this thought, all these years later.  I’ve been going to AA meetings longer than I went to school, more frequently than I’ve gone to church, more religiously than I’ve gone to the dentist.  It’s been worth it.

February 14, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0303A house in my daughter’s present neighborhood.


I’m chairing my meeting tonight, which means, among other things, that I arrange a speaker.  My speaker got sick and can’t make it, and in asking substitutes I am running up against some of the local AA “rules.”  The “rule” I would like to see enforced is “don’t say no.”  Of course there are no rules, just suggestions.


My theme for the next few months will be “worry.”  There is my daughter and her upcoming trip, and me and my upcoming trip.  I worry about death and destruction for all of us, and I worry about the things I leave behind, like my pets, job, and house.


Feeling like not a great example of longtime sobriety but really, without sobriety and AA none of this would have been possible.  My daughter would be in terrible shape if she lived through my drinking at all.  I wouldn’t have the money, time, or companionship to travel, and I certainly wouldn’t have the guts.  My alternate existence, if I had survived and not been institutionalized, would have been hunkered down, probably in my mother’s house, afraid of the world and not engaging it.


Today I have hope backed by experience that I have an excellent chance of minimizing my fears and living better tomorrow than I am today, which is pretty darn good.

. . . their faith broadened . . . (Step Two continued)

“All of them will tell you that, once across, their faith broadened and deepened.  Relieved of the alcohol obsession, their lives unaccountably transformed, they to came to believe in a Higher Power, and most of them began to talk of God.”


It’s a wonderful thing that, from seeing the miracle of sober alcoholics around me at meetings, I could begin to count myself among the lucky success stories, just for today.  From drinking to destruction, feeling like I couldn’t live one minute without it, to not drinking at all, and viewing it as poison.  The earlier analogy of making AA the higher power holds true and works out.  Following their directions and advice lead me to a miraculous reprieve.


Maybe that is “God,” whatever most of us mean by God.  Maybe there is a supernatural being controlling and directing, or maybe only watching.  Or maybe there isn’t.  It’s not critical to my sobriety today, it’s not critical to my peace of mind today to know the answer to that question.  I’m pretty sure I can never know the answer or the nature of God.  Does allowing that the higher power may not be supernatural make me an agnostic still?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  AA, wherever it came from and wherever it is, saved my life, and gave me an excellent quality of life, and that is the truth, 100%.

February 1, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0299It’s been almost a year since my daughter moved from a far away place to one even farther away.  Almost a year since my uncle died, at age of 60, from alcohol, and almost a year since his first grandbaby was born.  He never got to see her.


Now, my daughter is almost 30.  She’s a sobriety baby and she’s never been endangered by my drinking.  She had some rough patches growing up, and I’ve been worried about her probably more than I’ve worried about anything else in my entire life.  But she’s doing really well.  And she’s bought a ticket, a plane ticket, to go to Greece, because she wants to.  She’s going by herself, and she doesn’t speak Greek or know anyone there.  She will go for one week.  That’s all she can get off from her job.  To say I am worried would be a supreme understatement.  But, especially because I have such a long time to get used to this idea, I intend to really, truly do some definitive work on my character defect, worry, which as I understand it is a form of fear.


I mindfully worked on this and I did pretty well when I agreed to fly to Hawaii and back several years ago.  I’m afraid to fly.  This is a different kind of fear and while yes, it’s a “normal” kind of fear, I believe that I can and should continue to lessen my character defects, no matter how far away I am from a drink, and no matter how called for the defect may be.  I mean, any sane mother would be very worried in my place.  I make no claims on how I would react if something really bad actually did happen to her, but while it’s all hypothetical, I plan to attack this anxiety, this fear, and end up as serene as it’s within my power to be.  And once it all goes well I might even be able to admire a young woman who would do such a thing just because she wanted to, and think that her mother must have done something right.

Completely Giving Myself to this Simple Program


Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program . . .

I have recovered.  Does that mean that I can and did completely give myself to this simple program?


In many ways, I would answer “yes” to that question.  I have completely accepted the idea of abstinence that AA espouses.  I understand that I cannot drink anything, at all, no amount, not ever (though I abstain just for today).  I also accept that a drug is a drug and I abstain from all mind-altering mood-changing substances.  I accept the idea that I need to belong to AA and participate in AA in order to maintain my recovery.  I know that I have to keep living by the spiritual principles set down in the Twelve Steps.


Looking at it this way, I see that it is a simple program (though those steps sure contain some complex ideas, at least to my mind).  I also see that I have to give myself completely.  That doesn’t mean, to me, that I believe and embrace the program 100% of the time.  I mean that I can have doubts or waver, but not for long, and not long enough to drink.  But in my life right now, I really don’t have doubts or waver.  It’s a nice way to be.


When I do and give less than 100%, it always has to do with my thoughts and conduct in my every day life.  After being in and around AA for so long, I usually know what the right thing to do or think is in most situations.  I have to accept that when I don’t do the right thing, I’ve made a choice, and there are consequences, the least of which may be that it takes me longer to grow and I’m less happy than I could be.  After all, it’s still in the end usually about my happiness, even if I feel happy when I help other people.


That’s my understanding of completely giving myself to the program today.

January 19, 2015 (this day)

I’m worried about my daughter.  Now a big, huge worry.  She’s mostly OK, mostly great.  But not a tiny worry either.  She is having some life stuff go on, and she’s far away from me.  From everyone, really.  And I worry.


It’s disturbing to me how quickly and completely my mind sinks into worry.  It is, I am sure, one of the most useless, most corrosive emotions I can feel, and I feel it too often.  I “should” be better by now.


At my meeting on Saturday, the speaker asked for a blessing of sobriety.  I said this then, and I still hold it very dear.  Though I am worried about my daughter, and I’d like to not worry so much, she is not, I’m pretty sure, worried about me.  That’s because of AA.

A.A.’s Tread Innumerable Paths in their Quest for Faith (Step Two continued)

“This is only one man’s opinion based on his own experience, of course. I must quickly assure you that A.A.’s tread innumerable paths in their quest for faith. If you don’t care for the one I’ve suggested, you’ll be sure to discover one that suits if only you look and listen. Many a man like you has begun to solve the problem by the method of substitution. You can, if you wish, make A.A. itself your ‘higher power.’ Here’s a very large group of people who have solved their alcohol problem. In this respect they are certainly a power greater than you, who have not even come close to a solution. Surely you can have faith in them. Even this minimum of faith will be enough. You will find many members who have crossed the threshold just this way…


This worked for me.  As I have written, I was anti-religion and anti-God when I came in, but I was able to see that the people of AA were a power higher than me.  It was not suggested to me that I make a person, an inanimate object or anything other than the combined wisdom of AA my higher power.  I was never told to blindly follow any person, and I’ve never heard that suggested.  Making a rock (or some such thing) a higher power is ridiculous, and I can’t see how that would help someone stay sober long enough to begin to grasp the program and really heal.
As the text suggests, that is just a beginning.  I’ve come to believe that it’s a necessary beginning, and that anyone presenting him or herself at an AA meeting is not handling the alcohol problem satisfactorily alone.  Acknowledging a higher power, whether God or the program, is a needed step on the path to recovery.  A stubborn insistence that no power is greater than me is bound to keep me sick and getting sicker.


I went to a meeting last night and someone I see every once in a while, a few times a year, said, “You have long-term sobriety, don’t you?”  I said that I did.  “How much, if you don’t mind me asking,” he said.  “Thirty years,” I said.  “To what do you attribute that?” he asked.


And I was struck dumb (quiet) for a long moment.  Then I forced myself to start listing things, because it’s a question that deserves an answer.  I listed a few key things for him, but really, it boils down to not being complacent about my sobriety, ever.


I think of “complacent” as meaning lackadaisical and neglectful, but looking it up I see that it can involve being smug, or proud.  I cannot be lackadaisical, neglectful, smug or proud of my sobriety, the length of my sobriety or any other aspect of my sobriety, and it was bitter experience trying and failing to get and stay sober that finally convinced me.


I’ve been told enough times that if I don’t care for my sobriety and actively cultivate it, I will lose it.  Honestly at this point there are very few people who have gone longer than I have to tell me if this remains true over several decades.  It doesn’t matter to me anymore whether or not I have to continue in this way.  I want to continue in this way.  And even the slightest risk that I could go back is too much of a risk to take.  And for what?


So I listed several factors that I attribute my long-term sobriety to, but I made sure I included the only one I may believe in 100%, and that one is luck.