August 29, 2015 (this day)

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Trying to send PDFs to my Kindle to read somewhat comfortably.  I feel like I’m always trying to do the next thing with technology.  If I could go back ten years I could work it all perfectly.  Instead I know the technology exists to allow me to read PDFs on the Kindle, so I try.  With so-so results.

My life is mostly back to normal, though soon I have to (get to) travel again to see my daughter for her 30th birthday.  Her life has been one of the most complete miracles of mine, and, for the purpose of this blog, an extreme gift and miracle of sobriety.  I won’t take tons of credit.  I deserve none, in a way, because on my own I was incapable of sustaining my own life, forget about creating and nurturing another (and another – not forgetting my son but he’s not turning 30!).

Our meeting will have its birthday while we’re gone and Carole and I cannot remember if it will be 10 or 11 years old.  This is abominable, given the history buffs we can be.  We kept no record and just don’t know.  I wonder if I can go back in my checking to see when we first paid the church and the local AA office.

There are a few people from that time who still attend, but not many.  Some attenders and members of the group have died, some because of alcohol.  The church itself is in danger of closing and that would be a shame.  I’m not sure what would happen to the meeting then.  We started it on Saturdays because there were no early Saturday meetings in our area, and because we needed something to do Saturday nights.  Many people have shared since then that in early sobriety it became a safe place for them, because Saturday night can be a danger zone for alcoholics.  I can’t relate because I drank every day (and night), but I understand, and I’m glad.  And sorry to miss the anniversary.  And glad the meeting is healthy enough for the celebration to go on without us.  And grateful beyond measure for what we’ll be celebrating at the same time.

Plumb Disgusted with Religion (Step Two continued)

Another crowd of A.A.’s says:  We were plumb disgusted with religion and all its works.  The Bible, we said, was full of nonsense; we could cite it chapter and verse, and we couldn’t see the Beatitudes for the ‘begats.’  In spots its morality was impossibly good; in others it seemed impossibly bad.  But it was the morality of the religionists themselves that really got us down.  We gloated over the hypocrisy, bigotry, and crushing self-righteousness that clung to so many ‘believers’ even in their Sunday best.  How we loved to shout the damaging fact that millions of the ‘good men of religion’ were still killing one another off in the name of God.  This all meant, of course, that we had substituted negative for positive thinking.  After we came to A.A., we had to recognize that this trait had been an ego-feeding proposition.  In belaboring the sins of some religious people, we could feel superior to all of them.  Moreover, we could avoid looking at some of our own shortcomings.  Self-righteousness, the very thing that we had contemptuously condemned in others, was our undoing, so far as faith was concerned.  But finally, driven to A.A., we learned better.

This paragraph describes my attitude to some degree.  I was only 16 when I first went to AA, and I was only just past being confirmed in the Lutheran church against my will.  The hypocrisy of that drove me away far and fast.  Yes, I could see that the Bible and the people were full of nonsense.

I didn’t spend too much time feeling superior to them, and I’m grateful that pretty quickly I understood the AA concept that these people I was criticizing were some of the best and brightest in the world, ever.

I still have a huge problem with the “book of rules” that comes with most religions.  I really don’t understand how some people can go along with organized religion.  Say a creed, for example, and profess to believe every part of it.  I just don’t get it.  Good thing for me I don’t have to get it, and I can attend AA with those church people and with atheists and everyone in between, and we can all keep each other sober, sharing our faith, whatever that may be.

August 11, 2015 (this day)

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A picture from a previous vacation.  I’m on vacation again, and trying to lessen my vacation anxiety, which finds many objects to attach itself to.

I went to one of the smallest AA meetings I have ever been to on this vacation.  There were two people there aside from Carole and I.  They said that they were trying to build the meeting up again.  We had a meeting of sorts for a while.  Carole and I have looked at the meeting list for this area many times, and I’m struck by how few meeting there are and how far people have to travel to get to them.  I’ve probably shared this before, but I’ve lived in several places in sobriety.  Five actual distinct areas, one of them very rural and some distance from a very small city.  But I have always had abundant, nearby meetings and so I’ve really had my choice.  I’m always grateful, but at times like this I’m super grateful.  AA without a choice of meetings like that is something I have never had to deal with.

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Decision Making

The AA way is to pray about it, meditate on it, and discuss it with trusted advisors.  It hoped that we might get an intuitive thought about which way to go, what to do.  It is promised that even if we make the wrong decision, we will learn from it and grow.

What a healthy way to look at things!  One of the things I appreciate most about AA is that it gives me these clues and this plan.  In most of my regular life, I don’t like indecisiveness and will try to make a decision one way or another quickly, if possible.  When I think of difficult decisions I’ve made recently, deciding two years ago not to go to Alaska then deciding one year ago to do it comes to mind.  I didn’t really pray, meditate, or talk about it much, mostly because I knew the right thing to do and I knew what was standing in my way, namely me and my character defects.

And some decisions really are bad, and cause suffering.  Given that, I understand the sentiment to be that we need to go on and do better next time.

Also this brings up the questions for me:  what is prayer?  What is meditation?  To be continued…

July 23, 2015 (this day)

I have never lived alone, and that’s actually making me feel a little bit ……less than?  I have often been home alone, though, from a time when I was too young to be until now.  I really enjoy the feeling of having no demands on me for a time, although I do have the demands of the pesky job and pesky critters.  But in between, lots of unobligated time.  When these times first occurred they made me antsy.  I had moved from living with my mother to living with my ex.  I had gotten pregnant and had two children and it was years before I spent a night without them, but it eventually happened.  At those time, all those many years ago, drinking sometimes occurred to me in a way it didn’t at any other time.  I think sanity had returned to me at least in knowing that if I drank with the children dependent on me I was risking their lives and their health.  I knew that they would find me passed out and incapacitated.  But with them gone……   I’d think about it, very briefly, and happily I never went beyond that and tried it.

And all these years later, the thing that is going to give structure to my weekend home alone is my AA meeting.  The week days will taken care of by the aforementioned job.  And, when I’m not there, the critters (three cats, one dog).  And Sims.

Life is good.

The Intellectually Self-Sufficient Man or Woman (Step Two continued)

Now we come to another kind of problem:  the intellectually self-sufficient man or woman.  To these, many A.A.’s can say, “Yes, we were like you–far too smart for our own good.  We loved to have people call us precocious.  We used our education to blow ourselves up into prideful balloons, though we were careful to hide this from others.  Secretly, we felt we could float above the rest of the folks on our brainpower alone.  Scientific progress told us there was nothing man couldn’t do.  Knowledge was all-powerful.  Intellect could conquer nature.  Since we were brighter than most folks (so we thought), the spoils of victory would be ours for the thinking.  The god of intellect displaced the God of our fathers.  But again John Barleycorn had other ideas.  We who had won so handsomely in a walk turned into all-time losers.  We saw that we had to reconsider or die.  We found many in A.A. who once thought as we did.  They helped us get down to our right size.  By their example they showed us that humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we placed humility first.  When we began to do that, we received the gift of faith, and faith which works.  This faith is for you, too.”

This section gives me goosebumps.  “Reconsider, or die.”  It sounds melodramatic until I put names to the concept.  Today I’ll add Kelly.  We talked to her mother last night.

I think I came a generation after the “God of my fathers” had already been displaced.  My parents were and are decidedly not religious and of unknown but not obvious spirituality.  My grandparents likewise were not religious or obviously spiritual, though my grandmother was very superstitious.  My Catholic great grandmother warned all and sundry who attended my father’s wedding in a Lutheran church that God would strike them dead.  They attended anyway, apparently unfazed, and many have died but some still live 55 years later.  Such was my upbringing and, as far as it goes, being smart was viewed as a good thing in family, and it still is.    The idea I try to impress on the young people in my turn is that smarts is a gift, something unearned and that, as the passage says, humility has to come first if a smart one is to lead a happy life.

“The spoils of victory” weren’t mine for the thinking.  I could not think my way out of my alcoholic drinking.  I tried, to some extent.  I read about alcoholism, things like that, but I did so while and drinking and the happy result for me is that I concluded I needed help.  The psychological help offered by my school and by the therapists my mother sent me to never seemed like any kind of solution at all.  The people in AA said they understood, and I believed them.  They said they were sober and happy, and I believed them.  In terrible desperation, the times when I fought to stop drinking, there was something in my that cried out to “God” but the people and the program were, to me, a much more understandable, provable, tangible higher power.  And it took some time of just refraining from drinking for me to move beyond that.  I was such a case that I couldn’t stop, and I couldn’t think very much or very well while under the influence.

So, they showed me that humility and intellect could be compatible?  Yes.  Some have showed me this by example.  Certainly it is true for me that when I placed humility first, by admitting that the people of AA had a solution to my problem that I did not have, I was able to receive the gift of a faith that works.

But personally I find, sometimes, and anti-intellectual prejudice in AA (and elsewhere in the country, in the world) and I try to speak out about it every time I see it.  Yes, as this passage illuminates, you can be “too smart” for AA, if you can’t summon up enough humility to follow suggestions, stop drinking and work the program.  Reconsider or die.  But I think you can be too stupid for AA as well.  And by that I don’t mean having a low IQ.  It’s true for me that I need to still put some intellectual effort behind my participation in AA or I’ll get numb and bored and, for me, I think that could be dangerous and possibly result in my drinking eventually.  “A simple program for complicated people . . . ”  Well, it’s really not all that simple.  Which to me is a good thing.  I’m a complicated person (and I don’t mean that in a good way) and I need complications to engage me.  Or at least I enjoy having complications that engage me.  It’s worked for me so far.

July 8, 2015 (this day)

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I would like to say that I learned a lot about fear, but it would be more accurate and more honest to say that I hope I have learned a lot about fear.

I went to Alaska.  I came home again.  I am afraid to fly, afraid to leave my pets, and I don’t like to travel.  I don’t like to shop, and I don’t like to spend money, two of the primary activities on a vacation like this.  I don’t like to leave my work for that long.  I don’t like to be out of touch, and in Alaska, on the water, there is no internet and frequently no phone.   This was a long distance, and a long time.  Seven members of my family went also, including four members of the oldest generation now, and it was hard to say goodbye to them at the end.  One member of my family got into big, serious trouble with alcohol.  I could make a joke, and point out that it happens often, but the fact is that many of my family members died young, alcoholic deaths.  So that was worrying.  When that wasn’t worrying, there was alcohol at every dinner, and sometimes at other times, and thankfully in my normal life I do not get that close to it every day.  There were no “real” meetings (more about that later, maybe), sparse program reading and not much program contact.

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There were some of the most incredible sights I will ever see, sights that most people in the world never get to see.

I feel a huge sense of guilt listing all the ways this trip was difficult for me.  I didn’t hold my family back, and I hope I was mostly pleasant and someone they were glad to have along.  I am happy with myself that I went and I made it, and unhappy with myself because of the degree of distress I let it cause me.

I was at a meeting two nights ago where they read from the Daily Reflections book and it said something about not being willing to suffer from the effects of my character defects anymore.  I’m not willing to.

Right now, today, I don’t know what to do about that.