April 15, 2015 (this day)

I’m having a tough time (as I’ve written and written and written and written).  I’m terrified that something awful will happen to my daughter on her week in Greece, and right now I can’t imagine coping while she’s gone.  She lives, I have to point out, more than five hundred miles away from me here in the US so I can’t exactly respond to an emergency when she’s “home.”  She is, I will also add, 29 years old, and so far a much better put together human being than I ever was.  She is (a daughter is) what at one time I wanted more out of life than anything else.  She is more amazing and remarkable than any daughter I could have dreamed up, if I could have described my ideal.

________________________________________________________________________________

And so.  I’ve planned activities for myself after work when she’s gone.  I’ve planned to buy a new computer then (and new Sims!!!) a new toy to distract me.  I plan to make lots of meetings.  I’m kind of intrigued by the idea of trying to go to all of the meetings in my area’s meeting list, which won’t ever happen because it covers a very wide geographical distance but I think it will be interesting to try.  Well, there’s the distance and the fact of that pesky day job.

________________________________________________________________________________

I love my job and I am aware that it is an incredible blessing to love your job, a blessing which most people probably never experience.  I need to rededicate myself to it because these should be some of my prime working years, and because my work partner will retire probably ten years before I do.  I’m also incredibly blessed by being able to work in social services and have a wonderful life because I don’t have to support myself.

_________________________________________________________________________________

I’m nearing (God willing-Carole hates that, of course God wills it!) thirty-one years sober on May 1st.  Should I present at meetings as the basket case I currently am, or is that a bad reflection of long-term sobriety?  I don’t know, but I think I should present that way.  My problems are luxury problems for sure, luxuries made possible by AA because I was dying without it and certainly could not have brought forth and nurtured new life to the point where it could take itself to Greece unaccompanied …  I am a mess, but I’m not self-destructing and actually I am looking for ways, in the midst of this, to CONstruct a better and less anxious me.  From someone who was killing myself with alcohol I have evolved into someone who knows with restored sanity that drinking would bring tragedy on all my situations.

_______________________________________________________________________________

This is what (almost) 31 looks like and I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

Courage

SAM_2532This little tree held on for who knows how many years, trying to grow up through the hedges.  It was spared the blade of the lawn mower but kept getting cut down with the bushes until we decided to let it grow.

______________________________________________

As I thought about courage, thunder started (early in the year, for goodness sake) and the dog began her thunder shake.  She gets scared down to her bones, although bad people and giant dogs don’t scare her.  I don’t actually know if she’s met any bad people, but she has charged and frightened more than one Newfoundland at the dog park, and though she’s big, she’s not that big.  I remember commenting about this to a friend and she said, “She knows what to do about people and dogs, but not thunder.”

_________________________________________________________________________

I’m full of fear right now, and courage means something like “the ability to do what frightens one.”  I have no choice but to live through my daughter’s adventure, and then on to my own long, long, long flights, long and far away trip.  I have a choice there, but I’ve always chosen to fly even though it frightens me.  So maybe I do have courage, but also lots of anxiety.  There’s no way to know how I’d be if I’d lived and not had the program.  I assume, based on my history, that I’d be a horrific mess who couldn’t raise someone as awesome as my daughter, or think about  traveling to Alaska.

_________________________________________________________________________

The “courage to change the things I can” of the Serenity Prayer means, to me, to change my mind.  I’m battling to have my rational mind understand that flight is safer than driving, that whatever the outcome for my daughter, my fear adds nothing to the situation but weakens me.  It takes some courage to stop drinking and to go along with a program like AA for a little while, until rewards start to happen.  To do what frightens one.

April 2, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0354A year ago a big leak lead to a partially redone kitchen.  There were frightening moments, and honestly what I was frightened about was money.  How much it would cost.  This year there is a falling ceiling in the basement.  But, we wanted an old house!  We do love the old house.  I love to imagine who sat in this room before me, who looked out this window, what she saw, what she thought.  And we’re privileged and blessed with the resources to keep the house up.  And we even have a legally gay marriage.  The man we bought the house from had bought it from “a spinster and her mother.”  If the “spinster” was gay (which, weren’t they all?) I’m sure she couldn’t have imagined us here in her house, legal and all.

________________________________________________________________________________

I’m worried.  My daughter is going to Greece this month, and everyone and her uncle agrees this is a frightening thing.  I’m going to Alaska after that and most normal people wouldn’t be frightened of that, but I am.  I could easily spend all this time wrapped up in fear and I don’t want to do that.  Easter is coming, and I’m not going to see my daughter, she lives so far away and is getting ready for her big trip.  I’m not going to see my extended family because I moved away from them a long time ago.  I would love to experience the babies my younger cousins are having but I’m not going to.

_________________________________________________________________________________

So, the lessening of fear and the cultivation of gratitude.  These are my projects for this month and next.  In one month I will have 31 years of sobriety, and I didn’t do all that to suffer like this.  So easy to be so hard on ourselves.  I should be better by now.  Hell, I should have been better a long time ago.  Of course we don’t get to know what I would have been like without the program, assuming I lived, which I would not have.  Come to think of it, I’m actually being afraid of some of the rewards of sobriety.  I’m determined to surrender that, and to stop it.

_______________________________________________________________________________

And, like I said to Carole, whatever happens after this, for the rest of my life I can say, “At least she’s not in Greece!”

Smashed

Smashed, by Koren Zailckas, is a memoir of the author’s “drunken girlhood.”  It was an interesting experience for me to read it.  My history with alcohol between the ages of 16 and 22 is here in this blog.  Basically I drank too much too often.  Whereas I sought out solitude, though, Zailckas sought out company and so reading the book showed me what I might have been like in a parallel universe.

She remembers her experiences very vividly, except for when she doesn’t, and she describes them beautifully, maybe with an over-abundance of metaphors, but beautifully.  It is most certainly a cautionary tale for  young drinkers.  She got hurt, badly, many times, and like me I think she’s just lucky that she survived.

Zailckas says she’s not an alcoholic, yet the only way she’s found to cope with alcohol is to abstain.  She says in the book that she’s gone to AA meetings, but she doesn’t describe any or report actually going, just walking past two.  It seems there is a school of thought that labeling someone alcoholic will impede or prevent that person from seeking help.  That may be, but would labeling someone as having cancer impede or prevent that person from seeking help?  No one wants to be alcoholic.

Smashed doesn’t describe any program of recovery or way to recover.  If Zailckas has recovered, that’s great.  Letting young women know that their dangerous drinking is common is also, in a way, great.  But this book doesn’t point the way toward any kind of happy ending, even if the author experiences one.  I would urge anyone who identifies with the drinking described in Smashed to seek out AA.

Consider Next the Plight of Those Who Once Had Faith (Step Two continued)

Consider next the plight of those who once had faith, but have lost it.  There will be those who have drifted into indifference, those fill with self-sufficiency who have cut themselves off, those who have become prejudiced against religion, and those who are downright defiant because God has failed to fulfill their demands.  Can A.A. experience tell all these they may still find a faith that works?

Those who have become prejudiced against religion I meet many of in the rooms of AA.  It’s a common occurrence and an affinity many of us have for each other, and it can take a little explaining to help people understand that AA itself is not religious.  I was very young when I started, and I didn’t know much about AA, and I didn’t have the “cult” perception that seems common now.  But I was smart enough to understand that they were praying and chanting and that did seem like religion to me.  For that reason I’m personally against chanting at meetings.  I politely stand there and probably no one knows I don’t chant.

____________________________________________________________________

Those filled with self-sufficiency make me smile.  How self-sufficient is someone who shows up at AA due to a drinking problem?  Most newcomers I meet and some degree of terrible shape or they wouldn’t be at an AA meeting.  “Your best thinking got you here” applies in more ways than one.

___________________________________________________________________

Indifference and defiance.  The long and short of it is that AA taught me a different kind of belief in a higher power, and different reliance on concepts outside of my own making than I had ever understood before.  Defying a higher power is just stupid.  It’s higher, it will win.  Alcoholism is also more powerful than I am.  If I fight it, it will win.  Me against it is a match with only one outcome.

__________________________________________________________________

At this point in my sobriety I find it very difficult to keep going forward and to keep increasing my understanding of these concepts and what the universe wants from me.  Somewhere else in the literature there is a sentence something like, “this is the way to a faith that works,” or “a faith that works under all circumstances.”  I’ve shared before that my circumstances have never been all that difficult and I really haven’t been tested with big time hardship or tragedy.  So I don’t know if my faith would work then.  I do know that “God” does give people more than they can handle.  It happens all the time.  It’s happening now.  For what I’ve been through, the program has been more than sufficient.  For what’s to come I will have to wait and see.

March 14, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0337Twelve months ago Carole and I were visiting our daughter for the first time in her new location, exploring, among other things, the “foreign” foods there.  I hated her being so far away and I didn’t love the place she went to, either.  She’s still there, and I have to call this year a huge success in terms of her.  She’s safe, she’s reasonably happy, she’s self-sufficient and embarking on an incredible adventure.  For the uninformed, a week in Greece, by herself, not part of any group or tour, and she doesn’t speak or read or have any knowledge of Greek.  For me, her mother, this is a bit of a nightmare.

___________________________________________________________________

I for myself am OK.  We’re ending a season of extreme cold and snow here, and I haven’t gotten to as many meetings as I would have liked.  The last bits of snow are melting and Carole is recovering from her most recent surgery and I’d like to get my meeting like back to normal.  Years ago, when I lived alone and had school-aged children at home in bed, I went to online meetings in addition to my once-a-week-bare-minimum real life meetings.  I met Carole there so I don’t recommend it.  I don’t think I’d have the patience for online meetings now, and the idea doesn’t appeal to me at all.  But I’ll do it again in the future if I can’t get out.  It’s amazing to think that when I started, there wasn’t online anything.  There were no cell phones, no text messages, no GPS to guide you to a meeting in a strange place.  Soon no one will remember when these things didn’t exist.  And in my personal universe, there was no daughter and my hypothetical, not-yet-existent children were in very real danger of being hurt or worse by my alcoholism.  I don’t know how that would have worked out of this daughter, but she probably wouldn’t be going to Greece.

Contempt Prior to Investigation

A quick search tells me this quote is misattributed and misquoted, and that it has moved around the Big Book.  No matter.  To me it’s an AA concept, one of those axioms that explains so much about the world and how I failed to relate to the world in a healthy and correct manner.

__________________________________________________________________

Where it shows up in the book now, at the end of an appendix explaining a “spiritual experience,” I have mostly taken it to mean that people who arrive at AA skeptical of a spiritual program, skeptical of a higher power and skeptical about a program of recovery may and often do doom themselves to an alcoholic death.  I was certainly skeptical of all those things, though I didn’t begin to understand them at the time.  AA is a program of last resort.  We urge the skeptical newcomer to stay a while and give it a try.  We hope whole-heartedly that they will.

__________________________________________________________________

Beyond that, now, for me, this concept has proved eminently useful and when I recognize that I’m being contemptuous of something I don’t understand, I can often stop and try a more open-minded approach.  As I get older, I find myself more set in my ways.  I know more about what I like, what I believe, what I want as time goes on.  So am I more stubborn about not considering alternatives?  Is it right that I be so?

_________________________________________________________________

I’m grateful for this concept that will make me at least see my problem, and the example that something I once did not believe in saved my life.

March 4, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0756The weather has been kind of relentless and the people in this part of the world are sick of it!  I didn’t make it to the Thursday meeting last week and I probably won’t tomorrow, either, because of snow and ice and snow and freezing rain and snow and cold and snow.  In my early sobriety it was important to chase the program as enthusiastically as I had chased alcohol.  Now I will go to my home group every week and wait for the weather to clear for the rest!

__________________________________________________________________

I was reading a book (not AA-approved) that said the winners continue to try to get better because they want to, and they should.  The losers wait until the pain is too much to handle, then improve only enough to stop the pain.  It’s an interesting concept.  I didn’t stop drinking until the pain was so bad that I was just about dead.  I think I do now continue to try to get better just  because I should, but mostly nothing motivates me as much as pain does.  Just about everyone in AA got there due to pain.  If, after not drinking for a long time, I still the program as the road map to follow to change myself so that I end up in less pain, I count that as a good thing, and myself as a winner (for today) for sure.

Search Terms that Brought You Here (PS this is my 1000th post!)

AA Couples:  Yes, my wife and I are one.  I was thinking recently how we can be at a meeting together and be the only couple, while at other meetings there are several couples.  Through the years I’ve seen advantages and drawback to this in my own life and in the lives of others, and my ex and I met in AA as well.  Local AA can be a small world, depending on your location.  When an AA couple breaks up, it’s not always nice or easy or serene or sober.  I’ve know people to all of a sudden not say anything at all personal at meetings, since their ex is also at meetings.  People want to and have to avoid meetings because of exes, and people also say way too much at meetings about someone the other people know.  None of that is nice, but if the people stay sober I think they work it out.  It’s a huge danger that one or both will drift away and maybe drink.  In my life the advantage have far outweighed the difficulties, though.  In my previous existence, my ex wasn’t going to local meetings or participating much in AA, and I moved back home after a short time, so the only AA difficulties I had involved long relationships, and really those were OK.  Now it’s great to have this is the primary thing my wife and I have in common, because I still believe it makes everything else in my life possible, and I also find it ceaselessly interesting with people, places and history to explore.  I wouldn’t trade it for a religion or sport or hobby or vocation in common.  Those all come from this.  And for today it’s all good, as long as we don’t take each other’s inventory.  : )

___________________________________________________________________

Meeting Girls at AA Meetings:  Don’t do it!  See above.  I have to stress I did make my wife wait until she was one year sober before I would meet her.  At which point I wailed to a friend, “She only has a year.”  My friend asked, “How much time does someone have to have to meet you?”  I guess a year was a good minimum.  AA is where I meet almost everyone I don’t work with or live near.  I have moved so many times in sobriety, I can’t imagine meeting people without AA.  I don’t know how so-called normal people do it, but I’m glad I’m not them.  But early in sobriety it’s usually suggested that people stay out of new romantic relationships.  After early sobriety, let the meeting begin, I guess, there’s no way to avoid it and why would you want to?  Now someone who would feign alcoholism to meet people in AA is a sick cookie.  People new to AA, beware, this could totally happen.  There can be predators at AA meetings, just like at church, or in the supermarket, on the street or at your job.  Beware. 

___________________________________________________________________

What Should I be Grateful for in Life?  Everything.  The should of this question leads me to the ideal, and my understanding of the program is that I am to aim toward being grateful for every single thing as an aid to continued sobriety.  Pain is the touchstone my life as it is now was built on.  The fatal and crippling malady of alcoholism forced me to seek a spiritual solution to live, and in the process gave me an excellent life.  Using that as my template I can see good in and strive for gratitude for every single other thing, good and bad.  This is really rough and I often fail, but at least I know where I’m going with it.

___________________________________________________________________

As Going Human Concerns:  It makes me so happy that people can search for this and end up here!  I hope I’ve explained it well.  The language of the Big Book and 12 and 12 can be difficult and old-fashioned at times.  To repeat, a “going concern” is a business that is functioning well enough to stay in business.  It takes in enough money to pay the employees and the bills and buy what it needs.  Our bankruptcy as a going human concern is a metaphor, comparing the life of an alcoholic who can no longer function to a business that can no longer function.  This phrase is from Step One in the 12 and 12, and it describes the state of an alcoholic who is forced to finally seek help.

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.