Search Terms that Brought you Here

My mind is very scattered with thoughts of what to write about.  Looking at the search terms that brought people here is often hilarious, sometimes mystifying, and always humbling.  I hope that the search that ended here helped at least one person maintain or achieve sobriety.

  • What is an alcoholic’s gratitude list?  In AA we are often encouraged to formally write down things we’re grateful for, or to consciously bring them to mind in tough times.  Drinking, I took for granted pretty much everything good in my life, starting with the fact that I was alive and encompassing a home, people who cared about me, good health if I would stop drinking, opportunities, pets, democracy and good weather, and on and on.  Sometimes in sobriety, if I feel like drinking or just forget, a gratitude list can bring me back to the joy that is here, today.  Because without being happy and joyous on a long term basis, I will drink.  My formal gratitude list is here, but in truth it could stretch on forever.
  • AA 12 and 12 the spiritual axiom.  This is the idea, found in Step 10, that anytime I am disturbed it is because there is something wrong with me.  This points me in the direction of changing what I actually can change, which is my own attitude and my mind.  My post is here.
  • Disruptive behavior in AA meetings.  I wish I had an answer for that one, but I don’t.  I will say AA isn’t and shouldn’t be seen as a “safe” place.  When someone threatens the safety of others, we have to call the police to protect ourselves.  Short of that, it is a heart-breaking dilemma, and I’m sure groups disband because disruptive people.  In my own little AA world, I have seen the attendance of groups suffer greatly because of disruptive behavior, and that by long timers who think they’re being funny.  It’s a sad thing.
  • AA Yets.  These are things that haven’t happened to me “yet.”  When I arrived at AA at the age of 16, I hadn’t “yet” been to the hospital because of alcohol, but since I didn’t stop drinking, I did eventually make it there.  Anything I hear someone say has happened to them can and will happen to me if I drink.  It just hasn’t happened “yet.”
  • Don’t drink today.  Just don’t.  In this way, you will become a old-timer, like me.  It can be daunting to think about going the rest of my life without alcohol.  I can give up now because I’m an alcoholic and just cannot imagine living sober forever and ever.  AA taught me while I surely can’t remain sober forever, and I can remain sober today.  And since I’ve done that for so many days, I had the privilege to know people who died sober, in sobriety.  It can be done, I can do it if I don’t drink today.
  • Alcohol I don’t want to die.  I’m trying to imagine the person who entered that into a search engine.  It’s easy for me to imagine him or her because that was me and that was countless other people I’ve met and come to know, at least through their AA stories.  When we mean it, really mean it, and when we get to AA and when we click with AA, we are among the very very few fortunate people who have the chance to escape the alcoholic death.  Alcohol is powerful and AA is hard.  It has to be, to beat that formidable foe.  But for me, once AA gave me the ability to actually live, it also gave me a life so worth living that if there was a cure for alcoholism, I would not take it.  I want to keep it today, because it became the best thing in my life, the thing that enabled every other good thing.

Now Let’s Take the Guy Full of Faith (Step Two continued)

Now let’s take the guy full of faith, but still reeking of alcohol. He believes he is devout. His religious observance is scrupulous. He’s sure he still believes in God, but suspects that God doesn’t believe in him. He takes pledges and more pledges. Following each, he not only drinks again, but acts worse than the last time. Valiantly he tries to fight alcohol, imploring God’s help, but the help doesn’t come. What, then, can be the matter?

To clergymen, doctors, friends, and families, the alcoholic who means well and tries hard is a heartbreaking riddle. To most A.A.’s, he is not. There are too many of us who have been just like him, and have found the riddle’s answer. This answer has to do with the quality of faith rather than its quantity. This has been our blind spot. We supposed we had humility when really we hadn’t. We supposed we had been serious about religious practices when, upon honest appraisal, we found we had been only superficial. Or, going to the other extreme, we had wallowed in emotionalism and had mistaken it for true religious feeling. In both cases, we had been asking something for nothing. The fact was we really hadn’t cleaned house so that the grace of God could enter us and expel the obsession. In no deep or meaningful sense had we ever taken stock of ourselves, made amends to those we had harmed, or freely given to any other human being without any demand for reward. We had not even prayed rightly. We had always said, “Grant me my wishes” instead of “Thy will be done.” The love of God and man we understood not at all. Therefore we remained self-deceived, and so incapable of receiving enough grace to restore us to sanity.

This is a really good description of how a “religious” person can fail to get sober through religion, but may be successful through AA.  This was not my experience, but I can understand how it works.  We have to look past the old-fashioned language of “pledges” though it should be easy to see how these may now be promises, or at least statement of intent to not drink at all or to not drink so much, promises that alcoholics can’t keep without doing something else, something more.  Lots of people come to AA through church, and lots of people come to church through AA.  They are all fortunate.

November 9, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0204I keep reminders around, little saying I like, and I have this one at work on my keyboard.  It does serve to remind me, when I think to notice it.

My daughter is moving from over 500 miles away to over 300 miles away, and there is much rejoicing on my part.  The 500 mile drive was barely tolerable, and took a whole day.  It also gives me a chance to work on my jealousy, because she’s moving back to her boyfriend’s home town, where she went to school and where they met, so his family will have them right there.

Luxury problems for sure, like all of mine are today.  In this “gratitude month” every single thing I can think of is a cause for gratitude, when I see it the right and true way.


One of my favorite, inexact quotes from the literature, I know not which literature, says something like, “no baleful consequences have resulted from dependence upon a higher power or an AA group.”  No consequences full of bale here!  I pictured a bale of hay but no, bale also means “something bad.”

I’m reading Five Days at Memorial about a hospital in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.  There, patients were dependent upon machinery to keep them alive.  Without electricity, they could and did die.

Am I dependent upon AA?  Yes, and I don’t know.  I couldn’t stop drinking without it and I could keep drinking and live.  But now, is it so much a part of me that I don’t need it anymore?

People comment here from time to time that for various reasons they don’t go to meetings.  There are places in the world where there are no meetings.  Would I drink if I lived there?  I don’t think so, but I don’t know.  Part of the function of AA meetings in my life is to remind me where I came from and where I would return if I drank.  No meetings won’t likely be an issue for me as long as I live unless something drastic happens to AA.  Also, I see the elderly and people who can’t drive being taken to meetings, and I hope someone will take me if I’m ever in that position.  I know that when people go into long-term care, like a nursing home, the meetings effectively stop.  At that point I probably wouldn’t be able to get alcohol, if that ever happens to me.

Drinking, I was dependent on my mother.  Granted, I was young, but I could not support myself and drink also.  That dependence wasn’t good.  I depended on alcohol to let me live even as it was killing me.  This is why I sought out AA and a solution.

When I finally stopped relapsing, I was so afraid of drinking and dying that I gladly depended on AA and it didn’t let me down.  Not everyone in AA is a good person, and depending on an individual in AA is not a good thing.  But the group will eventually steer newcomers away from harmful people. I hope it will.

So now, what do I depend on, what do I fall back on?  It is the things I’ve learned in AA over the years that keep me sober and so, alive.  I depend on the program to have the answers I need and I depend on the people and the literature to reveal those answers to me.  I don’t know if I still need them to live, but I believe I need them to live well today.  I’m lucky to be dependent on something to dependable.

Why go to AA meetings?

At first, I went to stop drinking.  Next, I went to stay stopped.  At a certain point I was terrified of drinking again.  This was a healthy, realistic fear.  Drinking was killing me. It was to be feared.

At my meeting last week, a woman came for her first time to that particular meeting.  She has been sober for a long time, but somewhere through the years she stopped going to meetings.  She was back because she was dissatisfied with the quality of her life.

The topic was the Serenity Prayer.  I honestly said that I don’t say the Serenity Prayer except at AA meetings, so I probably say it once or twice a week.  That’s one reason I keep going to meetings.  At first I used the prayers and the rituals to stay away from alcohol because alcohol was killing me.  Now that I’m not afraid I’ll drink I don’t run away from fear, anger, dishonesty and other things that at first I knew I had to run from.  The Serenity Prayer, repeated once or twice a week over the course of more than three decades, has worn a Serenity-Prayer-shaped rut in my soul.  I’ve incorporated it into my very psyche.  It has changed my mind, literally, my mind has been changed and continues to change.  In the good direction of better living because, and only because, I continue to go to meetings.

I know that plenty of non-alcoholics and alcoholics also, I suppose, change and get better by other means as they get older and learn more.  I do, too, but the main agent of change for the better in my life continues to be AA.

I was thinking about the people I socialize with.  They are mostly people I work with, and people in my family.  After those two groups AA would have to come third.  My mother is retired, and she moved away from where she lived all of her life until retirement.  I think she mostly socializes with family on the phone and on visits, then with people she used to work with, mostly by talking on the phone.  After that it’s probably neighbors for her, and it’s only one or two because she hasn’t lived where she does for a very long time.  Her mother, my grandmother, didn’t work outside of her home.  She socialized with family, first, watching some of her grandchildren up until the time she died.  My uncle ran his business out of her house, and he saw her every day.  After family would have come neighbors for her.  She lived in the same house for something like 60 years and died there.

If I’m ever fortunate enough to retire, I picture AA as a major activity of my life in retirement.  I know I’ll go to more meetings, yes, to keep getting better, blah blah, but also to participate more in the defining activity of my life.  It’s a place where I can always contribute by showing up, by helping out, for as long as I’m able to show up and help out.

Those are some of the reasons I keep going to meetings.  I don’t, right now, LOVE meetings.  I wasn’t a bar drinker and I don’t seek out company after a day of interacting with people, or even after a day alone.  But it saved my life and I’m pretty sure I won’t ever forget that it is a lifeline.  It is my lifeline.  As long as I want to live, I need to keep that lifeline strong.

… the fallacy of our defiance was revealed (step two continued)

“When we encountered A.A., the fallacy of our defiance was revealed. At no time had we asked what God’s will was for us; instead we had been telling Him what it ought to be. No man, we saw, could believe in God and defy Him, too. Belief meant reliance, not defiance. In A.A. we saw the fruits of this belief: men and women spared from alcohol’s final catastrophe. We saw them meet and transcend their other pains and trials. We saw them calmly accept impossible situations, seeking neither to run nor to recriminate. This was not only faith; it was faith that worked under all conditions. We soon concluded that whatever price in humility we must pay, we would pay.”

Because, I remember, the alternative is ‘alcohol’s final catastrophe.’

I have often thought and sometimes written that ultimately I do what I do because I like to do it, because it makes me happy.  The people I help and take care of are fortunate that I like to help and take care of people.  The above paragraph has a lot of truth in it, for me.  I do see people in AA deal with things I fear I might not be able to deal with.  Of course, seeing them, I have a much better chance of succeeding when my time comes.  So if I decide I will pay whatever price in humility I must pay, isn’t it because I want to be happy?

Also, the cynic in me sees people crushed by impossible situations.  For every one person who sits triumphant for this day at a meeting, there are countless others who couldn’t bear up and who are suffering tremendously, or have lost the battle.  And I guess that’s there for me.  Nothing says it’s not.  It is alcohol’s final catastrophe I can escape.

I learned early on to ask for knowledge of God’s will.  I don’t actually like to be in charge, and I rarely know what’s best for me or for anyone else.  And I’m stuck and stymied by the whole “bad things happen to good people” thing, especially when I think if the poorest people of the world and the problems they face.  God’s will, or chance, I don’t know.  I do know that today I’m among the lottery winners of the alcoholic sweepstakes.

October 11, 2015 (this day)

IMG_0225I was part of a “higher power” discussion last night with a young man who is hesitant to do the steps because he is an atheist.  As he talked about the difficulty with finding a higher power as an atheist, he mentioned yoga, which I understand is a mental, physical, and spiritual practice, much like AA is a mental, physical, and spiritual recovery from active alcoholism and alcoholic drinking.  I don’t know much about yoga, but I wonder if it can “restore me to sanity.”  Do I need some semblance of sanity to practice it to begin with?  Do I need that to practice AA?

I’m in danger of twirling in a complicated mental circle.  Like I said last night and like I’ve said here, I don’t know if there is a supernatural or supreme being.  I don’t need to know to be successful in AA.  Our books suggest making AA or the group our higher power at first.  Here is a group of people who have solved the drinking problem, certainly a power greater than me.  That worked for me at first, and it works for me now.  I don’t mean the specific people who gathered at the group with me last night, although the same young man had a question about how to treat his sister.  All of the people within earshot voiced their opinion and agreed that he should not give her money.  I mean all of the people of AA from the beginning until now, and the program as it is written in the books and practiced by the people I come in contact with.  It is a power greater than me.  It is a plan for how to live and it is concrete, immediate, free and sane help with the specific details of my specific existence, here and now.

I don’t believe our young man should make a sponsor or a person his higher power.  Individuals are famously and sometimes tragically fallible.  But the program, its history, its present and its people are a higher enough power for me.  Personally, I can’t completely identify with someone who claims to be 100% atheist because I’m just never that sure of anything.  I can’t understand how those people don’t have a tiny doubt, but that doesn’t matter.  A power greater than them can restore them to sanity, and it can save them from an alcoholic existence and an alcoholic death.