….we needed to change ourselves…(Step 4 continued)

The sponsors of those who feel they need no inventory are confronted with quite another problem. This is because people who are driven by pride of self unconsciously blind themselves to their liabilities. These newcomers scarcely need comforting. The problem is to help them discover a chink in the walls their ego has built, through which the light of reason can shine.

First off, they can be told that the majority of A.A. members have suffered severely from self-justification during their drinking days. For most of us, self-justification was the maker of excuses: excuses, of course, for drinking, and for all kinds of crazy and damaging conduct. We had made the invention of alibis a fine art. We had to drink because times were hard or times were good. We had to drink because at home we were smothered with love or got none at all. We had to drink because at work we were great successes or dismal failures.. We had to drink because our nation had won a war or lost a peace. And so it went, ad infinitum.

We thought “conditions” drove us to drink, and when we tried to correct those conditions and found that we couldn’t to our entire satisfaction, our drinking went out of hand and we became alcoholics. It never occurred to us that we needed to change ourselves to meet conditions, whatever they were.

It’s the last sentence that I want to focus on as drinking is far behind me, but conditions still abound, and change, and demand that I change myself. And changing myself is still a struggle.

My body is giving my difficulty in a long list of ways. I could do my usual gratitude list around this, and that list is extensive, but I’m going to skip it. My list of conditions I need to meet, however: ears ringing, hearing going, headache, neck ache, chest ache, hips and back ache, knees shot, feet arthritic, high blood pressure, irregular EKG? Overweight. Changing myself: losing weight (actually doing it, must continue), going to doctors, going to PT, starting yoga, monitoring my blood pressure, refraining from monitoring my blood pressure, exercising (a bit), agreeing to talk to a therapist.

I have work stress I won’t get into as it involves other people, some of whom are innocent. Let’s say serving adults who have intellectual and development disabilities, with staff who make $11 an hour, in a pandemic, is a condition I must change myself to meet.

As this is Step Four, which is a personal inventory, let me list a character defect or two that is hindering my personal change to meet conditions. For one, I’m lazy. I DON’T WANT TO MEDITATE. Confessions of an old timer. I have never been good at this. I say I’ll try and I don’t. It’s somehow easier for me to submit to yoga than to meditation. And my old friend fear. All of these conditions are shot through with it, the corroding thread (that’s somewhere in the Big Book).

So, onward. The direction is clear. The instructions are there. Writing this post at 730 in the morning, before work, is a feeble effort on my part to move forward in a more constructive manner. I would have otherwise spent the time engaging my fear around my body and my work.

March 31, 2021 (this day)

I had a companion working from home today.

I have been extremely privileged to be employed and safe through all of this. My program is actually open on a limited basis, but like lots of folks it has been found that I can do some parts better from home.

My meeting has been open for a few weeks. We wear masks and sort of distance. We made it! We’re still zooming meetings also. It amazes me how life goes on and AA goes on. A year ago I really worried about it (character defect, stop the worry). AA found a way.

Step 3

There are a few things on my mind (in my worries) that are in and out of my control.

My work is reopening. There are many details that go along with that, but uppermost in my mind is the fact that they expect me to show up. Five days a week. It’s been a while…..

Medical tests. Routine, but I’m older than I’ve ever been. I’m unhealthier than I’ve ever been.

Meetings opening. Visiting possible.

So. Did I make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God? My lengthy sobriety tells me that I did. So I’ll go forward. With the work, with the tests, with the life in the receding shadow of the pandemic. There’s some comfort in the forward motion when I realize it is not initiated or sustained by me.

January 26, 2021 (this day)

I’ve gotten my first dose of the vaccine! I’m grateful, and anxious that my mother hasn’t gotten hers. I hate it that people have to compete to get what they need.

My work place is still not open. My wife and I play hours of Animal Crossing…..

Some meetings have opened back up, but we continue to go to zoom meetings. I’ve gone to more meetings that way than I have in the past ten years, I think. I’ll be very happy if zoom meetings stay after the pandemic is over. I’ve gotten to know people and I’ve hopefully carried the message. I’m very fortunate.

….his case is not strange or different…(Step 4 continued)

At this stage of the inventory proceedings, our sponsors come to the rescue. They can do this, for they are the carriers of A.A.’s tested experience with Step Four. They comfort the melancholy one by first showing him that his case is not strange or different, that his character defects are probably not more numerous or worse than those of anyone else in A.A. This the sponsor promptly proves by talking freely and easily, and without exhibitionism, about his own defects, past and present. This calm, yet realistic, stock-taking is immensely reassuring. The sponsor probably points out that the newcomer has some assets which can be noted along with his liabilities. This tends to clear away morbidity and encourage balance. As soon as he begins to be more objective, the newcomer can fearlessly, rather than fearfully, look at his own defects.

One of the gifts of AA for me has been hearing the stories of so very many so very diverse people. This wide perspective has enriched my life in ways I can’t list or understand. And one of the principles of AA is that I am the same as everyone else. My details can be different, or they can be the same. It’s always a mix of both and I always have what is for me the most important characteristic in common with every alcoholic, and every alcoholic in recovery. This is part of what I understand to be the necessity, for me, of having AA to stay sober. I’m not strange or different. Not in the rooms.

December 20, 2020 (this day)

A friend at a meeting remarked, “In the past, I would have used over this.” In the present, I hear that as, “In the past, I would have killed myself over this.” I have to consider the seriousness of what I’m saying, thinking, feeling. I have to use the program to not reach that level of desperation anymore, not ever again.

Step 2

I was just at a zoom meeting where someone commented that we don’t need to rely on meetings, we need to rely on a higher power.

The higher power daunted me in the beginning, for sure. I still hold it as a very loose concept.

A different zoom meeting I attended read the second step from the 12 and 12 and I was convicted by this part, on page 30:

……we had substituted negative for positive thinking……this trait was an ego-feeding proposition. In belaboring the sins of some religious people, we could feel superior to all of them……..self -righteousness, the very thing we had contemptuously condemned in others, was our besetting evil. This phony form of respectability was our undoing, so far as faith was concerned. But finally, driven to AA, we learned better.

I’d like to think I’ve learned better, and maybe I have in that I can recognize it more easily now. But if I substitute conservative for religious – in belaboring the sins of some conservative people – I feel like I am back at square one.

The paragraph ends there, at “we learned better,” and it doesn’t give instructions for how to learn. Be my right size, I know. Many of the people I view negatively because of their political beliefs are certainly “better” people than I am, doing more good than I do, and possibly not viewing me negatively, the way I view them.

Trudging. The. Road.

December 6, 2020 (this day)

My AA and work life remain the same. Meetings open and close, my work place opens and closes. The virus is worse in my area that at any other time, though more things are open than were in March and April. I haven’t seen my mother in over a year, the longest time apart in my lifetime. I haven’t seen my daughter since July. That may be the longest time apart there as well.

I continue to mostly zoom with a small group of people five nights a week. People join AA who have never been to an in person meeting! This is hard for me to comprehend.

I do have a history with online meetings. I met my wife at one way back in 1996. Back then you took turns typing. It was tedious, but I did it mostly because I had small children. Once they were big enough to stay on their own while I went to a meeting, I stopped going online.

Now I wonder why, a bit. It’s super convenient. I would not attend a meeting five nights a week if I had to drive there, be there, then drive home. There was a time in my life when I was new(ish) to AA and I did that. That time is not now. I hope this online community is something that stays in the future, anyway. It will help as I have old me at home, rather than young children.

Otherwise……..people talk about post traumatic stress but I think we are still in the trauma, aren’t we? Let’s have traumatic stress and save the “post” for another day. Hopefully soon.

We May Clutch at Another Excuse (Step Four continued)

We may clutch at another excuse for avoiding an inventory. Our present anxieties and troubles, we cry, are caused by the behavior of other people–people who really need a moral inventory. We firmly believe that if only they’d treat us better, we’d be all right. Therefore we think our indignation is justified and reasonable–that our resentments are the “right kind.” We aren’t the guilty ones. They are!

Happily, I really haven’t been treated badly in my life. I mean I can and do blame my mother for stuff, but really I’ve had it very easy.

I can blame other people for causing my excess of negative emotion though.

My blog has seen me through several presidential elections at this point. I’ve been hopeful and happy and crushed. I’ve been privileged to say alcohol has not played a part if my coping mechanisms or celebrations since my very first election, when Reagan first won. As my grandfather had just died and I was at his visitation when I heard Carter had conceded, announced by my mother’s husband, well it all just fit…….

Now, I have trouble understanding voters on the other side of this debacle. I cannot understand them. I don’t know why mocking a reporter who has a disability was not a disqualified. I don’t.

I do understand that intolerance is a character defect of mine. It’s not pretty and it isn’t righteous. The behavior of those who support what I consider to be unsupportable can’t make me turn away from what is ugly and rotten in me. I am the guilty one. If they are, or if they aren’t, that isn’t my concern.

I was recently at a meeting when someone commented that, when making amends, apologizing for “my part” is really pointing out that you have a part as well. And that’s not what I’m here for. It is never about them, it is always about me. That’s the only thing I can change, so that’s the only place I can find real hope.

September 8, 2020 (this day)

And so it still goes.

It’s an incredible miracle and a blessing that people continue to meet on zoom. I have been lucky enough to go to a meeting just about every day since our meetings stopped meeting in person. I go to one in person meeting that takes place in a parking lot. I don’t know what will happen with that once it gets cold.

I honestly love the zoom. I love not having to leave my house. I love the intimacy of the meeting I attend. Since it’s held six out of seven days a week, I get the know the people so much better. We spend as much time each week as a weekly meeting would give in a month and a half.

The meeting is still anchored by my wife and I. Really by her. An interesting cast of characters has passed through and many have come to stay. We get newcomers and relapsers and people we’ve known for more than 20 years. The sobriety in the meeting ranges from more than 30 years to just a day or not even a day (I suspect some are drunk, or drinking, at the meeting but hey, I did that, and look at me now!).

It’s especially wonderful to have this community now. Our work places have opened up and shut down. My blood pressure has acted up and gotten better and gotten worse again. My mother shows up drunk on the phone with regularity. If I want to see my daughter, I need to take a COVID test. Which I understand. But still.

We’re all traumatized and experiencing trauma. An election is looming and I worry about my ability to cope with the outcome. I am so, so grateful for the foundation I have in AA, and for the continued support of the people in the rooms. And in the parking lot. And on my computer.