Not Alone

I was thinking about the revelatory nature of AA and they way we are encouraged and supported and urged to share on the deepest level. There are lots of aspects of this that interest me. I have said and heard so many things over the years, it makes me pause.

On the very deepest level there is probably the fifth step. Where I live now, many people choose to do their fifth step with an anonymous clergy person. There’s a religious organization that supplies such people to listen, and I guess you can look at it as a bit of a tradition here. It’s not anything I heard much about in the other places I’ve lived. I’m sure people did it, but it’s a common experience here.

An anonymous fifth step must certainly be better than no fifth step, and I can understand that sometimes some people feel the only way they can possibly do it is with someone they don’t know and won’t see again. Still, I wouldn’t do that or recommend it unless there truly is no other way.

But THE fifth step is a very small part of the revealing that goes on at AA meetings. I’ve heard people admit to just about every sin except for murder, and I have known at least two people well who did kill someone with a car by driving drunk. I knew someone for some time who lost a baby to fetal alcohol syndrome. I’ve heard people say they have stolen and cheated and lied. People have been unkind to their pets and their children and their parents and their neighbors. People have wasted money and resources and opportunities.

I took this topic from As Bill Sees It, and the section is titled something like “We can’t do it alone.” The chairs pictured are from my home group, and after the picture was taken people sat in the chairs and talked things over together.

I’m an introvert. As I’ve written before, I believe this makes it tough to work AA in a way that someone more extroverted wouldn’t experience. It is by its very nature a very social thing, a self help group. I always hesitate to say that because I know that now and in the past, people in some very extreme situations have stayed sober without other AAs around to help. But in general, when people and meetings are available, it is vital to recovery to go socialize. One of the awesome aspects of the situation is that within the AA program, there are lots of other people who have trouble socializing also. And even the friendly outgoing people are used to being with and helping the loners.

I think the social aspect of it keeps some people out of the program. I read blogs written by people who know they could benefit so much from going to AA, but who don’t go and continue to suffer. Others make up their minds to stop drinking and do so, but they don’t go to meetings and they don’t share with other alcoholics. I don’t count either of those groups of people as being successful at dealing with their drinking problem.

I’ve also seen the culture where the only sharing a person does is with his or her sponsor.  I’ll have to write about “back in the day,” but when I started AA, in the late 1970s, it was sort of required at the beginning that a person get phone numbers and call and talk to people in addition to their sponsor.  Personally, I’m extremely grateful that this is how I started.  I hated it, and I would not have done it had there been another way.  I believe I would have stuck with just a sponsor and maybe another friend or two, and that would have been it.  Because it was expected I would call and speak to another person every day, because it was required, I did it, and it broke a huge hole through my wall of isolation.

I also imagine that for those lucky extroverts, the socializing and sharing that goes on in AA is of an excellent quality and the content is supreme.  Whether we like it or not, every day we have a chance to hear about the very humanness of those around us, and to know we’re not alone.  I have no doubt too that all I’ve said and all I’ve heard has made me more tolerant of and patient with the people outside the rooms, in the rest of my life.  Almost anything anyone can tell me I have heard already, and I’ve known someone who has gone through it, whatever it may be.  I know that the people who seem arrogant and all together are not.  I’ve heard their counterparts describe it and explain it many times over.

The Moment We Say, “No, never!” (step six continued)

The moment we say, “No, never!” our minds close against the grace of God. Delay is dangerous, and rebellion may be fatal. This is the exact point at which we abandon limited objectives, and move toward God’s will for us.

And that’s it, that’s the end of Step Six in the Twelve and Twelve.

I won’t, can’t, don’t say no never to anything AA has to offer. I have every character defect every other person has, to my own unique degrees. I have come far in dealing with the things that I did that were very wrong when I was drinking. I have given up the thought that there might be character defects I will never deal with, and will always engage in. I understand that my character defects block me from God’s grace, which is the good things in life that God would give me, if I could receive them.

As much as is humanly possible for me right now, I say that I am entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Wow I Don’t Feel Well

After all my medical drama of the past two weeks, I’m simply nauseous and headachey.  And I’m such a baby about it!  I hate to not feel well.  I left work for the first time in years.  I’d go to bed (I was in bed), but the kids walked to the supermarket and I’m waiting to pick them up.  I just hate this so much.  It dominates my thoughts and I can’t enjoy the internet or a book or anything.  I’m such a baby.

Experience, Strength and Hope (My Story continued – drinking in high school – 16, 17, 18)

The first time I stopped drinking, I could tell my story and know what had happened when.  Next time (this time), I lost that ability, and it hasn’t come back.  I can’t confidently say what happened before I stopped drinking, after I stopped drinking, in high school or in college.  I figured the most honest way to tell about it would be to write what I remember.  Maybe that way I can sort it out a bit more. I don’t think the time line is terribly important.

So sometime in high school I started drinking a lot.  I have a few memories of being drunk.  Once, for example, I remember laying my face on the mat of the wrestling cage.  As an potentially interesting side note, my first year in high school, which would have been 1976, was the first year my school district made gym class co-ed.  This was not a good thing.  I don’t know if it started out that way or became that way, but by the time I was in high school, some sports were segregated and some were not.  Wrestling was segregated, although I think that prior to my time, girls probably didn’t have to take wrestling at all.

Anyway I do recall the time I was supposed to be stretching or what have you, but I was too drunk to stay upright.  No one ever caught me drinking or being drunk in high school.  I often drank around my period, which was the reason I started anyway.  I also remember taking a purse to the bathroom.  Kids smoked in the bathrooms at that time.  I did that, but I also drank in there.

All my high school drinking was solitary.  All of it.  There were kids who drank and did drugs, but I wasn’t remotely friendly with them.  At least one of them had been my “best” friend in fifth and sixth grades, but we weren’t friendly anymore.  The kids I was remotely friendly with were the good a smart kids, or the “cooties,” but they didn’t drink.  The social drinking I did only involved the guy across the street, who I was sleeping with, and my family, on holidays.  I also snuck pot with the guy across the street, and drank and smoked pot with some of my cousins on my father’s side of my family.

I remember some of the kids who got very messed up with drugs and alcohol.  One guy, who was never the brightest, suffered some kind of obvious brain damage around then.  There was a girl who mixed alcohol and tranquilizers and who went into a coma.  Last I heard, which was a long time after high school, she never came out of it.  There were random locker checks in school, when they would hold a fire drill, get everyone out of the building, then not let us back in while police checked random lockers.  The drinking age was 18 at that time, so some high schoolers could legally drink.

This was an affluent area.  It’s now one of the most affluent areas in the country.  There weren’t gangs (that I know of), or violence of any kind.  But there were drugs and alcohol, for sure.  Still most kids went to school, hoped and planned and tried to graduate, didn’t often get pregnant in high school, got a very good education there.

I knew it then and I know it even better now, that the drinking I was doing was disordered and sick from the absolute start.  It went so quickly from a want to a need.  It went so quickly overboard and over the edge.  I’m grateful it was like that, because it brought me to the end that much more quickly.

Last Test for A While, I Hope

Today I had a mammogram and breast sonogram.  Aside from telling me I’m lopsided (seriously), it looks like all is well for the year.  I still haven’t heard from the gynecologist regarding the pelvic sonogram, but the tech said all looked well there.

Since I’ve been having and waiting for results of these tests, I’ve been sort of on hold.  I haven’t walked the dog, gone to extra meetings, or gone to the gym.  I’m going to try to get back to normal (such as it is) tomorrow.  It’s been a long time of abnormal.  Two days after I got home from Disney, all these tests began.

My breasts are killing me right now, and I’m goopy and gloppy from the the gel.  After I bathe tonight I will start anew for real.

A Different Translation of Corinthians 13 (prayer)

This is from The Living Bible, 1982.

If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.

If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do?

Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love.

If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.

Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.

Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. Someday prophecy and speaking in unknown languages, and special knowledge – all these gifts will disappear. Now we know so little, even with our special gifts, and the preaching of those most gifted is still so poor. But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.

It’s like this: when I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood and I now I have put away the childish things. In the same way we can see and understand things only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror, but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face to face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.

There are three things that remain — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.


I’m not feeling particularly guilty, but I wanted to write about something that is not my story and not Step Six. No doubt this will come in handy if I make it around the steps and back for Step Four. I found this on a list of prompts to help with Step Four. Is guilt a character defect? Probably. The question that was asked as a prompt is looking back over your life, what do you feel particularly guilty about?

My adult life has been spent in AA. I have not, since I’ve been sober, done things like drive drunk, steal, cheat, lie on a big scale. I’m trying to think of things that bring to mind guilt from before I was sober. The essence of guilt, I think, is feeling that I’ve done something wrong while knowing better, having caused harm even though I knew it was harmful, or having been very negligent. I’m coming up empty for thoughts from before sobriety. That may just be where my head is, or it may be that a lifetime of AA plus raising my own children has made me see most of what befell me as normal and fallible.

The biggest guilts of my sober life have to do with my children. They are minor, really, but they effect me. AA has given me such an excellent platform to stand on. It’s given good people to turn to and rules to live by that have made for a good life experience.

I have to give more thoughts to writing the particulars about what I feel I’ve done wrong regarding the children. A few instances come to mind that would probably invade their privacy. As I said, though, these aren’t huge things. Today when I feel guilty it’s usually because I’m trying to help and support two people at once, or because there are certain helping aspects of my job that I’ve abandoned, more as a way to keep going than anything else.

As I was writing that, a good example of my current state of guilt came to mind.

This is Xandra. She is my death row doggie. Carole and I adopted her last year from a kill shelter. Xandra was four years old (So they said, but they also called her a labradoodle. Um, no), unspayed, filthy, with awful teeth. She sat in the corner of the pen barking nonstop. We were out to find a different doggie. Through circumstances I’ll have to write about at some point, we were looking for a dog to add to the household (which had another dog and three cats – still does). I set criteria at 30 pounds or less (Xandra weighs 64), between 3 and 5 years old (she was 4, so that worked), female (yes) and from a shelter (yes). One way that Carole and I are often bad for each other is that neither one of us can say no often enough to the animals, and we end up having just one too many, just enough to make things unmanageable.

I will come back to this topic because it has sent my mind sort of racing. My character defects do come into play big time around this dog.

For now, I think that considering what are the things we feel guilty about can show us either where we need to improve our conduct, or where we need to shrink our ego and be our right size concerning what we can and should do in situations, or both.

At the Very Least (Step Six continued)

At the very least, we shall have to come to grips with some of our worst character defects and take action toward their removal as quickly as we can.

I’m a little alarmed to note that I have just one paragraph remaining in Step Six. Just a little though. I do feel that I’ve made progress and increased my understanding and increased my practice of the step.

I wrote before that I think every person has every human character defect there is, just to an individual extent. It reminds me of an expression I heard often when I first came in. “If you sober up a horse thief, all you will have is a sober horse thief.” Horse thieves! They weren’t plentiful, even back in the 70s. Along the same lines is the saying “the drunk who brought you in here will take you out.” The essence of these is that if we don’t change ourselves, we will just continue our bad behavior, or we will drink, or both.

It’s precious to me that there lies the solution to my life’s problems. Not that any are solved or leave completely, but that I will continue to grow in my ability to handle them if I work the steps. If I don’t, I will drink.

One immediate benefit I found in the program was that without drinking, for some reason, I didn’t lie. Drunk, I lied, even when the truth would have been better. So that kind of dishonestly left for me very quickly. And of course it needed to. I couldn’t have continued on, sober, if I was lying all the time.

I like the metaphor of “coming to grips with.” If I can grip them, maybe I can control them, rather than having them control me. My worst character defects are now what they were then. I think they are headed by fear, then come selfishness and selfcenteredness, sloth, anger, jealousy. I feared everything so much when I was newly sober. The support of AA has lessened that substantially.

A few months ago, at work, my boss’ boss’ boss commented to me to not be so afraid all the time. Now work is one area I feel pretty confident in, if only because by the grace of Carole I don’t need the job. And I did interact with this man around some very emotional and difficult situations. Still, I was surprised that I still give off that fear vibe so strongly that someone who doesn’t know me can read it.

I’m still taking action toward their removal, and this part of it. Again, I’d love to be further down this road at this point. Now I’m paying attention and actively trying.

Experience, Strength and Hope (my story – 16, my first AA meeting)

It’s somewhat unbelievable to me now. At 16, I knew I was an alcoholic and out of control (of course I understand now that this is stating the obvious). I didn’t know much about alcoholism or Alcoholics Anonymous. I really don’t know how I thought to call them. But I did. I know I assumed AA would attempt to teach me how to drink moderately.

So I looked it up in the phone book, and I called.  This was 1979.  There were no computers, no internet, no caller ID.  I do remember taking a book out of the school library that dealt with alcoholism.  That was how we gathered information back in the day.  Quaint, and slow.

My phone number at the time seemed to people like a commercial number.  It was one number off from a local golf course, which was a pain on Sunday mornings when people called to make a tee time.  It was something like 676-1000.  Anyway when I called the AA hot line and spoke to the woman answering the phone, she said she would get someone in touch with me and would call back.  When I gave her my phone number, I remember that she didn’t believe me.

I’ve lost the details of what happened between that call and my first meeting.  I know it was a few days away from the call.  I know I had a babysitting job, and Isabel covered that for me so I could go to the meeting.  Among the things I didn’t know at that time was the fact that there are AA meetings all over the place all the time.  I often wonder, when someone talks about being directed to a meeting by the answering service, why they are sent to meetings that are days away rather than as soon as possible.

My first meeting took place in the church pictured above.  It was in April of 1979, about a month before my 17th birthday.  I walked into that church drunk.  I couldn’t handle an AA meeting sober!  There was a greeter there, George.  He was an old guy, and he had the greeting job for years until he died.  I remember being at an anniversary celebration for that group after George died, and his wife attended in honor of him.  She was tall, German, all dressed in black.

That church had several meetings going on at once.  There was a beginners AA and several alanon or alateen meetings.  I went to the beginners in the church library.  After the meeting got going, the smoke was so thick you couldn’t see the other side of the room.  Washing ashtrays was a newcomer job, and it wasn’t a small job at all.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t say much at that meeting.  Some of the friendliest people turned out to be some of the flakiest.  But basically, everyone was very nice, and when I told them of my drinking problem, they told me they understood.  And I believed them, I believed that they did understand.  I never lost that belief.  I hold this as one of the keys to my long time sobriety.

I was surprised to see old people there.  I thought that all alcoholics were like my father, and I didn’t understand how they could live that long and be alcoholic.  I was surprised that AA practiced abstinence.  I was probably disappointed.

I talked to people, got phone numbers, got a sponsor.  Not at that first meeting, but at one of the first.  I drank a few times after getting a few days strung together.  One “slip” I recall happened after I took cough medicine.  It’s a trigger!  It made me drink!!  I began counting days on a calender.

So I got a shaky start on my lifetime of AA.  By the time it was my 17th birthday, I had begun what would be 18 months of continuous sobriety.

No Words (gratitude)

I’m not in the clear just yet, but almost.  My blood work came back good, with perfect (brag) thyroid and lots of good hemoglobin.  But no menopause.  This I don’t understand, but I’m interested enough to look into it, so I will continue to not understand.

Endometrial biopsy Monday.  The doctor called with the results this morning.  No sign of cancer or precancerous cells.  Today I had the ultrasound.  Although I have heard they’re not supposed to tell you anything, the tech did tell me that everything looks fine.  As far as I know, that is that.  Next Monday I have a mammogram, and that’s where I usually expect the trouble to be.  There or in my lungs.  I’m an ex smoker.

I will have to reflect on this experience and some of the issues it has brought up.  One has to do with medication.  My doctor keeps suggesting birth control pills to give me a regular period.  Well, I don’t want a regular period, nor do I want to take drugs unless I need them to be well.  But that’s a topic for another time.  For today I have to set about being relieved at least of the burden of that kind of fear, for today.