October 31, 2008 (This Day at This Time)

One of the fun things about my job (and there are many) is that I get to dress up and eat candy on Halloween.  We partied all day at work today, and I think people mostly had a good time.  I ate too much.  I let too many things agravate me.  But mostly I had a good time.

My time at home hasn’t been as good.  Halloween has traditionally been a very tough day for my daughter, Erika, and she’s had more than one melt down on Halloween.  It pushes so many of my buttons.  I have huge mommy-guilt about the Halloweens I didn’t handle well, and about her disappointments.  This year she said she wanted to dress up and give out candy, and that’s what she’s doing right now.

I worried (surprise, surprise!) about the dog.  This is our second Halloween with Xandra, and I don’t really remember how she did last year.  Mostly she’s a very loud and constant barker.  For a while, tonight, I had her quietly watching people through the glass door.  But when our other dog started barking at people I lost all hope of keeping Xandra quiet.  So I closed the door and gave her a good bone.  She chomping it as I write.

I had a whole paragraph written about how this evening was going between me and Carole, but I deleted it.  This is only the second “day” I’ve written about here, and I’m not sure how to do it.  We had a disagreement, she wanted to go to a meeting tonight, and I wanted her to stay here, so as not to leave me with the potential stream of strangers.  I’m not seeing how I was wrong in the desire not to be alone with this.  Interesting!

So with 45 minutes left of trick-or-treating, it seems that all is going relatively well.  I have eaten so much candy today (along with other sweets).  I bet more than one person will bring left over candy to the meeting tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll buy some fruit for the snack to counteract all the sugar.

How It Works (Twelve Step Recovery)

Like some other recovery bloggers, I get the occassional rant against AA in my comments, and at times I read anti-AA “literature.”  The funniest thing to me about is the the oxymoron that occurs when I say or type the words, “There is no proof that AA works.”  Critics have statistics that prove that AA is actually harmful to sobriety, that more people recover without AA than with it.  But I am proof that AA works.  Carole is.  I could ride to a meeting or a thousand meetings and see sober alcoholics.  An oxymoron indeed!  AA works very well for me.

But not for everyone, that’s true.  I feel very blessed that the program works for me.

So how?  A few ways.  First, the program and the people tell me, and I’ve borne out in my own experience, the fact that this condition is life long and will come back if I drink.  I don’t have a strong opinion regarding “recovered” or “recovering.”  I accept either and I say I am both.  As long as I don’t drink.  I don’t think (and I won’t try) that a method of moderation would work for me.

The second concept I need is the concept of a higher power.  Thinking that I can control things gets me into big trouble, and it’s also important for me to consider that there is a rhyme and reason behind things, that life isn’t completely random.

Third doing “God’s will” or “the next right thing.”  AA offers me a code of conduct I can live with and it gives me the people in the rooms to help me interpret the way of life and fit it into my real life.  That goes along with Step Three but also Four, Five, Six, Seven, and the rest of them.  The program can be, for me, a plan and a guide.

The last part I can think of tonight is that the program gives me hope and shows me real results, in my own life and in the lives of others.  We were talking recently at a meeting about what keeps you coming back, and, I’m sorry to say, pleasure has a lot to do with it for me.  How it works, well, yes, very well.  When I work it.

More From the Road to a Good Attitude

I’ve started out well with my gratitude. My sleep resentment from last night – I think I have a solution I will propose. I am resentful but I’ve lived with it for ten years. I can do it for ten more.

The dog, my body, the safe place to walk her. My ability to walk her. A dog worth walking. The warm house and Carole and Erika warm and safe within it. The car that works to take me to the work.

I’ve begun to read a book about trauma, having the dog walking trauma in mind. I think, though, that I may be able to look at the work situation as a trauma also. It certainly was traumatic, and I suffer from it too much day to day. It may be that leaving the scene of the trauma is best, but that’s not the direction I’m going in now. This morning I was faced with growing difficulties. There is the aspect of it that innocent and vulnerable people suffer.

With both the dog and the job, I fear the devastation. I can and do talk about both, sometimes the job stuff way too much. I feel a fear way deep down that if I really accept what has gone on with the dog or the job, I will melt from all the pain. Maybe the trauma book will help me. In just the beginning parts I’ve read so far there are people who have suffered so much much much more than I have, and who have gone on to be mostly happy and productive. I feel weak and wimpy just writing that. I can disgust myself with my wimpyness, but I understand that is also completely self serving. I am to serve others, and there about over 70 people just outside my door who need my service.

Say “Thank God” Instead of “God Damn It”

That’s something I understood right away, in the beginning.  It’s as simple as the fact that I can choose how to see things, that I can find something good in every bad.  And also the other way around, of course.  It’s part of the “spiritual awakening,” I think, to focus on the good, nurture the good, give thanks for the good, and seek out the good.  For me, being in this positive frame of mind makes sobriety possible.  It’s not much of an issue any more, but in the beginning, I wouldn’t have been able to stay sober had I not been able to see the good and the promise in things.

Although I know I’m in bad shape, in a way, yesterday’s list of resentments before ten in the morning really shocked me.  It’s not who I want to be, and it’s not who I am.  I consoled myself to be sure, and the rest of the day wasn’t like that for me.  But still.

This morning I made an effort to record things on the other side of ledger.  Sleep problem still there, but Carole will, if I insist, go pay her therapist to tell her I’m right and she’s wrong.  Truly.  The McCain people are there, but I have hope that they’ll lose.  And if, God forbid, they don’t lose, well I’ve been through that before, and lived to tell.  At work.  I am ashamed to list the things I should be grateful for at work.  I can and will and did start with the warm building.  I’m grateful for it.  But then there were DW, TJ, LP, RM, CB, JB, LO, SM, MS, and on and on for about sixty people.

I had a much better morning, and a better day.  I know how to do this.  I’ve been practicing.

Would You Like Some Cream or Sugar with Your Resentment? (Step Seven)

I set out to begin one week of looking hard at my character defects and how they present themselves in my real life.  This in preparation to say I have “taken” the seventh step again at this time, and am ready to move on to Step Eight.  Which is a whole other can of worms.

I had in mind to use a little memo book that I have in my desk at work.  I had bought a pack of these, years ago, initially to keep a record of staff behavior, mostly wrong-doing.  I needed to do that, being in a supervisory position.  I did that only briefly, and I’ve used the books for other things.  Most painful to me now is the one I labeled “list” and used to record things I needed to talk about with my supervisor, the one who was forced to leave.

But lately I’ve been using one to write down what I eat each day, and one to record the days present of someone I work with.  So I had in mind to get another of these this morning, and to record character defects, and to see what I come up with.

I have said and written that I haven’t been a particularly resentful person.  Resentment as the number one offender hasn’t resonated with me over the years.  I find fear and sadness to be bigger offenders for me.  Or so I thought.

I got to work around 7:30 in the morning, and got out one of those books.  I remembered back to the 90 minutes since I had gotten out of bed this morning.

Between 6 and 7 this morning, I was resentful toward (1) Carole for the sleeping arrangements of last night.  It’s a long story, but I often feel that she disrupts and disturbs my sleep, which I don’t get much of to begin with.  I have what I think is a solution, and she doesn’t follow it.  (2) The “McCain Victory Headquarters” I pass on my way to work.  (3)  A co-worker who indicated on the master schedule where she would be today.  (4) Carole for what she wants to do on election night.

Between 6 and 7 I also felt fear about walking the dog, and sadness about losing old boss.

Between 7 and 8 I felt resentment about (1) workers who were trying to arrange things to their own advantage, and a supervisor who had no idea what was going on, when he should have known (2) two co-workers who helped bring down old boss and now have a cozy (sarcastic) chat every single morning, no doubt (to my mind) comparing notes and making sure things go their way (3) co-worker who, though I love her, is very negative and complaining and didn’t support old boss, though now she wishes everything was the way old boss had attempted to make it (4) another agency who is screwing up the transfer of clients, making more work for me.

Between 8 and 9 I was resentful toward (1) co-worker and supervisor arranging things to their own advantage and (2) co-worker with an attitude and a half and I was sad, again, over how things have transpired.

At 9 I was resentful toward old boss’s old boss, who really screwed things up royally.  At 9 I decided this list was long enough, way too long, and I looked up the word resentment.  I can’t find my source again, but it said something like, “Anger or bitterness felt repeatedly as a result of real or imagined wrong done.”

I should also note that between all those resentful, fearful, sad feelings there was lots of good stuff.  And at 10 am, I had a meeting that lasted over an hour and really went well.  And I went on with the day after that not consumed by bad feelings of one type or another.

But I really have shocked myself.  Writing all that down amazes me, and not in a good way.  I did not used to be like this.  It has been more than a year and a half since the badness went down at work, and it makes me ill to see that I let it still have this much of my day.  I’m going to leave this for now.  I always have a nagging feeling like I’m being a terrible example to others.  That people will not want to achieve and maintain sobriety if I can be this messed up this far down the road.  It’s not like that though.  Within all this is a life that I love and a day that was worth it.  I’m going to keep going.

More About Those Kids (my story continued)

Before I leave the topic of having those two kids, there are a few more things I want to record.  The picture I used earlier has some sweet details.

As the oldest, Erika has had dibs on the front seat of the car, the best bed, biggest room, etc, for their whole lives.  Here they have switched places, since Erika thought the pull out bed we gave her was probably more comfortable than the chair thing.  The blanket over Nicholas is actually one she crotcheted for him.  And no, she didn’t get that skill from me.  As far as I can see, it skipped three generations as I can’t do it, nor can my mother nor could her mother.  Or maybe Erika just picked up a book and followed the directions.

The kids get a long very well.  They never fought much, and they hardly ever showed jealousy toward each otther.  It’s a big hope of mine that they close and in touch with each other.

I see in the bed picture that on both of their pillows, the pillow cases are one quarter to one half off of the pillows.  I hate that!  It’s something I would tell them again and again and again, to put the pillows back in the pillow cases and not to lay on the bare pillows.  At home, there could also be a cat or two maybe three in the bed with them, all the more reason to cover the pillows.  You (and I) can see my instructions were given in vain.

Erika recently graduated and has started her first job.  She’s saving money in an attempt to move out quickly.  Nicholas has started his junior year in college.  He vows to move far away.  The vacation pictured may be the last one the four of us take as a family.  Maybe not.

Both kids have it so much more together than I did at their ages.  I dare say they are more together than Carole was at their ages also.  The future is not promised to me, but I can’t help but think this has been a good start in life for them in lots of ways.

Their health, safety and existence has been made possible by my sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous.  They are my biggest blessing and greatest reward. I have seen the question posed, is there any proof that Alcoholics Anonymous works?  I say that there is proof.  Yes there is.

Saturday, October 25, 2008 (This Day at This Time)

Something I haven’t done here in a formal way is blog about my day.  Most of the blogs I read do that.  The  main purpose of this blog is to be a recovery tool for me, the way a focused diary might be.  The fact that it’s online contains an element that I hadn’t much thought about before beginning.  The fact that people interact with me regarding it is interesting.  When I first started it, I didn’t tell anyone for a while, because I wasn’t sure I’d stick with it.  I really love doing it though, so I’m pretty sure I’ll stick.

I thought about taking up daily stuff once “my story” is brought up to the present.  I think I can do them at the same time.  It will make the step work go a little bit more slowly (oh darn).

I haven’t followed any blogs from the beginning, so I know how it is to jump in and try to make sense of what I’m reading without knowing the back story, and searching through archives to try to make sense of some things.  Here I have the Who’s not Who page as a bit of a guide.  I’ll revise the About this Blog page to try and make it easier.

So today.  It’s almost ten in the morning, and I’m home.  The only other person in the house is my daughter Erika, and she’s still asleep.  She’s going to visit a friend at a college tonight and see a popular band from the 70s, so I’ll be all alone tonight.  My son is away at college.  Seven miles away, but stil not here.  My wife, Carole, is visiting family.  She’ll be back tomorrow.

My plans for this mundane day had been to putter around the house, go to the rummage sale at the church across the street, go to my “home group” meeting tonight and that was all.  I really love church sales, and this one in particular.  The church is old, and right across the street, and there’s lots of cool old stuff in their sales.  This happens once a year, and I’m not going.

I’m sick.  After weeks and more of staying healthy while everyone around me became ill, I have the annoying cold.  My head is aching from being stuffed, my nose is running, my neck hurts, my throat is sore.  My mouth feels yucky from breathing through it.  In addition, I have a very annoying period.  I’ve written about some of my menopausal adventuring as I got checked for cancer over the past few months.  There’s no cancer that they can find, but my cycles are wacky and wonky and for the most part, on the down turn.  Not today.  Today I have a heavy, painful period that began a scant three weeks after my last one.  I left work early yesterday because I was bleeding so badly.  I’ll have to come back to writing about this, but at this point I’m trying hard not to take drugs (like hormones) to get through this.

So now what I’ll do is …… I don’t know what.  There’s a cold and dreary drizzle outside, so walking the dog will be unpleasant.  I’m writing here, cleaning the house very minimally, reading, writing notes for Obama (campaigning).  I do want to go to the meeting tonight, but I feel like Typhoid Mary.  I have to get a speaker for next Saturday, which I’d like to do tonight.  I’m thinking about going and just warning people away from me so that they don’t catch my cold.  This is a dilemma at work, too.  To go and infect people, or to stay home?  I don’t know what to do about that one, but I’ve sort of given up the church sale in my heart.

I’m going to make a new category for This Day.  This first experiment seems pretty insignificant.  We’ll see.

How Important Is It?

  I wanted to play with the new poll thingy.  Cool!

“How Important Is It?” is one of the slogans used in AA.  It’s a thought like “don’t sweat the small stuff.”  It asks us to consider the thing we’re upset about, and consider if it’s worth the mental anguish we’re giving it.

One of my favorite visualizations having to do with this concept goes like this:  Picture you’re life, laid out in minutes.  How many of them do you want to give to this?  Whatever this may be.

I’m thinking I’ve lived about 24 million minutes so far.  I can picture them stretched out behind me.  I don’t know how many are ahead.  Maybe 24 million more, maybe not.  I can picture picking up a hand full, and handing them over to my problem.  Here you go, obnoxious co-worker, here are 30 of my remaining minutes.  I’ll spend them on thinking about how I don’t like you.  Politicians on the other side, I’ll give you many of my remaining hours.  I’ll spend them thinking about how wrong you are.  Driver who makes me mad, here is one of my remaining minutes.

Another common way to consider how important something is is to consider: will it matter in 100 years?  Fifty?  Twenty-five?  Ten?  One?  Will I remember what I was upset about this time next year?  Do I remember what I was upset about this time last year?  Matter are then increasing in their gravity according to how far into the future they will reach.

This concept changes over time.  In early sobriety, people may need actual guidance and practice in deciding how important things are.  I imagine we roam all over the map with treating things wrongly, whether by taking them too seriously or not seriously enough.

As my life and sobriety have gotten longer, I can see that a lot of this has to do with accepting the things I cannot change.  I’ve spent so much time fretting over them!  It seems to me that well balanced people have this well under control.

It also has to do with staying in the day.  How often have I wasted precious time fretting over something instead of enjoying the moment?  Often.  I think of this in terms of good times that have ended, relationships that are over, people that have died.

That’s all about the negative, and spending less mental time on worry, negative projection, and negative emotions like anger and hate.  I want to also look at it the other way, as in paying attention to the important things, especially habits.  It’s important that I keep formally setting aside time to pray as I try to make it more a part of my life.  It’s important that I go to meetings and that I keep working the steps.  It’s important that I spend time and energy on my loved ones, on my body.  In those cases, “how important is it?” has to remind me to pay attention to things I may consider to be “OK” right now.

I have a daily struggle with how important it is for my dog to be walked, and for me to be able to walk her.  I’ve decided, for now, that it’s extremely important.  Because of a dog-walking trauma I survived, plus my inexperience with dogs, this is a struggle for me every single day.  I reevaluate it often, and I always come up feeling it’s very important.  So for now, I persist.

The Seventh Step Is Where We Make the Change (Step Seven continued)

The Seventh Step is where we make the change in our attitude which permits us, with humility as our guide, to move out from ourselves toward others and toward God.  The whole emphasis of Step Seven is on humility.  It is really saying to us that we now ought to be willing to try humility in seeking the removal of our other shortcomings just as we did when we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol, and came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  If that degree of humility could enable us to find the grace by which such a deadly obsession could be banished, then there must be hope of the same result respecting any other problem we could possibly have.

There is hope, but not much.  Why don’t other things yield to the steps with way the obsession to drink did?

Quitting drinking, hard as it was (and it was often so hard it was impossible), was easier than quitting smoking.  Drinking had huge dire consequences, often.  For me and for lots of people I know, it had to be that way.  If it seemed to work at all, and even if it didn’t, I couldn’t give up until smashed upon the bottom.

Cigarettes weren’t like that.  The consequences were way way down the road.  So very difficult to quit.

So I know that in my disturbances, I am the disturbed element.  It is my lack of acceptance, then my character defects that make me angry, sad, hopeless, discouraged.  If I could achieve perfect humility, I would not be disturbed.  If I could achieve more humility, I would be less distrubed.

And I realize that this all reads back as “what’s in it for me?”

Contemplating this step at this time of year is interesting.  I often have black, bad thoughts about people who from with me politically. I may find someone to be a dandy person, all until elections draw near.  Then, if they are on the other side, they are either bad, or stupid.  Or both.

Be willing to try humility in seeking the removal of our other shortcomings.  Be humble, not afraid.  Be humble, not angry.  Be humble, not self-righteous.  Be humble, not lazy.  Be humble.  If I can be humble, my character defects will be minimzed.

A while ago, a friend in the program said something slightly nasty to me.  I don’t honestly remember what.  But anyway she apologized, and said that was the old her coming through.  I remember telling her that you have a “good” and a “bad” side (not that simplistically), and that if you don’t give the bad side attention, food, sunlight, it will grow weak and maybe die.  The characteristics, traits and habits that you feed grow strong.  Maybe by cultivating love, patience, acceptance, happiness, serenity, the other side will grow weak and maybe die.