Moving in AA (My Story Continued – 27, 28, 29)

So I moved a great distance again, but this time closer to my hometown and family.  For the next few years I moved three times.  First, to the suburb of a big city, then to the most rural area I ever hope to live in, then to the suburb of a very small city.  All this was within three hours drive of my home and family.  That would have seemed far to me, but not after having lived thousands of miles away.  We could, if we needed to, make the trip there and back in one day, like my mother did once to see a dance recital of my daughter’s.

All that moving made for not much consistency in my AA groups and meetings, although I got to attend more meetings in my hometown where I had gotten sober.  Each time I moved I found a meeting to attend weekly, usually the nearest women’s meeting.  I went to other meetings but not many.  My daughter was four, five and six, my son was one, two and three during this time.  Of course moving so often with them wasn’t easy.  My ex worked retail, and he worked a lot.

I don’t remember if I wrote about this previously, but one of the meetings I attended deserves special mention.  I went to a “bring your children” meeting, and usually my son was the only child.  I think it had been started by some women who had young children, and it met in the nursery of a church, so there were toys.  It’s the only meeting of its kind I’ve seen, and I think it was a great idea.  Unfortunately I’ve seen meetings listed with “no kids,” and I try not to attend those.

In retrospect I see the many advantages I had with all this moving in sobriety.  I didn’t enjoy it, and I really had no desire to move around, but I did the moving anyway.  First of all, having AA as an immediate contact in a strange place was invaluable.  People in every place I moved to accepted me and helped me and were as friendly as can be.  When I think about it, I feel sorry for people who don’t have this contact in strange places.

Second, it gave me a large picture of AA.  Where I live now, the view can be kind of narrow.  I’m glad I know first hand that lots of the “rules” aren’t rules at all, and that things are done differently all over, and that people stay sober here there and everywhere.  That has given me respect for the fundemental lack of rules in AA.  I’m so grateful.  I have just the beginning of an understanding of the way it has evolved and survived and thrived.  It still irks me when people get all agitated about some deviance from “the way we’ve always done it,” and I’m glad I don’t share that alarm.

The biggest advantage for me has been that I believe in those years, without the support of familiar people in AA, I developed and built a solid program as a foundation that I may not have had I stayed in one place and kept the same support group, or not had to leave my familiar support group ever.  I think I had to rely more on the program and the “we” of random fellow AAers.  So many times, little details about my life had to fall away, and I sort of had to touch bottom and stay sober one day at a time.

Someone last night was expressing gratitude for the hundreds of unknown unnamed people who had passed through his sobriety through the years.  People that he didn’t get to know for whatever reason, but who helped him, if only by being there, year after year.  There must be thousands of such people in my past by now, and maybe I’ve been that for others.

It’s also good for me to think, for a minute, about what would have happened to me and my kids if, at some point during those years, I had taken a different road and went back to drinking.

November 29, 2008 (This Day at This Time)

october08-0471I slept late this morning, and didn’t get out of bed until after ten.  I couldn’t sleep last night.  I’m writing this after eleven, and I feel stuffy and groggy and painful.  More menopause!

My mother, wife and daugthter are in the next room.  My mother is visiting for Thanksgiving.  She’s been here since Tuesday and she’ll leave on Tuesday.  She just came back from three weeks in China.  She’s traveled all over the world in the past 20 years or so.  I have no desire.  Or little desire.  She seems old this time in ways she hasn’t before.  Mostly, I guess, her eyesight is going.  She’s been severely nearsighted my whole life (and long before me), but it’s getting worse and impacting her daily life.  Scary.  I’m afraid that my daughter may have inherited her eyesight, but I trust that 45 years between them will mean my daughter doesn’t go through the same thing.

We had a nice Thanksgiving, better than I had thought it would be.  It was fun.  In my addled brain I can’t help but worry about next year.  However, I’ve learned to quickly turn from the those thoughts and know that all is well today, and it’s not always that way, and I need to enjoy it.

I went to the viewing yesterday for my client who died.  I’ll have to come back and write about that experience, and what I hope to learn from it all, in a way as a legacy to him.  I guess his funeral is going on right now.  I knew while he was living that I was blessed to know him, I really did.  It’s the others that don’t seem like a blessing.  That’s what I have to learn to appreciate better.

So today I have plans like walking the dog and taking a shower before my meeting tonight.  I feel unsettled that I stayed in bed too long, and it’s hard for me to shake a day that started out this way.  Monday I’ll take my mother to see where my daughter works.  I haven’t been there yet.  Tuesday I’ll take her to the airport and Wednesday I’ll return to work.

Thanksgiving went well and it wasn’t as bad or sad as I thought it might be.  Christmas is creeping up on me, with presents around me and decorations multiplying and occassions at work beginning Friday.  So darn hard to stay in today.

Giving Thanks (A Gratitude List Stream of Consciousness)

  • my health, the health of my immediate family and all the people who were here last year
  • the nearness of my kids, who are willing today to spend this day and night with me, my wife and my mother
  • the healthy animals of mine, all five of them
  • a house with electricity, gas, heat, tons of entertainment
  • a wife willing to put up today with my kids, my mother, my friends
  • my friends, willing to spend this day with us
  • too much food, and all of it good
  • peace in the neighborhood
  • freedom of religion and freedom from religion (I don’t know nor do I care about the religion of my neighbors)
  • plentiful AA meetings
  • that I don’t have to go shopping tomorrow, but that my wife and mother like each other enough to go without me
  • my  job, and all the people there, all of them
  • ten years spent with Sebastian (who passed away on Tuesday)
  • a friend to go with me to the viewing tomorrow (she actually calls it a tradition)
  • my job, for as long as I have it
  • my wife’s secure job and great benefits that they and she have let me and my son share
  • lots of books and the ability to read them
  • reliable car

I think the list is getting a bit silly.  Today I didn’t think once about who and what I’ve lost and miss, until very late in the day.  I can’t believe the people who spent this day with me and how well it went.  I’m so glad that I understand gratitude as something to be practiced and cultivated and grown.  I am blessed.


Two AA illustrations come to my mind.  The first says something like “insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.”  This happened to me many times for several years.  I kept drinking over and over again, thinking that this time would be different, that this time I had learned my lesson and would not drink too much this time.  Insane.

The second illustration is that of the jaywalker who keeps crossing the street in the middle of traffic and getting hurt worse each time, but continuing.  My drinking got worse over time, but still I persisted.  Insane.

I have a problem that I commonly hear other express.  I don’t know that I was awfully sane before I drank, so I am sometimes dubious that God or anything can restore to me something I never had.  I guess as a child, though, I was more sane, or at least I was born with the capacity for sanity, and in that way maybe I can be restored.

When do I still do these insane things?  Well, they are not present at the level they were when I was drinking.  Then I played with life and death in a terrible way.  Now.  I find myself having the same arguments with the same people.  I fail to change my own bad habits.  I fail to recognize and accept certain aspects of human nature – mostly by thinking that things can change, like people at work won’t try to get away with things like talking on the phone during work.  Though of course for now, and forever after, I have to remember that I have actually done worse, and may yet be called on it.

Urg.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Every AA Has Found (Step Eight continued)

Every AA has found that he can make little headway in this new adventure of living until he first backtracks and really makes an accurate and unsparing survey of the human wreckage he has left in his wake.  To a degree, he has already done this when taking moral inventory, but now the time has come when he ought to redouble his efforts to see how many people he has hurt and in what ways.  This reopening of emotional wounds, some old, some perhaps forgotten, and some still painfully festering, will at first look like a purposeless and pointless piece of surgery.  But if a willing start is made, then the great advantages of doing this will so quickly reveal themselves that the pain will be lessened as one obstacle after another melts away.

I’m very unsure of what to do here.

How many people have I hurt, and in what ways?  What human wreckage have I left in my wake?

Mostly, these days, I hope I bring good things to people and relationships, or at least neutral things.  I’m not wrecking things anything like I did when I was drinking.  No comparison.

It’s tempting to start a list and to start with work people.  The death of someone there today makes it starkly obvious to me that we are all in relationship there, very closely.  But I think I’ll wait a while to get farther into the step to see if this is really what I should do.

God Has My Attention

Today I headed out to work with my brand new attitude still firmly intact.  I listened to a telephone prayer, and the Pastor told me not to fret over things I can’t control.  Someone at work got a promotion of sorts, and someone else was being negative about it.  I was able to voice the good things about the person in question, just like I used to be able to do in the old days.  I was doing well.

Then the usual BS began about something or other, and the phone rang, and I ignored it.  Or should I say I decided not to answer it.  This was early in the morning, before everyone was in, and no clients were there, so it wouldn’t have been someone asking for help with a client.  People can and do page me if they need me immediately.  It was one of those things where I hoped they’d resolve the problem on their own if I didn’t respond.  And yes, I completely expected a problem.

When the phone rang a few minutes later, I figured enough was enough and I picked it up.  An office staff person told me that she’d emailed me but also wanted to tell me, someone had called with an emergency.  I called that person right back.

tjI found that a client had passed away a few hours previously.

Unfortunately, this happens often.  The people I work with usually have multiple disabilities and are often medically compromised.  This particular person was not healthy, and I often worried, but still this news was a shock.

I have a recurring spiritual crisis I endure each time this happens.  I wonder why God made the world this way, or failed to prevent the world from being this way.  Really I think these details don’t matter to God and have nothing to do with the soul and spirit of each person, but the unfairness hits me every time.  Some of us have healthy, fully functioning bodies and live relatively free from physical pain and physical concerns.  Others suffer and never know what it is to walk or take a drink or read a book or a blog.

I also picture that these particular people who go before me will act as references for me in the next world or life.  I try to imagine what they would say about me at my final judgement.  This goes along with the idea in the Bible that the blind person was made blind in order to test those who could see.  Whether this could possibly be true is way beyond my grasp.  I use that line of thinking to remind myself to do it better and give more tomorrow.  And to not take the littlest things for granted.  Because they were “granted,” given, I didn’t work for them and I don’t deserve them.

I cared for this person closely for ten years.  My world will not be the same without him.  I was paid, hour after hour, year after year, to be a part of his life.  And we had such good times and so much fun.   As an individual, this person was one of the most loving people I’ve ever known.  That could be very bothersome at times, but mostly it was very nice and a great example.  He loved people just because they occupied the same time and space, and so they belonged to him.

He never wanted to stay home, no matter what the weather or his health or anything else, he wanted to come to work when it was time.  I joked all the time that if he won the lottery and won it big, he would still come to work the next day, and actually be quite crushed if he couldn’t come for some reason.  Just to be with us.  Just because.

I was supposed to teach him things, but mostly I really couldn’t.  He taught me so much, though, if only I would learn.

Rest in peace.

Willingness (prayer)

Let my heart be the vessel of God’ Love.

Let my thoughts be the blossom of God’s Love.

Let my words be the expression of God’s Love.

Let my actions be the fulfillment of God’s Love.

Willingness – David Ridge

Today at work I greeted everyone as if I was very glad to see them.  I was!  Even the disagreeable characters, like the parent who won’t speak to me, are characters in my drama.  They share this time and place with me and they are a part of me.  I helped everyone who needed help, without them asking me first, if I could anticipate it.  Every activity that I was a part of, I tried to truly be a part of, and to do it with a good attitude.

When I saw the boss’s boss talking to her, I wondered if they were talking about me and my badness.  I wondered for a few seconds, then hoped that if that was indeed what they were talking about, they would have at least closed the door.  Then I kept moving.  I was happy and enthusiastic and, what do you know?  Everyone really seemed to me to have a better attitude today.  Magic!

At church yesterday, I paid special attention to the parts about confession and absolution.  This is one area where I part company with the Lutherans.  I do not know if the Pastor knows if I am indeed forgiven.  I think it’s possible that God would say no, I am not.  Entirely possible.

The day before yesterday, at my meeting, the topic was ego-smashing.  Fun!  I wondered to the group if I could perhaps get by at some point with ego cracking, rather than a complete smash.  That remains to be seen.

I wish my good behavior now could shield me from what I did wrong in the past, but it won’t.  I think I’ve gotten a wake up call though.  Whether I continue on at my current job or have to look for another, I think I have a good chance of getting back the love of service that I had for so long, not such a long time ago.

Surviving a Spiritual Crisis in Sobriety (my story continued)

My son was born in February of 1988.  After a scare with the chicken pox, he surivived and recovered and aside from some mild colic, he was and still is as good a son as anyone could wish for.  My ex eventually became happily and gainfully employed.  I read and studied (in the 12 and 12) Steps One, Two and Three to make sure I felt them as whole-heartedly as I possibly could.  I started going back to church, which was not easy with a baby and a toddler, but I did it.  I decided to do a fourth step at four and five years sober.

I don’t remember much about what that fourth step actually said.  I worked with only the Big Book and the Twelve and Twelve as guides and I just got on with it.  While all this was going on, I attended a Christmas party at my ex’s place of employment.  I saw on the company video that they would be opening offices in a city less than 150 miles from my home town.  I asked my ex to enquire about tranferring.

I asked a woman I liked to hear my fifth step.  This she did.

The company said transfer was possible, and then they offered to pay for our move of about 3000 miles.

After hearing my fifth step, my friend took the Big Book off of her own shelf.  Or maybe she had it on the table all along.  Either way, she apprised me of the part that instructs me after the fifth step to go right on along to Step Six.

Ten years later, visiting Dr. Bob’s house for the first time, although I’d worked all the steps for many years, I did not feel that I could fully say I had “taken” Step Six.  And actually, I did another fourth and fifth step in between times.  But that’s another story.

And a lot of that is why, when I started this blog last February, I started with Step Six.  I’ve been through it twice, greeting a crisis with a renewed fourth and fifth step.  And while that certainly isn’t a bad thing to do – in fact, it’s a very good thing to do – it hasn’t gotten me much farther down that road, so I’m trying it this way this time.

November 21, 2008 (fear and worry)

I did something wrong at work back in September, and today I got called on it.  Except that the person calling me gave me the benefit of the doubt, which I don’t deserve.  I didn’t do this thing maliciously, more negligently, but I did it.  My fear is that more will show up on the next quarterly report.  I don’t know what constitutes a quarter, but it’s possible I did it in October or November.  Of course I won’t be doing it again.

I got that call in the middle of the day, and it’s difficult for me to think of anything else.  I’ve mulled over sixteen different scenerios, both good and bad, and once in a while I get that shot of panic that feels so awful.  Again, the job is threatened, and again, I realize that I love it.

Other lessons abound.  The people there who I dislike and resent didn’t do this thing that I did.  Really, anyone can get fired at any time for anything.  It seems to happen fairly frequently.  So this is just a detail.  They’ll keep me if they want to, or decide my crime is too serious and not keep me.  Either way there is nothing I can do about it.  And either way, all I can do is try to appreciate each day as much as I can.

Being in trouble at work (and this is sort of worse than being in trouble, because so far they are being so nice to me and I don’t deserve it) is one of the most difficult things for me to deal with.  I’ve always felt this way, and I can recall and recount every time it’s happened.  Happily, it’s only happened a few times.  I read the Daily Word, and years ago it had a meditation that is one of my favorites.  It’s in my desk at work (along with half my life – I’d need a U Haul to leave), but the gist of it is that I may have done or said something that I regret.  I may not have taken the best road, but I have learned something valuable from it (and boy, have I).  I release the past and live in the now.  I rotate other meditations  weekly on my bulletin board and try to read them every day.  This week’s said that we and others make mistakes, but that only a fool would continue in the mistake.  It said not to stir yesterday’s trouble into every new thing.

Earlier this evening I was looking at this blog.  I clicked on one of the posts that is listed on the sidebar as being popular today, I read this.  The seventh step quote says, Our eyes begin to open to the immense values which have come straight out of painful ego-puncturing. And I wrote “I do see the point about ego-puncturing.  I would very much welcome this at this point, knowing that it can bring relief and better days.”

What the hell was I thinking?  I can’t imagine.  I’d love to remember and get that feeling back!

I went to a meeting and now I’m writing this.  I don’t like to go to bed when I’m worried, because I’ll usually lay and worry more.

I remember a meeting I went to a long time ago.  The topic was fear and worry, and it was snowing heavily outside.  I realized then and I said then that my worry and fear about driving home in the snow would not melt one flake.  All it would do is make me miss some of the meeting because my mind was elsewhere, and maybe make me drive badly because of my fear.  That was a long time ago, and here I still am, worried and frightened about the things I cannot change.  And still thinking that I even know what I should worry about or what might go wrong, when experience has shown me over and over that I do not.