Let Go and Let God

This past summer I traveled to Akron, Ohio, to revisit the birth place of AA.  It’s in Akron that Bill W met Dr. Bob, and that together they formed the beginning of the program.  A woman of Akron, Henrietta Seiberling, introduced the two, and she remained instrumental in the founding and success of AA.  I don’t know if she came up with the saying, but I learned there that Let Go and Let God was a favorite saying of hers, and that she has it on her tombstone.

I’ve been exposed to the saying ever since I first went to AA, but hearing that it is on her tombstone revealed another layer of it to me.  Like any person, I suppose, I can get caught up in a fear and dread of death.  I guess it can be the ultimate Let Go and Let God situation.  Many people fight it, but none win.  And it does seem that God made us this way, to die and, to a certain extent, to fear and fight it.

There are so many letting go situations.  I have to let go of people, things, places, times, outcomes of situations.  At times it’s very hard for me to see when to let go, dealing with my children jumps to the front of my mind in that case.  Too much letting go of them is negligent, even at their advanced ages, I would think.

It’s hard for me to know what’s right in work situations.  To a certain extent, again, I am called not to let things go.  Remembering the phrase of Let God and Let God, I hope I’m better able to back off when I should without being harmful or negligent.  I’ve actually put the phrase on my bulletin board where I hope it will remind me.

I’m trying to use it as a big phrase, something that resonates beyond the tiny details of whatever situation I’m dealing with.  In general, God will handle or fail to handle our human existence and that of the planet and the universe.  Sometimes, the things I wrestle with will matter in five or ten years, but usually not.  Also, I cannot cannot control other people.  Sometimes I can be a bit of an influence, but that’s it, and it’s mostly by my example that I influence anyway.  What I do is more important than what I say.

January 29, 2009 (this day)

january09-014The snow and ice and cold are still dominating my days.  Yesterday, I stayed home from work because of it.  That’s a new behavior for me.  For most of my working life I would tough it out to make it in.  When the kids were younger, work would actually let me bring them, instead of using a sick day.  I remember driving them home once from work in the blinding snow, thinking I saw something ahead of me on the highway and spinning completely around.  Another time, I started down the street, annoyed at some old person creeping along in front of me.  I passed that car and slid about two blocks down a hill onto a busy street.  Both times I was OK, but I also knew I was nuts to risk myself, my car, and my kids to not use a sick day.

Nowadays, kids and sick days are not a concern, and at times I’m called upon to be the manager if others can’t make it.  Then, again, I’ll do my best to get there.  But for the past two years, if I’m not the manager on call, and they cancel the schools, I’ve stayed home.  I really question the decision not to close for the day.  So today, at work, those who made it in yesterday had a bit of an attitude about those who didn’t, including me.

And I’m really OK with that.  I have been the person who toughed it out for many years, and it really didn’t help anyone in the long run.  When people ask me if they should fight their way in, I usually tell them not to.  But turnover is very high, and most people don’t have anything like my accumulated time off.

In other news, I got an email from an old old AA friend, a kind of sponsor.  She knew me from my first meetings, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.  That’s 30 years now.  In a very odd coincidence, shortly after I moved 400 miles away, her daughter moved also and lives just a few miles away from me.  She had a baby a few days ago, and my friend is visiting.  It will be fun to see her and go to a meeting, if we’re able to.

Walking the dog this afternoon in the freezing slush, I actually had the thought that this helps me appreciate spring so much more.  And it does.

Home? Again? (my story continued)

old-016I’m up to the last eleven years of my story.  I moved myself and my kids and my cats 400 miles in 1998.  Erika would be 13 that year, and Nicholas was 10.

When I was interviewing for my job, they asked me what my five year plan was.  I said then that I really wanted stability, and to get the kids through school in the best way possible.  I told the truth – I’m still at that job.  To say I hate change is to put it mildly.

From then till now, I think the defining circumstance of my life has been bringing those kids, and especially that girl, through those years.  Without writing details, I’ll say that at times it was very very difficult.  Scary.  Heart breaking and awful.  I know that my experience in AA helped me and them through.  I have no doubt at all.  And we have all made it through to the end of that time when they were dependent.

So I’ve lived here eleven years.  That is more AA experience than I had anywhere else, except for the place where I started.  I have moved, I think, 13 times, and many of those times in sobriety.  I’ve lived AA in a span of 3000 miles across, with some places in between.  That is amazing to me.  I don’t know and I can’t imagine how it could have been otherwise.  I like to think that now, if I had to live without it, I could remain sober.  I’m so glad I don’t have to live without it.

In all the places I’ve lived I’ve found the people of AA to be the best people in the world.

That said, since I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else but “home,” I have to say that some of the AA conventions upset me and I disagree with them.  Now I don’t go to meetings anywhere else any longer, and the AA I grew up on could well have changed for the worse there, too.  I’m also very aware that oldtimers frequently think AA is changing for the worse.  That attitude, in part, spurred me on to begin this blog.  I do disagree with some of the ways they “work it.”  But it works.  For me and so many others.

While the Purpose of Making Restitution (Step Eight continued)

While the purpose of making restitution to others is paramount, it is equally necessary that we extricate from an examination of our personal relations every bit of information about ourselves and our fundamental difficulties that we can.  Since defective relations with other human beings have nearly always been the immediate cause of our woes, including our alcoholism, no field of investigation could yield more satisfying and valuable rewards than this one.  Calm, thoughtful reflection upon personal relations can deepen our insight.  We can go far beyond those things which were superficially wrong with us, to see the those flaws which were basic, flaws which sometimes were responsible for the whole pattern of our lives.  Thoroughness, we have found, will pay — and pay handsomely.

It’s funny that I should try at this point to see a “whole pattern” of my life.  I’ve written an extensive history right here.  It’s also interesting for me to think for a minute that my alcoholism could have been caused by my defective relations with other human beings.

In general, I choose not to go down the road of what caused the alcoholism of me or of anyone else.  I think that right here, right now, we don’t know.  Whenever anyone mentions some thing external that caused their alcoholism, I can point to uncountable numbers of people who went through the same or worse and did not become alcoholic.  I believe that once we are alcoholic, we cannot go back, and no amount of understanding the cause will allow us to undo it.  If it wasn’t for x, y or z, I would not have become alcoholic.  So what?  I am, and all that remains is what I will do about it, now and in the future.

I’m not really sure where to go from here.  I’m thinking of taking a list of character defects and trying to apply them to my relationships.  I feel like I should concentrate on the bad relationships, but probably not.  I think I’ll begin this on paper and see where it goes.

Blogging and Bloggers (and I still don’t know what I’m doing)

lemonade-award2Louisey at Letting Go has given me my first blogging award!  Like so many of the blogs I read, I did not understand or anticipate the community that exists among bloggers.  I’ve come to see that there’s quite a community of long time recovery and AA bloggers who read each other’s blogs and comment and give each other awards, meet up and such.

Letting Go was one of the first recovery blogs I began reading, almost a year ago.  This award is to go to bloggers that show great attitude and/or gratitude.  I’m going to try to give some kind of little review here.  Most of the blogs I read are written by people like me.  Mostly in the suburban US with abundant meetings, rehabs, and all the resources we take for granted every single day.  Letting Go is written by someone who lives in South Africa.  The deprivation she describes is beyond my imagination.  Not to be dramatic – she seems to have enough food and adequate housing.  She has a computer and the internet, for goodness sake, though the issues she sometimes has with it sound like what we went through in the early 90s.

But she has no meetings.  Truly, I do not know that I could make it and stay sober with no meetings.  I guess at this point I could, but she’s not quite where I am in years acquired.

She also lives around grinding poverty, the kind that hurts your soul.  The political and family upheaval she’s been through could fill many volumes.  Maybe one day she will fill volumes with them.  The other important point is that she writes like a dream.  I can’t stomach blogs that are poorly written, and most are written well.  But hers shows the high art that writing can be.

Amidst the unusual circumstances she writes about, she manages to communicate in writing the solid (as far as I can judge and see) AA that she practices.  That is no small thing for any of us, but with her limited resources it truly amazes me.  She adds to my hope and faith in the program.  I won’t go wrong by trying to describe it any more than that.  I urge anyone reading this, for whatever reason, to go over there, and experience it for yourself.

Now part of the award is that I’m supposed to pass it on to at least TEN other bloggers, and I can’t.  First, many of the blogs I read have already received it.  I subscribe to over 25 recovery blogs, but so many of them post only occasionally.  And honestly, some of them aren’t very good (to me).  The blogs that I think are really good are listed in my blogroll, and that is my way of recommending them.  However, if you read only one from here, make it Letting Go.

Keep It Simple

january09-025I think people who know me will agree, the dog situation is an excellent example of how I can complicate things that needn’t be complicated.  Probably the dog and the job are two things I complicate most.

“AA is a simple program for complicated people.”  It’s a saying and oh so true.  Drinking, complications abounded regarding, well, everything.  Drinking itself was a very complicated matter involving the supply, the company, the obligations and the lies.  I’ve noticed that for some people who struggle to maintain sobriety, sobriety can be very complicated.  There are so often family, job, health, relationship, and every other kind of trouble a person can have.

I know I wrote above that I complicate my own situations.  When I struggle to see this, and to understand how I’m adding to my own misery, I bring to mind the wisdom to know the difference. Over the past (more than two?) years it’s become painfully apparent to me that there is only so much I can at work.  Quite a lot I can do, really, but a much bigger lot of things I can’t change.  After all this time I should know what to struggle with and what to let go.

The dog situation is born of lack of experience, bad experience, and twisted emotions.  I watch (and study) The Dog Whisperer, and most of the time he cuts right to the chase where the person is simply not telling the dog what’s OK and what isn’t.  Simple.  But you see, I don’t know where this dog came from, but I can tell it was a bad, bad place.  She’s understandably neurotic, and so am I, coming from a bad, bad place myself.  Then factors of our daily lives, our sizes in relation to each other, the age of each of us, and more – all combine to complicate beyond my comprehension, this situation of a dog and a woman trying to make it together in suburbia.

And even as I write all that out, and even as I live it, I have within me the answer and I understand that I need to Keep It Simple. Dog, woman.  Follower, leader.

When I first encountered AA, I was told almost immediately that my “yeah, but” was not going to get me far.  I also say that everything after “but” is bull.  It’s the yeah, the yes that I say to things I know to be true, that I need to go with and nurture.  Keeping it simple and going to the heart of the situation should be a quicker was to resolution.  For me and for the dog.

January 20, 2009 (This Day)

convention08-545I’m at home watching, been watching all day.  It was eight years ago today that Carole and I sat watching George Bush be sworn in.  We watched, and cried, and decided that next time, we needed to do more than cry.  The last two elections (so-called) have not been good to us.  This is bitter – sweet sweet SWEET.

I’m 46 years old, and I was born when John Kennedy was president.  I was 18 months old when he died.  The first president I remember is Nixon.  The first election I was old enough to vote in, Ronald Reagan won for the first time.  My kids were both born during Reagan years.

Whatever comes of this, it is surely an awesome time.  I think that during my life time, it’s become officially not OK to discriminate against anyone.  Not that it doesn’t happen.  It happens all the time, most of the time.  But officially, it is not OK.  In the United States of America, right now.

Today, I’m really hopeful.  I really hope we will officially be about cleaning the environment, promoting peace, improving education and health care.  It feels very much like Pollyanna, but for today I’m just going to enjoy it.