When a Drunk Has a Terrific Hangover (Step Ten continued)

When a drunk has a terrific hangover because he drank heavily yesterday, he cannot live well today.  But there is another kind of hangover which we all experience whether we are drinking or not.  That is the emotional hangover, the direct result of yesterday’s and sometimes today’s excesses of negative emotion — anger, fear, jealousy, and the like.

Epiphany!
a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

I am, in a way, going through it all again.  The very difficult time I had two years ago at work.  And again, of course, the only thing I can control is myself (though not always even that).  And I wonder what part I should play and how I should act and react.  I desperately want to take the lessons of my experience forward into helping the people I work with and for.  Mostly the people who have developmental disabilities that I can impact in a positive way almost every day for years at a time.  Also the very good people I work with who are dedicated to the clients the way I should be.

But excesses of negative emotion. I have them often and they overwhelm and drown me.  Then I lose the time I spend with them, and the next day too to the emotional hangover.  I’m still hopelessly at sea about what I should do in these work situations.   I feel like I would pay to just know and see which path I should travel, but I know it’s much more simple and much more complicated than that.  There is no one who will show me the way.  No one can.  I’ve got to somehow wrest the answer from this book and these people and my experiences so far.

Letting Go of Things

808-038I’m getting better at it.  This is the shelf that the man we bought our house from had made to rest the window air conditioners on.  We got new air conditioners and couldn’t use the shelves any more.  So I photographed them and then I threw them away. This is huge progress for me.

I’m especially attached to old objects that have family history.  Once my aunt called my house “The _____(grandfather’s name) and _______(grandmother’s name) Museum.”  I have lots of their old stuff and would have more if my mother’s siblings would have parted with more, and if I’d had a house that wasn’t very far away when my grandmother died.  Something I love about this house is that the way the man who lived here took care of it was like my grandfather had done.  He used scraps from everything and made everything himself, like the air conditioner shelves.  Carole and I are not handy at all, and we certainly don’t make things.  But we’re compatible.  Visible in this picture are two of her antiques – the secretary and the umbrella stand.

But, every piece of anything anyone ever gave Carole is here and on display, and that makes me nuts.  New things, given to her by young people, having no sentimental value, cover every surface.  Just about.  OK so I exaggerate.  But she won’t get rid of anything ever.

I’ve gotten better about, though I do love my attic as a place I can store stuff that they’ll have to throw away after I die.  I’ve been to estate sales where it’s obvious that a person’s whole life is up for sale.  That could happen to my stuff.

There aren’t things I mourn, really.  I can’t think of any.  OK spending a moment trying to think of something, I remembered that I left my high school ring in a motel and never got it back.

No, the people and the places are much harder for me to let go of.

February 23, 2009 (this day)

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I started writing this early this morning while I was waiting for AAA to come start my car.  But they arrived very quickly, and I was on my way quickly, so I didn’t get to write about it.  I did get to think about it in terms of writing about, though, so what will follow is what I came up with.

I’m looking at this as it relates to my character defects.  I’m doing well with several of them.  I have a need to be early, for example, and I get anxious if there’s a doubt that I’ll be early.  But as soon as I saw that I’d certainly be late, I reminded myself that I had no meetings or other things that needed my presence today.  I have plenty of time off saved up to use.  I can also work from home every now and then.  I called my work partner, and she was on her way to work.  So the place would be OK and I would be OK and nothing would fall apart if I couldn’t be early.

Having a working car is a huge concern.  But this work partner also lives nearby and is very willing to give me a ride.  The people I would take the car to are usually quick and accommodating.  AAA could tow the car there.  I have plenty of money to rent a car for a few days if I need to.  Carole can sometimes give me a ride to work.  And actually I have no meetings this week that require my presence.  So I did well and stayed calm with all that self talk about it being OK if I can’t make it to work for a few days to have the car fixed.  And I do notice that I jumped from having a car that won’t start to one that needs several days to be fixed.  But you never know.

I can deal with all this without too much distress.  There’s just one part of my equation that makes me feel terribly anxious and unable to cope.

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I pictured (and still do picture) getting to work, which is about 23 miles away.  Being there and having the car not start to get me home.  Asking work partner to drive me, having to wait for her to leave, getting home and having somehow to deal with a car that is 23 miles away.  Part of that is normal, I think, but the part that makes me overly anxious is what happens with the dog while all that takes place.

If Carole was to come and get me, I’d ask her to bring the dog, to give the dog some activity and something to think about.  Carole works a long day on Mondays and goes to a meeting after work, so she wouldn’t be home for a long time.  And all this is beside the point.  The point being for me that caring for this dog, specifically giving her enough exercise, company and activity, makes me nuts.  It lowers my quality of life, and I know that it probably makes the dog’s life much more anxious and negative than it needs to be.

I’m writing this all down in the hope of seeing some solution or some aspect of the problem that I haven’t considered.  I’ve given myself, and others have given me, all the usual lectures about how very wonderful this dog’s life actually is, even putting aside the fact that we found her dying on the floor of an awful animal shelter.  My vet and my mother have both told the dog that she lucked out.  As I write she sits two feet away from me.  She’s warm inside and it’s freezing outside.  She is surrounded by bones and toys.  She’s just eaten a very good meal, and later she’ll have a frozen marrow bone and I’ll run up and down the stairs with her at least 11 times for exercise.  She’s been out in her fenced yard and today, after I made it to work, a dog sitter came and gave her a potty break and attention.  She’ll be pet and stroked a lot before bed tonight.  She lives better than many many people.

I know.

Let go and let God.  How much time of my life have I wasted in anxiety over this or my previous dog?

A Continuous Look at Our Assets and Liabilities (Step Ten continued)

A continuous look at our assets and liabilities, and a real desire to learn and grow by this means, are necessities for us.  We alcoholics have learned this the hard way.  More experienced people, of course, in all times and places have practiced unsparing self-survey and criticism.  For the wise have always known that no one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he is able to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong.

I’ve aquired a few habits and a few understandings through the years.  For instance I know automatically and well that any time I’m upset, it’s because something is wrong within me.  I know that improving my character is a life long goal of mine, centered on minimizing and eliminating character defects.

I do have a problem with thinking about myself.  I don’t like to think about myself.  I know that excessive thinking about myself is a very bad thing.  So I probably don’t do it enough.  I’m also inclined to usually look at myself from the negative angle of what is wrong.

I also need a better understanding of the conecpt of acceptance, especially when I’m accepting something I don’t like.  That last sentence up there, saying that I need to accept what I find, then go about changing it, touches on that.

Letting Go of Places

retirement07-025I’m trying to look at this from a recovery viewpoint.  Some of what hinders me is my sadness over losing people, places and things.  I have a strong attachments to places.  I knew this when I was 24 and had to move so so far away.  But before that, I didn’t go away to college, I didn’t enjoy traveling and actually turned down a trip to France.  I loved and appreciated the fact that my grandparents’ house is where my mother grew up, and the hospital where I gave birth to Erika is where my great grandmother (her great great grandmother) died.  It does make me sad to realize that those traditions are broken for me and for my children.

I’ve definitely formed new attachments to the places in my life now.  I really enjoy going around and looking at very old things and I’m interested in the history of this place, although my ancestors were, as far as I know, never here.

Again, trying to put it in a recovery perspective, I think my sadness is selfish and I want for myself more history and stability than most people get.  While I’m being sad about losing places, I’m not actively, at that moment, appreciating where I am right now.  And, in looking for a silver lining, I’ve paid attention to the fact that some people I know now, who grew up here and pass by their childhood places all the time, are often sad because it brings to mind the people who are gone.  So I don’t have that to look at every day.  I can’t imagine, for example, how it is for my uncle to live now in the house where he grew up.  I think I would often be overcome by memories of better and worse times.

And this is all very specific to me.  When people first come into AA, the letting go of places usually involves not going where their drinking used to take place.

So that house in the pictures.  It’s where I ran away from the “wolf” in the woods across the street.  It’s where, I believe, my father died, just inside of that plate glass window.  It’s where, during a drunken party, a guy from school broke a door.  It’s where I did most of my drinking.  I had slumber parties there, I started smoking there, I threw up until I was overcome by dry heaves there.  My children and my grandmother spent time together there.  I wonder what the people in that house are doing now.

February 20, 2009 (this day)

december08-104So the “Let Go and Let God” sign on my bulliten board has been joined by one I’ve taped to my monitor.  These are at work.  I’ve also fished the “Let Go and Let God” rock thingy out of my bag, and I put it in my pocket when I go to work, and I clutch it often.  The person who is not doing his job has been found out.  He’s started to begin to maybe sort of try to do his job.  It’s probably too late for that.  Maybe it’s what should be.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The common denominator in all of my problems is me.

The weather is still frigid.  Carole’s sick.  Since I got home from work I’ve watched the local news repeat itself several times.  I’ve been “friended” on Facebook by someone else from Kindergarten.  I’ve trained the dog for a few minutes, watched “The Dog Whisperer,” and now I’m going to take a bath, try to get Carole to watch “The Virgin Suicides” and “Dollhouse,”  and call it a day.

Continued to Take Personal Inventory (Step Ten)

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

As we work the first nine Steps, we prepare ourselves for the adventure of a new life.  But when we approach Step Ten we commence to put our A.A. way of living to practical use, day by day, in fair weather or foul.  Then comes the acid test:  can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance, and live to good purpose under all conditions?

I like this list!  It’s also helpful to me that I have written my whole story out at such length.

Can I stay sober?  Yes.  This is the only part I’ve done perfectly and the only part I can do perfectly, as an earlier step tells me.

Can I keep in emotional balance?  Often.  Pretty much.  I interpret emotional balance to be a kind of mildly happy serenity.  If I’m not always there, at least I usually have some clue of what there looks like, and how to proceed, if only to seek out help.  Phrases like, “I have every right to be upset-angry-insulted-hurt” don’t fit for me.  I know that no matter what, I am to avoid and leave those states of mind, if I possibly can.

Can I live to good purpose?  Yes, a lot, but never enough.  Mostly my kids are well raised and my job is well worked.  The books also tell me that my good purpose is to serve God and my fellow human beings.  It always comes back to a kind of selfishness for me, because I enjoy doing those things, and they provide my livelihood.

Under all conditions?  I’ve had some stuff happen along the way, but I haven’t suffered the way many people do.  The conditions I’ve lived with and through have been pretty mild.

I’m looking forward to studying this step further.  I know I can do much much better with this, and I want to.

Letting Go of People

I feel like I’ve gotten worse at this, and have a harder time now than I have before.  That may be because I am at a time in life where there are more losses than gains, as far as people go.  The people I’ve lost had very important places in my psyche.  People like my grandparents.  Whether or not I will gain people like grandchildren remains to be seen.  For today the answer is no.

I think of the old schoolmates who find me and “friend” me on Facebook.  These people did not care about me much when we were in school together.  Now that we’re far-flung, we see how precious that time and that belonging to each other was, and is.  I went to the same schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and knew many of those people that long, and spent every day with them.  I won’t have relationships like that again.

I understand that I’ve been gifted and priveleged with these relationships.  I had to have good grandparents to mourn their loss.  My growing up experience was mostly good, and I can let these people “friend” me with no fear.  And most of these things are good and fun.  My grandparents lived long, and my grandmother met my kids.

The moving around I’ve chronicled here did take a toll.  It’s interesting to me that I really never wanted to move away.  I’ll have to say about this when I write about letting go of places.  But I wanted the places and the people to stay the same.  It didn’t work out that way.

I’ve been at my job for ten years.  There is only one person there (out of around 25) who has been there longer.  Everyone else has moved on, probably multiple times.  It was hard for me to leave my previous job, when I moved to be with Carole.  The people I’m still in touch with lament it with me, that we had such fun, and didn’t appreciate what we had when we had it.  There are even online communities I’ve belonged to for years now, and I don’t want to let them go.

So I feel like I’m not as good at this as I “should” be, and that large portions of my unhappiness (when I’m unhappy, which isn’t much of the time) are due to this.  I want more than my share, for sure, because I want my good and easy relationships to go on forever.

February 14, 2009 (this day)

shortThe sign is from a parking lot directly across the street from the AA archives in Akron, Ohio.  I took a picture of it because, until I saw it, I hadn’t thought of “short cutting” as a verb.  But I know what they mean.  Also of course because it’s a direction just so wonderfully full of metaphor.  Short cutting just about never saves time, does it?  In AA, I think it’s safe to say short cutting is actually dangerous.  The elevator to sobriety is out of order, please use the steps.

Anyway today is the second sobriety anniversary of a dear friend.  Two years ago, my group meeting was her very first AA meeting, and tonight I asked her to chair the meeting.  She has done so very well, it’s truly amazing.  I had talked a lot to her partner about how to get her to try the program, thinking that, like most people are, she’d be resistant.  But she jumped right in and her life has changed so much in these past two years.  People who have experienced this will understand how this is such a precious gift to me, just getting to share in it a bit.  There’s nothing that someone with decades of sobriety could do that would mean more.

Today is also that V day.  I want to just put this out there and see what happens.  I have a dysfunctional attitude toward presents, giving and receiving.  I’ve probably written about it before.  I think it’s because my mother never ever liked anything anyone ever got her, yet she demanded gifts for her birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas, and she shamed me once to my grandfather when I didn’t get her anything.  After that, I felt with total bitterness that she would have her damn gifts.

I like anniversaries, holidays, and recurring special occasions.  I like to repeat traditions around those occasions.  I even sort of like giving and receiving gifts, somewhat.  But when a holiday approaches for which I feel that I must provide a gift of some sort, I dread it and hate it and I just can’t get over it.  I hate receiving things that way, having people (or person) watch me open something.  I hate the pressure of producing something and honestly, my loved ones are not demanding and it’s not a matter or spending money or even taking huge amounts of time.  I hate it when someone doesn’t like a gift I get them, even when they pretend they do.

I’m not sure how to work on this, and I’ve tried some things and I’ve failed.  I understand this is my problem, but having named it, it can set loved ones up in opposition to me.  Like the less I want to deal with presents, the more important they become.  It’s a vicious circle and I can’t just pretend it away.

That issue aside, AA has enabled me to share in the day of love on many, many levels.  And when I’m not giving presents I hope I manage to be a good friend, mother, co-worker, employee, AA member, pet owner, neighbor, daughter and lover.  Most of the time.

For Every Thing There Is A Season (Words to Live By)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

I understand this in two different ways.  At times, I think there may be a larger plan for my life and the life of the whole world, and that things unfold according to that plan.  I may see only a very small part of a very, infinitely large picture.  For me to try and see this time as the right time for whatever occurs helps me “accept the things I cannot change.”

If I look at it in another way, things may not happen for a reason, but they happen when they do and are finite.  Like the season of my childhood is over, as is the season of my children’s childhoods.  Whether or not they have children is not preordained, but if they have them, those will have a season of childhood also.

I often wish for things to last longer than they do.  I don’t like change and I don’t like the passage of time in most of the ways that it happens.  When I accept the way that things are here, now – or even that they are here, now – I’m much closer to serenity.  I have to remember also to try to pay attention to the present, and to appreciate it as much as I can.