Aren’t These Practices Joy-killers (Step Ten continued)

Aren’t these practices joy-killers as well as time-consumers?  Must A.A.’s spend most of their waking hours drearily rehashing their sins of omission and commission?  Well, hardly.  The emphasis on inventory is heavy only because a great many of us have never really acquired the habit of accurate self-appraisal.  Once this healthy practice has become grooved, it will be so interesting and profitable that the time it takes won’t be missed.  For these minutes and sometimes hours spent in self-examination are bound to make all the other hours of our day better and happier.  And at length our inventories become a regular part of everyday living, rather than something unusual or set apart.

As I’ve realized and written, I don’t really do this in a formal way most days and in most situations.  I have learned to quickly look for my part and what’s wrong with me when I’m disturbed, but I feel kind of stymied when I think about it now.

This morning, at work, I quickly got overwhelmed and angry and upset.  I’m listening to Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress in the car, and on the way in it asked me to identify stressful situations and work to minimize them.  The book has nothing to do with AA, but so many of the procedures of AA are universal and practiced in many times and places.

The work situation was something that has upset me there for years.  Basically it is “Mondaymorningitis,” a malady that afflicts too many of the people I work with.  We work in a situation where we are taking care of people, so the less staff there is, the more stressed and less cared for everyone gets.

Part of my frustration comes from the fact that as a supervisor I am called to tell people what to do.  Like, “This job is Monday through Friday, please come to it each and every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”  I’m supposed to tell them what to do, yet, like with my children, my ability to actually get them to do it is severely limited.  I try to trick, threaten and bribe them into doing what they ought to have done to begin with.

Ug.

I do provide a power of example by actually going to work every day myself.

So what is wrong with me here?  I am judgemental, for sure.  Those people who failed to make it work today may be really sick, and here I am angry and stewing at sick people.  I’ve certainly failed to avoid stepping in a hole I know very very well.  I could, maybe, avoid the scheduling of staff on Monday mornings so that I don’t get involved in the process and think about who is not where, and when they are not there.   I could (try to) accept that this is the way my agency operates.  This will be tolerated and if I can’t tolerate it, I should leave.  The pros outweigh the cons, and so I stay, but this is part of staying.

In thinking about this Step and inventory, I have not kept up with a review or with the list or anything like that.  I really dislike thinking about myself but I also trust the program very, very much, and so I will continue with this still.

Loss

I wrote about losses as part of my story.  I’ve had lots in the past four or so years.  Loss as a concept in general, though, has new meaning for me.  It’s where my mind is concentrated lately, but I think it’s because I’m going through menopause.  Taken apart from circumstances, I expect the loss of my reproductive status and all that goes with it to be a positive thing.  I’ve loved having children and I enjoy being a girl, but the monthly reminders are something I don’t expect to miss.

But it’s a milestone, for sure, and one that marks distance passed that is leading up to an end.  That’s not welcome.  As I get closer to that, others ahead of me arrive, and some who I thought were behind me move ahead.  We’re all on the same ship Earth, I’ve read, just sharing the ride until death.

So.  I’m more than grateful to have the program of AA to not let my head stay there for long.  That does no good whatsoever, except to maybe help me appreciate the people who are here with me now a bit more.  But losses add up in that way and in others.  I’ve lost a tooth that’s not coming back.  I’ve lost the hair color of my youth, the elasticity of my skin, the ability to sleep soundly or go without sleep, lots of my eyesight for things both near and far.  I’m sorry, but these losses are just not good.

I’ve gained things also, but that’s not what this is about.  I am mostly happy and I am mostly grateful and I am mostly beyond satisfied with my lot and my life and they way I’ve spent my time.  Very very grateful to have spent so much time sober.  I’m also grateful for the example that AA gives me of the way it goes for older people in the program, but really, honestly, I only feel that to a point.  I know older folks who have ceased to be able to function on their own and have gone to group living arrangements or died.  I haven’t visited any of these people in any of these places.  I’ve never actually heard of anything like AA in an assisted living arrangement or nursing home.  I’m sure that’s worth looking into.

Mostly, I’m happy for what I gain and what remains, but loss is a theme that’s taken on a different meaning and feeling in my life.  I suspect that’s part of the human experience.  Personally I’d like to feel the sadness of it less, though I doubt I can let that go completely.  AA always offers me a way to get out of myself and be useful here, now, to be part of someone else’s gain.

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March 27, 2009 (this day)

march09-008This Alvin’s promises clock repair, but this picture was not taken at 8:20.  Not any time near 8:20.  Still the store has obviously lasted a very long time, and has outlived all the surrounding businesses.

Today I had to turn down two happy hourish occasion.  Two different groups from work were going out to party, and some people were going to attempt to go from one to the other.  I said no as always.

A few days ago, when these get togethers were being discussed amongst the staff people, several of them did go off on the wonderful tangent of how fun it would be to get me drunk, and how they could do it without my knowledge.  One person said they did this to her aunt who doesn’t drink, on occasion.  That alarmed me, and I said something about someone being allergic or something, so slipping them alcohol could be deadly.  Little to they know.  The aunt in question is apparently not allergic or alcoholic, she just doesn’t drink much. And her sister is always there when this takes place, so presumably it is safe and very very funny.

In thinking about writing all this I wondered what effect, if any, this might have on the vulnerable uninformed newcomer.  I’m not average in this respect.  Most of the people I know in recovery, and certainly those who have been sober for more than a few years, attend these things with no problem other than finding them boring and sometimes sad.  I, on the other hand, am not a party girl in any sense of the word.  When I do attend work functions like this at baby showers or get togethers that don’t take place at a bar I often enjoy myself, but it’s a struggle for me.  I don’t think I use my alcoholism as a way out of these things, but it’s possible that I do.  I truly have no desire to attend functions where drinking is the main event.  And that includes family get togethers.

Other things about my day.  Carole was away last night, and I sort of used that as an excuse not to go to a meeting.  I attend my home group on Saturday nights and I will go there tomorrow night.  I feel no heightened danger of drinking but I want to go to more meetings – at least one a week in addition to my home group.  My number one conflict in doing this is with the dog.  I feel so much more able to do things away from home if she’s been active and exercised and/or if someone will be home with her.  I’ve jokingly said I’ve given up worrying about her for Lent but I actually mean it.  I’ve made some progress and I intend to continue to do so.  But I’m no where near through with this.  No where near.

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Then There Are Those Occasions (Step Ten continued)

Then there are those occasions when alone, or in the company of our sponsor or spiritual advisor, we make a careful review of our progress since the last time.  Many of us also like the experience of an occasional retreat from the outside world where we can quiet down for an undisturbed day or so of self-overhaul and meditation.

I don’t do this either.

I have a (sort of) funny story about my first and only retreat.  I was pregnant, so it occurred when I had around 14 months of sobriety.  A dear friend in recovery, one who I’m still in touch with, asked me to go and I went.  This was at what I imagine is a nice monastery type place, on the ocean.  I imagine it because I didn’t see much of it.  I honestly don’t remember but I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it through the first night.    I sort of freaked out and had someone come get me.  I remember driving home, at dawn, thinking about what a nut I was.

I haven’t tried it since and I really don’t want to, though recently, because of new program friends who enjoy this immensely, I’ve sort of begun to think I might one day reconsider.  Maybe.  A long long time from now.

So my “progress since the last time” is not a formal review or timing of anything.  At times, circumstances cause me to reflect on my self of the past, and sometimes I do see that I’ve moved forward or sometimes backward in some way.

Wow, I would love to overhaul myself.  I guess that’s what I’m doing here.

Living in the Moment, Living in the Present, Living in the Now

Worry, one of my biggest defects, often keeps me in the future.  But for me, more than having a problem living in the past or future, I have a problem living with the emotions of now.

I’m grateful that years of practicing the program has enabled me to internalize lots of these principles to a huge degree.  I know that people I talk to who are not in the program have some sense of needing to live in the present.  There’s that “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery” poem that gets mailed around and printed out.  There’s a certain truth there we all can see.  But I’ve had meetings and readings and conversations about this through the years, and I think I am better for all of it.

This has helped me when I’m panicky, like when giving birth or on a plane or waiting for something very bad that I think is coming.  I’ve been through a few times when  had to not only live in the present time but also in the present place and state of not knowing something drastic.  We had to drive about an hour to get to the hospital where my son was on a respirator.  I didn’t know why or what had happened or what was wrong or how bad it was for that hour.

I pull this thinking in pretty quickly when, like recently, I knew my job would be changing, and I always fear I won’t like my job anymore if it changes.  A few seconds of that is all I need and then I can remember that all I have is here and now.  I’ve used this thinking recently when dealing with menopausal issues.  Things happen that would drive me insane if I had to live with them forever.  But I don’t have to live with them forever, just for now.

Also when times and situations are very good, I can be a bit sad that they won’t last forever and may never happen again.  Those years of practice do tend to bring me back to the here and now, and I’m really grateful.

So, what is the present?  Where are my feet?  That’s what the present is.  I have some hopes and plans but things have changed before and they will change again.  Today always call for an instant gratitude list of people, places, things and situations that are very good.  I may have made a mistake a few hours ago at work, and said something I shouldn’t have said.  I’ll have to see.  I can’t go back and unsay it.  I can take responsibility and apologize if it turns out to be bad, and hopefully stop myself next time I’m going to say something like that.  But tonight there is nothing I can do, and it’s not here, and it’s not now, so I’ll try to attend to what is – here and now.

March 22, 2009 (this day)

march09-028I seem to write about weekends much more than weekdays.  That’s because I have more time on weekends.  When I started writing last year, I never intended to write every day.  I know that lots of bloggers do set out to do that, but I would be stressed with finding or making time.  So I work it in at a certain proportion, making sure I get to it, but the frequency depends on what else is going on with me.

I didn’t get to bring up the topic last night because the man who lead (told his story) had one:  Balance.  That’s what I’m talking about!  People talked about balancing AA meetings with the rest of their lives, balancing their time in general, and having balanced emotions.

I mostly feel in balance.  Through the years the frequency of my meetings has varied.  When I finally achieved a sobriety that would last, I had been going to meetings for five or six years.  In lots of my beginnings, I had attended 90 meetings in 90 days and so forth.  I highly recommend doing that to new people.

Last night, at that meeting, I again had the most sober time (in terms of years) in that room.  That’s fine, and I’m grateful and blessed (and sometimes a little nervous – could that mean I’m the next to die?).  But when I came in, the rooms were full of people.  Where are they?

Many were old and died sober.  Many drank and many drifted away.  For most of my sobriety I’ve had one meeting a week as my absolute minimum, meaning I will not miss a meeting on that seventh day without one if I can possibly help it.  I’ve let that slip a bit from time to time, but not by much.  I belong to a group and I go there every week unless I truly can’t.  So this is the balance I’ve struck for now and it works for me.  For some people, with whatever amount of time, one or two meetings a week wouldn’t be enough and I do not fault them at all for that.  People who are not in AA spend huge amounts of time doing destructive things, like drinking.  Time spent in AA meetings is an OK coping mechanism in my book and in my life.

The picture is from yesterday, when we took the dog to a park to walk.  A certain amount of time with and devoted to the dog is also something I need, and I’m trying to achieve a better balance there (and not worry about her so much).  My job has gotten crazy and my house is a mess but I’m writing here because I consider this time devoted to recovery as something that I want to do.  I wouldn’t drink without it, but it adds to the quality of my sobriety and I enjoy it.

Today I took the time to go to church and tonight Erika is coming over (I hope) and I have to ask her to check on the crocheting she taught me a few days ago.  There’s a TV show I like on Sundays (Desperate Housewives) and if it’s new I’ll watch that.

I look back on the time when the kids needed to be transported to school activities and medical appointments and stores and such, and I can’t believe I did it without melting down (more often).  It would be a scary undertaking at this point but I guess I coped with it at the time.

Last night at the meeting a friend of mine who is newer to AA commented that she noticed that many people with lots of time were saying they were not in balance, or have a hard time achieving balance.  But truly I think we raise the floor as time goes by, and what was good progress years ago has been left and surpassed.  Otherwise those people with lots of years wouldn’t still be sitting there and talking about.  It’s part of the beauty of AA for me that it tells us we must reach ever further and higher and continue to improve in order to live well.  And it is part of the miracle of AA for me that I and they want to continue, even long after alcohol has ceased to be an issue.

A Quick Update on The One Taken at Day’s End

My week at work was extremely hectic and emotional.  My work partner, Irene, and I will be be overseeing the program while our supervisor is out on medical leave, at least until the end of May.  In organizing everything and finding out where things are, we had to clear through a lot of “wreckage of the past,” both literally and metaphorically.

There are times this opens old wounds for me and it hurts the way only old wounds can.  As part of my new thinking for Lent I have tried to turn away from old and painful thoughts as soon as they surface.  At work, I have tried to think of it in terms of “What does it mean to Hannah?”  Hannah is a new person who is transitioning from school into my program now that she has turned 21.  Hannah could well spend thirty or more years of her life at my program.  Hannah knows nothing of the past of the program, the people or my broken hearted ideals and experiences.  Hannah needs the best program I can help provide.

On my first morning of the first day that I planned to take inventory at the end of (huh?), I applauded myself for creating the mental metaphor of cleaning an old wound so that new skin and tissue can grow and repair.  It hurts to clean it, but it must be done, or the bad old stuff will cause the whole thing to rot.

I listened to a prayer on the phone (which is a good thing for me to do) and appreciated the metaphor of Joseph trusting God when the angel told him of God’s plan.  Kind of like, “God, seriously?  Good will come from this?”  I can identify.  A little bit.  I’m not really comparing myself to Joseph.

I was a bit resentful about two experiences in the morning, but I knew the proper emotional responses and I worked on nurturing those, rather than my resentments.  I let myself by admonished and corrected by Irene.  This is nothing new, but I used to have a better and more loving attitude about it years ago.  Honestly, I tend to think of myself and more enlightened and superior to her because I work a program and I can appreciate her despite her admonishments.  Honestly, I see the hypocrisy right there.  Yes I do.

I felt to much pain and regret that day.  These are minuses to me.  I’m not doing a good job of handling my emotions when I do that.

At home, I was worried and selfish of Erika’s cat.  I didn’t clean as much as I should have.  I didn’t walk the dog (though I had before work, I didn’t after).

Then, brushing my teeth to go to bed, I remembered that I was supposed to review this document.  I resolved to do that, though I really didn’t want to, then promptly forgot about it and went to bed.

The next day I felt bitter, bitter, bitter about something at work.  The central dilemma is that now others are handling things they tried to make my old boss handle.  It can’t be done by someone in that position, she failed tragically (to me at least), and now they fix it all up.

The next day Irene heaped tons of gossip and innuendo upon my head, and it upset me.

So I’m not doing well with this at all. I feel I am terribly at sea with it and I make break an extremely long standing personal tradition of mine and actually bring it up as a topic at my meeting tonight.

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