April 29, 2009 (this day)

This day was difficult.  It was very rough at work, and there really wasn’t any fun or joy there.  I briefly thought of the spot check inventory but instead pulled out a prayer.  I wrote down the words and my thoughts, and emailed it to myself to add once I got home.

Send Thy peace O Lord, which is perfect and everlasting, that our souls may radiate peace.  There is, in the universe, a perfect peace I am to try to tap into, I can tap into it at any time.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that we may think, act and speak harmoniously.  Right now, I’m trying to juggle scarcity.  There is not enough staff to go around, and people are being selfish to a degree.  Also, someone has gone over my head, someone I like and see many good qualities in, but she is very selfish at times.  She has hurt my feelings and my ego.  I need to remember she will do this when she feels justified.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that we may be contented and thankful for Thy bountiful gifts.  The majority of the staff has not complained nor have they been selfish.  With the exception of one person in the hospital, we are healthy and happy and able to do what is needed today.  All of our physical needs are met.  Our building and environment are sufficient to shelter us and then some.  Our clients are arriving and most will have a good day with us.  Most of them are healthy and happy and have what they need today.  I have more than I need, including the choice to leave this place if I can’t tolerate it.  I am luckier and more privileged than most of humanity.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that amidst our worldly strife, we may enjoy They bliss.  Thy Bliss is maybe these good things I have listed, that I can concentrate on, count and cultivate.  They remain while the strife of this morning will never come again.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that we may endure all, tolerate all, in the thought of Try grace and mercy.  God has been very very very gracious and merciful to me.  The things I am asked to endure and tolerate are nothing compared to the lot of most people.  If I could give out a fraction of the grace and mercy I’ve been given, I could get through this and everything with a willing and happy heart.  As I write this, people pass my door who have extreme disabilities.  They and their families endure more in ten minutes than I have my entire life.  The people I have to tolerate and endure are not violent or stealing or hurting others.  It is a blessing to help guide them on the way to providing the best program we can for the clients.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that our lives may become a Divine vision and in Thy light, all darkness may vanish.  I don’t know if I can summon that person I want to be to appear and interact here.  I have within me all the answers that this day needs.  I read something yesterday that told me to become the most positive person I know.  I understand I have to act as if it is all OK if I hope for it to become OK.

Send Thy peace O Lord, our Father and Mother, that we Thy children on Earth may all unite in one family.  These people here with me belong to this time and place.  I have a limited effect, but I do have one.  I cannot have anything that belongs in the past, and what I do today will effect tomorrow.  We are as strong as our weakest link, and my attitude and actions can pull us all up a bit.

April 27, 2009 (this day)

I’ve been sober for almost 25 years and I do remember that “we claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.”  That would be from “How It Works.”  It works well, thank you.  Yesterday I could not place that phrase anywhere but Step Ten.  So yeah.  Progress.

april09-016I’m working on growing grass.  It is against my nature to do so.  I like the plants that can survive to do so, and the others to bite the dust.  I have as an ideal a yard that can live its life in this climate.  But for now I’m growing grass.  As the picture shows, so much of this house is homemade hand done old fashioned, and it is one of the things we love about it.  I’m grateful to the people who lived here before us who made it this way.  I’m sure I’ll curse it as the old stuff gives out, but not yet.  This place has a history.

Today I worked and came home and tended the grass.  I just ate a tomato sandwich and later Carole and I are going to a meeting.  It’s a speaker meeting, where all we will do is listen to someone’s story.

I told mine, sort of, Saturday night at Carole’s anniversary.  It was a very nice gathering.  She’s popular.  Where we live, groups don’t celebrate that way, though they do where I came from.  I made sure to say we do it “in order to show that it works.”  Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, but I know those meetings usually made me happy and cheerful when I used to go to them.  And it’s always nice to have a reason to eat cake.


In All These Situations (Step Ten continued)

In all these situations we need self-restraint, honest analysis of what is involved, a willingness to admit when the fault is ours, and an equal willingness to forgive when the fault is elsewhere.  We need not be discouraged when we fall into the error of our old ways, for these disciplines are not easy.  We shall look for progress, not perfection.

Progress, not perfection is a phrase I hear and use a lot.  I wonder if it’s elsewhere in the literature.

All these situations refers I guess to what came just before – our daily ups and downs.

Self-restraint, and, from elsewhere, restraint of tongue and pen. I don’t know if I’ve written about it before, but the day I sent my daughter onto the school bus crying because I had hollered at her I vowed not to do that again.  I’ve also been occasionally successful when arguing with others to cut it short and stop when I feel myself about to get mean.  My defect after that is that I never want to come back to the difficulty, I’d rather ignore it than have more confrontation.

Honest analysis seems impossibly difficult.  I know that at work, when I have trouble with someone, I always know to try and understand and search out their point of view, but I don’t think I’m very good at it.

A willingness to admit when the fault is ours. Yes, mostly, I hope.  I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t do many things that are just obviously totally wrong anymore.  But the famous “my part” is a bit of a cop out.  It does happen to me at times that I cannot see the other person’s point of view, or the possible goodness in what they have done.

Willingness to forgive when the fault is elsewhere. Mostly, usually, and it helps if the other person is actually sorry.

More About AA Meetings

february09-031For me, the most important aspect of attending AA meetings is to hear from other real people in real time how they apply the program of Alcoholics Anonymous to their lives.  Over the years and by attending meetings I get a deeper and better understanding of how to do this for myself.  The more I learn AA and the better I apply it to my actual life, the better is my quality of life.  It is that selfish.

The second, unselfish part is that by attending I do a small part to make sure AA is there for the people who haven’t found it yet and for the people who don’t need it yet.  Had everyone quit before I had joined, I don’t know where I’d be today.  I probably wouldn’t be today.  As part of that, my presence as an oldtimer can show that it does work over the long haul.

Third, socially, the society of AA folks is something I treasure.  I’ve never been without it as an adult, even when I had just moved to a new place and knew no one, my past AA friends kept in touch, and upon meeting new people in AA I had an instant tribe.

Fourth, I fear I would drink if I stopped.  As the book says (one of them), for me, to drink is to die.  I believe it.  I don’t think I would ever drink again, no matter what, but I’m not willing to take that chance.  I derive all those other benefits from going to meetings, a lack of fear wouldn’t keep me away.  But I do have that fear.

I guess AA has been a huge part, if not quite the originator, of the “self-help” movement.  I can see why alcoholics who need to stop drinking accept the word of another alcoholic before someone who has just studied alcoholism.  Also, AA meetings are free, and, if we are lucky, plentiful.  Alternative therapies might be awesome but they are seldom free or readily available.

I love it that by telling my story, and listening to others do the same, we can stay sober.

There are many irritations and things I find fault with at meetings, but on the bottom line it is one alcoholic working with another to stay sober one day at a time.  When a few of us gather for the purpose of sobriety, we can call ourselves an AA meeting if we wish to, and we are truly powerful.

April 24, 2009 (this day)

This will be quick before I go to bed.

I took the day off today, and planted some more grass, and went to the dentist, and went to pick up Erika’s car from the repair place.  I’m about two weeks away from having my first official false tooth.  The Novocaine shot was more painful than any I’ve ever had, I think, and the results were bloody.  I left there with a prescription for Vicodin which I won’t fill unless some huge pain comes upon me by tomorrow morning.

Tonight I wasn’t feeling well due to the tooth and Carole wasn’t feeling well due to a death cold.  She went to a meeting anyway, then we watched The Last of the Mohicans. I do not recommend it.

My old friend and sponsor from where I grew up and got sober called.  Her daughter moved near to me shortly after I moved here, and her daughter had a baby a few months ago, and Sofie is visiting her again, so she’s coming to our meeting tomorrow.  I will chair and lead the meeting (set up and tell my story) in honor of Carole’s 13th anniversary, which was a few days ago.  So that should be awesome.

Tomorrow should really be a special day.

A Spot-Check Inventory (Step Ten continued)

A spot-check inventory taken in the midst of such disturbances can be of very great help in quieting stormy emotions.  Today’s spot check finds its chief application to situations which arise in each day’s march.  The consideration of long-standing difficulties had better be postponed, when possible, to times deliberately set aside for that purpose.  The quick inventory is aimed at our daily ups and downs, especially those where people or new events throw us off balance and tempt us to make mistakes.

I’ve just looked these words over and over and over again, as well as reading again what just came before.  The “disturbances” it refers to are previously described as anger, jealousy, envy, self-pity and hurt pride – character defects, for sure, and an excess of negative emotion that results in a “dry bender.”

I’m still, of course, not clear on how the spot check goes.  This is not to say that my time in the program hasn’t helped me with all of this.  It beyond a doubt has.  For example, for a long time I’ve been able to react to confusion by asking for time or delaying a response or decision, when possible.  This I learned in AA, and this has served me very well.  My desire to go farther and deeper now is not a reflection of a failing of AA.  On the contrary, it’s because I know that it works that I turn to AA and that I desire to know it better.

Although my stormy emotions are much quieter than they were when I was new, or when I had ten sober years, I would like to learn to quiet them more quickly and more thoroughly than I do now.  Once in a while, negative emotion can ruin my day, to some extent.  That especially happens to me at home.  At work, I think the stormy emotions make me less effective.  The more I learn to handle all this, the better I do at home and at work.

Meeting Makers Make It

february09-028I’m aware that people all over the world stay sober without meetings.  People who follow the AA program, but have literally no meetings to attend, impress and inspire me.  I have always had abundant meetings available to me.  I’m also aware that this is one of the slogans that anti-AA people use as an example of AA-speak and brainwashing.

I wonder if someone who hasn’t been to AA for any length of time can understand.  I tried without AA.  I tried and tried and tried.  I couldn’t do it.  There are many more people like me, who couldn’t do it without AA, but can do it with AA.  It’s simple.

I’ve seen it so many times that someone in my 3D life, someone who has abundant meetings available, doesn’t want to go to them.  There’s laziness, boredom, inertia, and maybe some anti-AA feelings there.  At first, to use another popular AA phrase, “People who don’t go to meetings don’t get to hear what happens to people who don’t go to meetings.”  I wonder how many folks I attended meetings with have fallen by the wayside and are living an unpleasant existence or have come to an unpleasant end.  I can’t know that.  But because I’ve been around so long, and because I’m still in touch with someone from the place where I first got sober, and because Carole is outgoing and friendly enough for the two of us and she doesn’t let people go without putting up a good fight and a good effort to stay in touch, I know of many people who stopped going to meetings and how they are doing now, or what kind of end they met.  Truly, it’s all bad.  That’s just my experience.

There’s the question of what came first, the lack of meetings, or the decision to drink.  Maybe people who are disinclined to stick to something like AA for whatever reason are disinclined to stay sober also.  Maybe the people who love AA and thrive in AA are the ones who love or at least can tolerate meetings.

I go to meetings because

  • It’s a small price to pay for my continued sobriety.  The consequences of drinking for me are so terribly huge, I’m not willing to risk it.
  • I increase my understanding of the program and how to live it.  It’s invaluable to me to hear how others do it because just me, alone with a book, I’m not nearly smart enough to apply it to my life day in and day out.
  • The society of the people in AA is awesome and wonderful.  We truly do share a huge bond, and just knowing that someone is a fellow alcoholic binds me to him and a way I treasure.  We know so much about each other and never use it to harm each other.  Most people in the rooms truly want each other to succeed and are willing to go far to help that happen.
  • I get to hear about and remember what is was like drinking.  I will glamorize it and I have glamorized it to myself by myself.
  • Working it improves every area of my life and makes my actual life possible in a way I couldn’t do without meetings.

The little slogany catch phrasy thing is true for me, and I think it’s important to preserve and repeat these slogans.  They’ve proved helpful to so many people who go on to succeed in AA.  They are not for everyone.  It is not for everyone.  In fact it seems to me today like it is only for the very fortunate few.

And I was wondering if there’s AA in nursing homes.  Should I find myself in one, with my wits still about me, I hope someone will bring one in or offer me a ride.

April 19, 2009 (This Day)

It’s Sunday.  It’s going to rain after a wonderful weather day yesterday during which I planted more grass seed.  The grass is for the dog to go potty on.  I hope it works, or Carole will surely spend money and chemicals on our so-called “lawn.”

Tomorrow is her 13th anniversary.  God willing.

I lost two more pounds for a total of 17 since January.  Eleven (or so) more to go, but one or two more will put me in the “healthy” BMI zone for the first time in a long time.

I have a bit of a happy oldtimer dilemma.  On the one hand, I am severely aware of the danger of pride and cockiness.  Just one harrowing story of even one oldtimer who had more time than me, who kept current with the program and who drank again is enough to scare me straight.  Truly, it is.  I know it is because I have made it this far.  I could change, or slip, or decline or decay, but if those things don’t happen today, I’m not drinking.  The oldtimers who do and who I hear about seldom were still current with meetings.  I almost always make one, often two, sometimes more meetings a week.  That isn’t enough for some oldtimers, but it’s good for me.

Anyway one part of the dilemma is when someone very near and very dear to me disparages my sobriety in a mean way.  It hardly ever happens, but it does.  In the course of my human relationships, my sobriety is a sort of rock I stand on, and it isn’t dependent on any person or thing.  There is no one in my life anymore who knew me when I was drinking – except for my mother, other relatives I don’t often see, and one AA friend who I see from time to time.  My sobriety is longer than all of my other relationships.  It was there before them, and if those relationships end before I die I plan for it to be there after them.  God willing of course.

Of course I think God wills it.  Saying “God willing” is sort of like knocking on wood.  An acknowledgment that although I strongly suspect I know God’s will this time, in this human existence I cannot be 100% sure.

To go along with that, 25 years of sobriety is a big target for someone who wants to hurt me to shoot at.  All you need to do is say “25 years” in the right tone of voice to make it a slap.  And OK, I’m not a shining example of all a member of AA should be.  I’m not living according to many interpretations of how the “first 164” says I should live. I’m not living according to the local “shoulds” of the program.

I don’t drink.  I go to meetings.  There’s lots more, but that’s my bottom line.

Another oldtimer problem – someone reacts to someone else’s sobriety, or to mine, in a way that shows they are astonished at the length.  “Well, so-and-so said, and she has 23 years,” things like that.  These statements are meant to convey that we should respect the person, and give extra credibility to what they say.  I agree with that (easy for me), to a reasonable extent of course.  My personal problem with it is the very human reaction that someone and everyone will reveal the man behind the curtain.  At the end, all I really have is my time to stand for me as a fact of my sobriety.    I can’t let the length of time convey any more respect or credibility than it should.

In my culture, 25 years is a milestone.  The only thing I don’t like about it is that it means it is closer to the end.  Other than that, I wouldn’t go back for anything.  It’s so much better.

I very much want to be that role model in that I can honestly tell people who have less time than me that for me it truly gets better.  It’s easy for someone with 2 days or 2 months or 2 years to find packs of people to say it gets better.  There are fewer and fewer people ahead of me on the road.  I can tell people with 12 or 22 years that for me it gets better.

A criticism of AA is that it supersedes religion, and in that way it is wrong.  For me there is no religion without AA.  I was incapable of stopping drinking with religion, and drunk, I cannot practice any religion.  Or live, if you get down to it.  That weakness gave me a new and useful life almost 25 years ago.

Honestly, I’m pretty sure that today will suck in many ways.  I can’t think of a cheerful way to end this day or my post about this day.  Sometimes, it just sucks.

Few People Have Been More Victimized (Step Ten continued)

Few people have been more victimized by resentments than have we alcoholics.  It mattered little whether our resentments were justified or not.  A burst of temper could spoil a day, and a well-nursed grudge could make us miserably ineffective.  Nor were we ever skillful in separating justified from unjustified anger.  As we saw it, our wrath was always justified.  Anger, that occasional luxury of more balanced people, could keep us on an emotional jag indefinitely.  These emotional “dry benders” often led straight to the bottle.  Other kinds of disturbances – jealousy, envy, self-pity, or hurt pride – did the same thing.

Again, I find these to be some of the most important words in all of the program for me.  There are a few things I want to understand better about this.

First, I wonder what sort of change or understanding finally enabled me not to go straight to the bottle.  I want to understand this, even more now that it occurred so far back in my past.  No doubt I drank over an excess of negative emotions and character defects.  When and why was I finally able to make it through those sober?

Also, I have understood on some level that any time I’m disturbed, something is wrong with me. That has served me very well through years and situations.  Maybe it helps me deal with the frustrated impotence I can sometimes feel when someone has really and truly done me wrong.  OK, they were wrong.  How can I change myself to better handle it when other people are wrong?

Most times no doubt I must try to accept the wrongness ratio of any situation as basically 50/50, and move on.  The above says that I have been victimized by resentments, justified and not.  So even my justified resentments hurt me.  Hurt.  Me.

I peeked ahead just a bit in the step and I’m hoping for a better understanding of the spot check inventory – soon.


I don’t do it.  It is “continued or extended thought; reflection; contemplation.”  I’m really really bad at this.

I read five or six books at a time, alternating.  It takes forever but I don’t get bored.  Even though I am highly skilled and well practiced for doing “nothing,” it’s usually a noisy nothing that has some activity going on.  It’s hard for me to watch TV or read a book unless I’m doing something else at the same time, and lots of times I will do those two things at the same time.

I’m not claiming any kind of ADHD at all.  I have a great attention span and I can work at things for years.  Just not for long periods of time at one stretch.  This is why I’ll never be a golfer.  This, and my total lack of ability or interest in golf.

In AA, I think the idea behind this is that I may arrive at answers if I quietly contemplate the problem in a continuous or extended manner.  I say “I think” because I’m not sure.  In meetings and in talking with people, I haven’t heard much about meditation.  Prayer comes up fairly often, but not meditation.  I remember passages where Bill W wrote that at times when he was very depressed, he walked and recited the Serenity Prayer over and over and over again.

I can sort of see the appeal of this and see how it might work, but I don’t do it, and I haven’t really tried it.  Of course there are times when I spend a lot of time thinking about something, but that’s usually more worry or rumination than meditation.  Honestly the thought of meditating doesn’t hold much appeal for me.  I’ll have to try to keep conscious of the concept and see when and where it gets mentioned.  Surely it is something I am lacking.