Whenever We Fail Any of These People (Step Ten continued)

Whenever we fail any of these people, we can promptly admit it–to ourselves always, and to them also, when the admission would be helpful.  Courtesy, kindness, justice and love are the keynotes by which we may come into harmony with practically anybody.  When in doubt we can always pause, saying, “Not my will, but Thine, be done.”  And we can often ask ourselves, “Am I doing to others as I would have them do to me–today?”

Since I’ve added some very troubling people to my rotating prayer list, it’s interesting.  I don’t remember to think of them all day, every day, but I often remember.  My infantile thoughts, when I try to paint these people in a positive light for myself, usually go toward making excuses for their bad behavior.  Maybe they have a hard home life.  Maybe they have physical or mental illness.  Maybe they’ve had some big disappointments in life.  Maybe that’s why they are the way they are.

I also always do remember that I am not a good judge of people, and they may in fact be much better people than I am.

So I don’t know.  I’m trying to picture the most courteous, kind, just and loving people I can think of, and wonder if they have harmony with practically everyone.  I’ve long known that if I’m generally nice to people, they generally treat me better or give me what I want, but there’s no virtue in that.  Am I doing to others?

Not Everyone Can Love AA

I watch The Dog Whisperer and sometimes wonder how this show can possibly help someone like me.  The man is obviously gifted and special, whether I like his methods or not.

There are four people on my mind.

The first was a woman who went to meetings on and off around here.  I don’t know who she was, but I’m told that if I saw her, I would know.  Her father-in-law, who I also can’t place, is also in AA.  A week or two ago, she killed herself.  Her funeral was yesterday.  She was in her 50s.

I heard from someone I used to work with many years ago that someone we both worked with is homeless and sleeping (at least once) in a train station, calling herself a “dry addict.”  I worked with this person for years.

That brought to mind another woman I used to work with who was very successful in the agency, well respected and “high up.”  A few years ago, when I asked about this person, I was told she had left rather than be fired for being drunk.  I’m assuming this is after or instead of therapy, since I can’t imagine the agency wouldn’t offer treatment and a second chance.

The fourth person is just a dear friend who continues to struggle, year after year.

Last night, at my home group, we celebrated the 22nd anniversary of someone.  I was able to pass on my 22 year coin, which never happens.  Our celebrant said lots of important things, but what I’m remember today is that he said, “I love AA.”

I say that and I mean it, and I’m sure he does also.  I don’t know that you can achieve 22 years of sobriety in AA without loving AA.

I know it doesn’t work for everyone.  I know that not everyone can love it.  I know that the end for many alcoholics is not a testament to AA, but rather tragic and sad.  I don’t know what the difference is, and why I can get it and have it while others can’t.  Improving and getting better at AA is not necessarily something a person will have time to do.  Sometimes the consequences are tragic before someone gets it, before someone loves AA.  Before the miracle.  I’m glad I get to keep trying with the dog.

may09 006

Powerless (Over the Laws of Nature)

To some extent, I can effect my health and well being, but only up to a point.

I part company with many of the people I hear in meetings regarding this.  Many people seem to believe that God intervenes on behalf of people at certain times, and some believe they can manipulate God or change his intervention with prayer, bargains, good deeds or other things.

I can’t buy into this because there is just too much suffering in the world for me to think I’ve been spared for some reason, or that things like prayer influence the master of the universe.  How unfair!

From time to time I hear someone say something like, “Thank goodness I never hurt anyone,” when they are speaking of their drinking.  For many years, I went to meetings with a young woman who had caused the death of her best friend by drinking and driving.  She’d comment, sometimes, not to the person who said it but at other times, that we who did not directly cause a catastrophe as far as we know are indeed very very lucky.  Luckier than her.  When a tornado devastates one family and not another, I sometimes hear the lucky ones say, “God was looking out for us.”  Well, bummer to those who God was not looking out for.  I just can’t understand if this is true.

It seems to me that so much human striving goes toward postponing and delaying and defying death, yet it comes for everyone, even Lazarus is dead.

I’m reading about Thomas Jefferson, and how, before his time, people did not understand what caused illness and weather.  So they ascribed it to God.  But in his time people began to understand germ theory, and to inoculate against small pox.  They could see that it wasn’t only or even at all God, but the physical nature of our being that decided who lived and who died, and that this could be changed by the actions of people.

I think we still are held hostage by lots of superstition.  What makes the most sense to me is that God set things in motion and does not intervene.  To God, if a person lives one hundred days or one hundred years it doesn’t matter, because there’s something infinite about our very beings.  That makes the most sense to me, but really I have no idea about the why of anything.

My thoughts aren’t all the comforting but I think they just are.  My ultimate powerlessness in the face of the universe is frightening when things go wrong.  I feel the child of my past hoping and begging that really, I do have some control.  Then I have to tell her to grow up.

Happiness and Serenity

akron08 027I finally made it to an additional meeting this week, added to my “home” group.  I like to go to two meetings a week, but I don’t always make it.  I know that lots of people think two meetings a week is not enough (let alone one), but it works for me!

The second meeting was a discussion and two topics were brought up:  happiness and serenity.  The man who asked about happiness was, to my ear, asking about happiness in the face of adversity.  The way he phrased it was “What do you need to be happy?”

As people spoke about happiness and serenity they decided that of course they are interrelated.  Adversity got lost in the shuffle though.  Some of the things that were sort of said (my paraphrases):

God always gives me what I need.

I know that God will always give me what I need.

When I look at my children, when I hold them in my arms, how could I not be happy?

I’m judgemental and I have a problem with this.  Yes, of course, my happy healthy children make me happy.  Yes, of course, I have had all I need every day of my life so far.

But this says nothing about my “happiness” in adversity.

There are tragedies I don’t think I could recover from.  I hope I don’t find out, but some of what goes on in the world makes me catch my breath.  I don’t know how people live with some of the things they live with.  I’m spoiled, by birth and by circumstance, so far.

So far.  I have had everything I need and much, much more, but not everyone does.  And one day, I won’t have everything I need to stay alive.  I hope that happens from old age in my sleep, but still, it will happen.

Judging the people who spoke at that meeting (which is wrong for me to do, of course, since I speak wrongly at meetings all the time), I think they missed the point.  It would be a different kind of problem for people who have nice houses, nice jobs, healthy children, good sobriety, healthy bodies, etc, to not be “happy.”

I’ve had times when I’ve gone through rough patches, like when one of my kids was sick and the outcome was in serious question.  It is very difficult to be “happy” under such circumstances.  I remember moments of happiness, but for me, when my child was not doing well every happiness was tinged with sadness.  I have been lucky so far in that those times have passed, and today all looks well and promising for me and mine.  Though that can change in a second.

My bottom line is that my “happiness” is not the point.  I can’t help chasing it, but I recognize it is not a worthy goal.  Mother Teresa comes to mind as an extreme example.  I don’t think she spent much if any time trying to be “happy.”  She’s extraordinary and I’m not, but I can hold her example up to myself at times when my happiness is elusive, especially when I’m serving others.

I know that the AA literature holds up extreme life examples of conditions that we can make it through, sober and sometimes serene, if not “happy.”  The one that always comes to my mind is when someone loses a child in war.  I can’t imagine how awful that would be, especially because war is man made and there would be other mothers on the other side experiencing the same loss.

Surely we are meant to be “happy, joyous, and free.”  I have two shirts that say so!  For me it’s important to count my big and small happinesses every day, to learn from the experiences of others, to keep going when it’s difficult to do so and to look to helping others if I can, when I can.

We Can Try (finally) To Stop Making Unreasonable Demands (Step Ten continued)

We can stop making unreasonable demands upon those we love.  We can show kindess where we had shown none.  With those we dislike we can begin to practice justice and courtesy, perhaps going out of our way to understand and help them.

The list of people I seriously dislike is small, thank goodness.  Plenty of people annoy me but I try not to let that annoyance last too long.  Someone at work comes immediately to mind.  I do practice courtesy, but thinking about trying to “help” him is alarming.  I think I’d get deeper in trouble with this person if I somehow tried to “help.”  I don’t know if that’s a cop out on my part.

This sounds a bit like “kill them with kindness.”

Powerless (over alcohol)

The licensing at work went OK but it was very hectic.  My work partner and I ran around all day finding things and trying to find things, and we didn’t know until the end that it was OK.  After I got home, she called me twice.  When I called her back I told her I had had a drink, something to eat and had taken a bath and was doing OK.  We were so busy today we didn’t have a glass of water or hardly make it to the bathroom.

She said, “I’m having a drink too, but it’s not the kind that you’re drinking.”  Although she doesn’t know why, she knows I don’t drink alcohol.

There’s something in the literature that says something like alcohol has ceased to be a problem for us.  It’s just not.  I don’t envy her the ability to drink that one drink, feel its effects and make it in to work tomorrow.  I don’t.  I don’t want a drink, I don’t want her drink.  I don’t want lots of drinks, not even with the ability to snap out of it as soon as I would need to.

I don’t want one nor do I want one thousand.  Truly.  It’s just not a problem for me today.

June 21, 2009 (this day)

My mother has joined Facebook.  I wonder if this is how my daughter felt when I joined.  I’m officially the sandwich generation of Facebook.

I really can envy younger people who grow up with all the technology of the internet.  I love it, and I would have loved it when I was younger.  But it is what it is.  It astounds me when I see that people have read this blog from Iran.  Iran!  The last several readers were from Austin, Texas; Tune, Roskile, Denmark; Whittier, California; Santa Clara, California; Bucharest, Vaslui, Romania; Alabaster, Alabama; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Grand Haven, Michigan.  Amazing!

And it always amazes me that what most of them come looking for is AA meeting topics.

Today is Sunday.  Carole is traveling home from a trip she’s been on since Thursday.  This afternoon, the kids are coming over and Erika is bringing her cat.  I’m a rather obsessive pet owner, unfortunately, and I do not like the thought of her cat languishing while she travels.  Now really she only goes away overnight, at the most, I hope.  She does have a job and she’s been awesomely responsible in showing up to it every day.  So she’s not neglecting the cat.  But still.  I just hope beyond hope that her cat likes it here, and that our menagerie likes her.  As a life long cat person, I know that’s extremely unlikely.

Tomorrow the state comes to renew the license of the program where I work.  My work partner and I have been co acting supervisors for a few months, and though we’ve been there for years, this is the first time we’ve dealt with things like staff credentials and building issues.  I know that what the licensers say about us is not that important and not always accurate or relevant, but I can’t help hoping that we do really well.  She and I and the staff could use the mental boost.  Taking that thought and trying to apply AA to it, I see that I should hope that if the state does criticize us, it’s in a way that helps us improve.  They may see parts of our puzzle that we do not.  It’s also possible that they will be unjust or just plain wrong.  In that case it will just be one part of one day out of many.  The next day, people will arrive who need to be taken care of, and we need to do our best.  That’s it.

Today is Father’s Day in the US, and this day has been a problem for me ever since I was six, and my father passed away.  Now it brings to mind the poor father my ex has been and is being to my children.  I hope that Carole and I can take that example to do more and do our best while the kids are still here and still willing.  I will come back and read this after the kids and cat have left.

akron08 082

We Can Try (again) To Stop Making Unreasonable Demands (Step Ten continued)

We can try to stop making unreasonable demands upon those we love.

I have failed in my attempt to see what I demand from those I love.  I won’t cop out and stall here again.

One source of frequent irritation comes to mind.  I expect people who know me well to remember certain things about me, and to act accordingly or at least not ask the same questions over and over again through the years.

A harmless example:

Do you want coffee?

Is it first thing in the morning?  Have I ever not wanted coffee first thing in the morning?  Ever?  Don’t ask.  Yes, I want coffee.  Always have, always will.

I’m easily and often irritated by talk that I consider to be superfluous.  Aren’t you cold?  Why don’t you put on a sweater?  What are you doing?

Oh, I thought of one!

What’s wrong? Some people use this in place of “hello.”  Drives me nuts!  Some people conduct entire relationships this way.  What’s the matter?  Nothing.  Are you sure.  Yes …… well it’s nothing and it’s probably me, but ……

So I feel this post is full of unreasonableness, but I am blind to it.  I will move forward.

Physical Problems

april09 026We use real cups at my meeting in order to save the planet.  I try to take a cup with me to meetings, and I figure I’ve saved quite a few from the land fill over the years.  I wish more people would do this, since I know AA people use more than our fair share of disposable cups.

Yesterday I got a new name and today I got a new tooth.  My first false tooth, a dental implant.  So far, a few hours after getting it, it seems great.  I can’t help but imagine what it will look like when my body decays.  I mean, I try not to think of that, but my mind goes back there.  It didn’t help that the dentist gave me the models of my teeth with the implant installed.  Like I’ve seen on TV that they use to identify a body.

The main drawback in my mind to getting older is that it is closer to the end.  Other than that, I don’t like the way my body ages, but it’s mostly OK.

I hate being sick.  I hate being debilitated, like I can be with my perimenopausal woes.  I’ve often felt kind of sickly, because when I was a kid I had severe allergies, then bum knees that had to be operated on.  I’m short and not very strong, and I’m not athletic at all.  But all of my illnesses and maladies have been mild or temporary, or both.

I’ve seen two clear lines of thinking in AA regarding pain medications.  I think the intensity of both sides comes from the fact that the person talking has likely felt herself saved by AA.  That I where I’m coming from.  Some AAs feel that if you are following a doctor’s orders, it is all OK and good.  And many times it is.

I have seen people actually killed, by what I consider to be an inability to completely kick pain medicines.  Now it’s totally possible and maybe even likely that these had chronic pain and needed the medicines.  I don’t know what the brain twist is when these things get in our systems.  I know that I have spoken to a dentist when I drove someone for oral surgery.  I know that the dentist assured me the pain pills he prescribed were not narcotic.  I know that when I asked the pharmacist, of course they were narcotic.  I know that I personally cannot completely and blindly put my sobriety in the hands of health professionals.  I know they won’t always guard it the way it needs to be guarded.

My own experience with pain pills is limited, and when I was drinking, I actually stopped taking pain meds in order to drink.  There was a girl in my high school who was in a coma from mixing alcohol and pills, and thank goodness I was afraid to do that.  I know that in the pain of childbirth, the Demerol felt completely marvelous except when a contraction was happening.  Then, it didn’t really help.

I’m afraid that once I’m taking a drug like that for pain, I don’t know what it does to my brain that may make me want more.  I know that it can change my thinking to where I feel I want or need more, and that could lead to more pills or other things.  I’m pretty radical in my view about not taking the drugs unless there is no other option, and getting off of them as soon as humanly possible.  This is not an official AA view, and many people in AA disagree and do it differently.

Aside from the issue of pain medications, I have many daily excellent examples of how to deal with physical illness and disabilities.  Day to day I try not to give too much time to what’s wrong with my body.  At times it’s too hard to remain calm or cheerful when I’ve been sick or in pain or suffering from women’s issues from a long time.

June 17, 2009 (this day)

It’s just too strange and awesome not to record, but I guess I’ve changed my name.  I legally have three, my first, my middle, and my new last name.  A judge signed the order that it’s done.  Now begins the red tape.

I’d love love love to be sentimental, feminist and individualistic about this, but I took my grandmother’s birth name.  My grandmother was a wonderful grandmother.  She was also human, of course.  And the part I like least about it is that her name came from her father. Without making up a name entirely, I can’t escape the patriarchy.

So I had one last name for the first, sort of growning third of my life.  I had another last name for the second, mothering and working third of my life, and a new name for what is probably the third third of my life.  Wherein, if my body cooperates, I should most fully become me, escaping the daughter and mother roles for most of each day.