We Sometimes Hurt Those We Love (Step Ten continued)

We sometimes hurt those we love because they need to be “taught a lesson,” when we really want to punish.  We were depressed and complained that we felt bad, when in fact we were mainly asking for sympathy and attention.  This odd trait of mind and emotion, this perverse wish to hide a bad motive underneath a good one, permeates human affairs from top to bottom.  This subtle and elusive kind of self-righteousness can underlie the smallest act or thought.  Learning daily to spot, admit, and correct these flaws is the essence of character-building and good living.

Work comes right to mind for me, and all the time there I am supposed to be looking out for the greater good.  I’m afraid that I have acted selfishly in the past (I’m sure I have), and in that context it would really hurt many people.  People I’m supposed to protect from harm.

I’ve written before about my partner at work, Edith.  We’ve worked together now for ten years, and things have broken down and been built up again.  She is not in AA and she actually has very little knowledge of AA, but she is somewhat “religious” in that she mostly follows an organized religion, though not in a bad way.  I know that she’s basically out for the greater good because really, I know what she does better than anyone else, since I do the same thing.  We both do way more than our share, and through the years we’ve struggled together and done without things so that others can have them.  And we haven’t pointed that out to anyone else in order to be congratulated for it.

I started writing that paragraph to point out to myself that she and I can be checks for each other, making us a bit safer from the dreaded rationalization than if we acted alone.  But writing it has almost choked me up, I’m realizing (again and more) how lucky I am to have her with me in this place at this time.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and our situation can’t continue forever, but I’m pretty sure that tomorrow it will be more of the same and we’ll work together as we have been.

This is a beautiful program and the words above made me reflect and appreciate again and some more one of the many good things in my very good life.  I’m going to have to consider how I hide bad motives underneath good ones another time.

Progress, Not Perfection

august09 003This is from our local AA office.  Carole and I went there to buy books and meeting lists for our meeting.  We went with hard covered books, because to me, these books are meant to be kept and used for many many many many years.  In some kind of publishing logic, hard covers cost only a little bit more than soft.  Our meeting, and most meetings I go to, give books away to people who can’t afford them.

The phrase progress, not perfection comes from Chapter Five of the Big Book, How It Works.  It is, to me, a key to how it works.  It was recently pointed out to me that perfectionists are always concentrating on what is wrong.  I have understood “perfectionist” as a compliment, mostly, though I have never ever claimed to be or tried to be one.

The concept of progress, not perfection has been an excellent tool for me in sobriety and other areas of life.  It’s not saying that I’m good enough or always do my best.  I’m not good enough, and I don’t always do my best.  I do need to aim for progress and keep doing that for as long as I can.

I won’t be perfect at …… anything.  I will progress until time stops me.

And actually, there is something important to me that I feel I get worse at.  That is walking the dog.  I had a traumatic dog walking experience three years ago, and I have to admit I haven’t really progressed with that and I often feel I’m doing worse than before.  I’m not letting it go because I have the dog, and I feel the obligation as well as the desire to walk her.  I have hope about that situation, but I know I may never get anywhere with it.

Roger Ebert

He’s publicly identified himself as a member of AA.  I hope that helps some people, but I really think he should not have done that.  I don’t know why he’d violate a Tradition of the thing that saved his life.

How Did You Replace the Alcohol?

I am reading this…have read it before…I need to quit drinking but I am afraid to be without this safe “friend’…who is causing me shame and compromising my life…Still, I don’t know how I will replace the feeling of freedom and respite from anxiety. How did you replace the alcohol? Really. I need help with that.

This was made in comment to my Character Defects page, but I thought I could better address it on its own.

How did I replace the alcohol?  Short answer:  AA.

Long answer:  I had to give the program a chance.  I relapsed many times before I “got it.”  I adored the initial feeling freedom from anxiety, but that left me very quickly.  I chased it for years.  But really, alcohol ceased to give me freedom except for maybe a few minutes when it first hit my system.  After that, it ruled.  I may have been temporarily freed from anxiety about things like social situations or life’s responsibilities, but I had a whole new set of alcohol-induced anxieties that were seriously bad.  What did I do last night, what did I say?  Do I have enough alcohol to make it through?  How can I sneak drinks and stay just drunk enough to be calm, but not black out or pass out?  How will I undo the damage my drinking has done to my school work, my job, my family?

For me, alcohol as a coping-with-life tool failed miserably.  I assert that anyone who is seeking an answer to this kind of question is in the same spot.  Somewhere in the literature it tells us, “the trap door has become a trap.”

Within AA, the people and the program, there are real solutions to negative emotions like anxiety, but they take a little while to learn.  When I was anxious, and drank, the anxiety went away, but next time I was right back where I had started.  When I was anxious, and when I didn’t drink, but rather talked to AAs and worked the program on my issues, I learned better how to deal with and sometimes avoid anxiety, and I grew emotionally.  And those solutions did not cause me shame or compromise my life.  They actually gave me a life that I feel confident in holding out to others as an example of the miracle of AA.

For most of us, AA is free and readily available.  In this way, to me, it is more effective and valuable than therapy.  The usual adage is that you should try it for 90 days, after which they will refund your misery if you’re not satisfied.

AA is not easy.  It takes courage and commitment and a bit of faith.  I had to have a little hope and a little faith that what the people of AA were telling me was true.  I had to abandon the hope that one day, one mystical, magical day, I would crack the code and drink successfully.

So this question was on the character defects page.  Those character defects are universal and daunting.  It occurs to me now that it is a blessed miracle that I know that a list like that hold many keys to my serenity.  Today, I have a clue, I have a plan, I have an idea.  I have a sober history.  And I have a life that I will hold out to anyone who is wondering and struggling as an example of the miracle of AA.

That’s how I replaced alcohol.  With AA.  I could not replace it with anything else, and I’m just lucky I didn’t die while I was trying.

August 27, 2009 (this day)

august09 001This is Thursday, and this week has been a bit of a blur.  I see from the calander thingy that I’m posting mostly on the weekends.  I guess that’s as it should be, that’s when I have more time.

I’ve been having another good week at work and I still remember to approach it with a good mood.  Yesterday, I had what I thought would be a difficult meeting.  I commented to Carole that I don’t think other people go off to work this way.  I had a heart bracelet on to remind me to love someone there I thought would give me a hard time, and a “Let go and let God” rock in my pocket, to remind me to let go and let God.  The difficulty didn’t happen this time, so I couldn’t test out my props.

I’ve distributed more oldtimer CDs and talked to more people about starting an oldtimer meeting.  I really wish someone else would.  I’m committed and dedicated to my Saturday night meeting, and I don’t want to take on another one.  I guess I’ll see what happens.

Today work went well and my busy time there is pretty much over.  Big Brother is on tonight and we just got the first disc of the first season of Thirty Something on DVD.  I used to love that show!  I was 20 something when they were 30 something, and I had a rented apartment rather than a fancy house, but I had my babies when they had theirs and I really looked forward to watching that.  I’m afraid I may now see them and malcontent priveledged whiners, but I’ll see.  I’m hoping to watch the pilot after Big Brother.

That’s it, right now, life is good.

We “Constructively Criticized” (Step Ten continued)

We “constructively criticized” someone who needed it, when our real motive was to win a useless argument.  Or, the person concerned not being present, we thought we were helping others to understand him, when in actuality our true motive was to feel superior by pulling him down.

On Friday, I heard a rumor about someone I used to work with.  This woman was my boss’ boss, and one of the most arrogant people I have ever met.  She caused much pain to me and other people who are truly innocent, those being our clients.  It is difficult or impossible for me to find much good in this person.

Friday I heard that since she was fired from where I work, she has since lost two jobs in the field and is now working in a supermarket.  I just think it must be humbling, since she really thought she was about the smartest person ever.  Certainly smarter than all of us.  And I am in no way putting down people who work in supermarkets, not at all.  I imagine it is very challenging.  I just think this would be a psychic step down for her, and I hate to admit it makes me slightly glad.

But examples like that are few for me.  The words resonate most for me in my workplace, where I am called to constructively criticize people, actually paid to do that, and that is a very difficult position for me.  I hope I do it well, and I will always try to improve at it.

Winning a useless argument sounds mostly like something I attempt at home.

april09 006


Projection (predicting future outcomes, good and bad)

Life is like being at the dentist.
You always think that the worst is still to come,
yet it is already over.
–Bismark

I constantly try to predict, emotionally prepare for, and manipulate the future.

The classic AA example of newcomer projection is when the new person finds out the idea behind AA is abstinence, and cries, “I won’t be able to toast at my daughter’s wedding!”  The wedding is never ever soon, and the daughter is a small child if she exists at all, and the person has predicted a negative outcome way into the future.  It also shows the negativity.  A sober alcoholic will not drink at his daughter’s wedding, but neither will he throw up, strip down, or get arrested for crazy behavior.  And he won’t do those things throughout all the years leading up to the wedding, which to me is a good bargain.  Giving up a wedding toast is a very small price to pay.

These days I automatically understand that I cannot predict the future.  Anything I describe in the future is said in that context.  This is also part of growing older, for me.  There are things that look likely to happen, like my son graduating college or the US legalizing gay marriage, but nothing in the future is a given.

Understanding that makes it easier for me to live in uncertainty.  Because really, there is no way to be certain about anything that hasn’t happened yet.  In dealing with my fear of flying, I’m understanding more that my negative projections set up physical and mental patterns in me that are hard to break.

Things don’t always turn out OK.  They don’t!  How often I hear that in meetings, that everything always turns out OK.  It may be that I don’t understand what people mean by that.

I’m trying more to invision things rather than to project.  I can picture myself flying calmly.  I can picture my work situation turning out well.  I can picture my kids succeeding and try to dwell in those scenarios a little bit, in order to try to bring them about, but mainly to let them go and experience today.

Especially in things that involve my thoughts and emotions, I’m understanding better that by practicing the fear and worry, I make them stronger and more likely to occur in me the next time.  I’m trying to practice serenity when I catch myself doing this.

It is in no way saying I shouldn’t plan, planning is good.  I have to understand that good things take time and energy and work to come into being, and that even with time and energy and work they may not come to be, and that my vision may not have been the best one anyway.

August 21, 2009 (this day and daily inventory)

Scaring myself through what-if scenarios.

I’m having a pretty good day.  I’ve had a pretty good week.  I set off each day of work to be in a good mood, and it’s mostly worked.  I’ve looked out for the triggers I’ve identified and I haven’t been triggered much.  Till right about now, but still.

My work situation is still in limbo and transition and all week it’s looked like my best case scenario may come to be, which I think would be great.  That phrase, “what would you attempt if you knew you couldn’t fail?’ didn’t mean much to me before, but getting a handle on this work situation is certainly something I would do if I couldn’t fail.  And it’s possible to succeed.  Not likely, but possible.

There were also some very hopeful signs that we might move my workplace, which would also be very very good.

Then a little while ago, a higher up asked a bunch of questions that could mean my best case scenario will not come to be.  Like so many organizations, this one changes slowly and painfully and usually a bit too late.  And I hear myself completely.  The questions COULD mean that.  You know?  Or not.
I cannot know another person’s motivation.  Maybe my best case is not THE best case.    Maybe I should let go and let God.

Shoemaker, stick to thy last!

But In Other Instances (Step Ten continued)

But in other instances only the closest scrutiny will reveal what our true motives were.  There are cases where our ancient enemy, rationalization, has stepped in and has justified conduct which was really wrong.  The temptation here is to imagine that we had good motives and reasons when we really didn’t.

Wow.  I can see that so clearly sometimes in other people.

Going back to my debit side and considering my anger, I will record that this is my fourth day off in a row and anger has not been a problem for me at home these four days.  That is far from always the case, and I certainly need to work on my anger as it involves my family members, but just now it’s not a problem.  I haven’t been to work so I haven’t been angry there, but I go back tomorrow.

I have noticed that when a certain coworker of mine is in a good mood, it goes far towards giving me a good day.  As soon as I realized that, I saw that also of course my mood may influence others toward the good and happy side, and so I’m mindfully trying to do that.

But I’m off track.  My bad behavior at home and at work often begins with my anger.  At work, I think it has mostly to do with the selfishness of others, or with their desire to control things that I rightfully should be controlling, things like the staff schedule.

I can’t think of a good example, and I’m going to try to pay attention to my debit side and to see what my motives are in situations of conflict.

I Can Drink Again/I Can Stop Again

Last night at my meeting the speaker commented that after a year or two of AA, he was sure he had it and understood it and had mastered it.  Now, with 18 years of sobriety, he understands the knew so very little at that time.

On the radio today I listened to part of a program.  I don’t know what it was about or who was talking.  The man commented that at 15 years old or so, he felt like he had life by the balls (his expression, NOT mine), and that he understood and knew so much more than the older people.  Now that he is older, he understands he knew not very much at 15.  Further reflection by both of these men revealed to them that now, at an older age and with a longer sobriety, they realize how very much they don’t know now, even now.

I hear faulty concepts and wrong thinking all the time in AA.

I tested out the tried and true advice of AA for six years while I drank before, during and after AA meetings.  I had to see for myself time after time that these people spoke the truth.  One of the most dangerous concepts I held and had to give up was that since I had stopped drinking in the past, I could stop again.  I use the fact that I have successfully flown many many times to calm myself when I fear flying now.  This does not correlate to AA for me.

I know I could drink again.  I could do it tonight.  I do not know if I could stop again.  I can picture a line up of people I knew who thought this who were dead wrong.

Maybe I could.  I’ll go so far as to say probably I could.  But maybe not.  Why would I take a chance like that?  Intoxication at this point would bring lots of pain of its own to add to the situation I am drinking over.

I have to acknowledge that to drink is to risk every single thing in my life and including my life and maybe yours also.  In tough times it was (I say was because drinking is not an issue for me these days) one of the tools I could pick up to stay sober.  Understanding this at a deep level has helped me stay sober for a very long time.