Rest in Peace (Let Go and Let God)

Someone from my local AA has died, and I just want to quickly record here my most striking memory of her.  I didn’t know her well, and I’ve been in a meeting with her probably less than ten times total.  Her husband attends my home group very often, and she came once or twice.  They sort of took turns going to meetings since they have teenagers who need supervision.  They ran a daytime meeting that I attended a few times when I wasn’t working for some reason.  Their meeting was very small, probably less than ten people were there each time I went.

The reason I was at their meeting was because I was chasing down oldtimers, trying to attend some day meetings where people with lengthy sobriety and so, lengthy lives, were.  This often works but there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot of sobriety at their meeting.  But I went anyway.

I’m going to call this woman Olivia.  Not to glamorize or idealize her, these are the things I remember:

  • She and her husband seemed to have a happy, AA marriage.
  • Physically, she never seemed well.
  • She had a tough, hard, tough and hard story which involved lots of danger and big odds to overcome.

But those weren’t the first things I thought of when I thought of her.  I remember one time in particular that I attended her daytime meeting.  There was a woman there who was obviously mentally ill and possibly intellectually disabled as well.  The woman tried, many times and inappropriately, to talk to Olivia about some book or something she wanted to read or borrow.  There was also an obvious difficulty with a walk the woman had to do to get home to the book . . . something like that.  Olivia was very patient with her and after the meeting was over, I don’t remember the details but I know that Olivia was taking care of the woman, her ride, and her book.

She was then a breathtaking example of the best in human nature and in the program, for me, then and now.  I remembered this situation many times through the months since it happened, before she got sick and before I knew she might not make it.

I work all day with people who have mental retardation, mental illnesses and lots of other challenges, and I’m glad to offer up my personal supply of patience to some people who need it.  I’m not that good at it outside of work though.  I will admit that sometimes I feel tired just thinking about extending that patience, and for me, especially, the outgoingness required to extend it in the rooms of AA.

And also very very importantly, Olivia died sober.  Her story is very sad in that she was way too young but it is not tragic in the way so many turn out.  She died sober.

December 25, 2009 (this day)

This Christmas day, Nicholas is home from school.  Carole and I went to church this morning because she was the assistant minister for the service.  No one goes to Christmas morning church.  There were probably 15 people there, if that.  Everyone goes on Christmas Eve.  I remember hearing a few years ago that some mega churches weren’t having services on Christmas, because the expense of heating the church wasn’t worth it for the few people who attended.

The weather was gray and cold and rainy here, so the inside of the church wasn’t all that cheery.  On the upside, our pastor has communion at just about every single service, so with so few people, the service went very quickly.

I’m a reluctant Lutheran, but the message and explanation of the message that was in the beginning of Hebrews made some kind of sense to me.  Except for the parts where the author claims to know what God said to Jesus ……

Nicholas and Erika were here, as well as a friend of Carole’s.  We called my mother and she sounded quite drunk to me.  She doesn’t like the weather in Florida.  They are wearing shorts and t-shirts.

I don’t like presents, especially when I or another giver feels like they have to give something.  So basically on days like Christmas, Mother’s day, anniversaries and birthdays.  But I think I lived through it graciously enough.  I hope I did.

When Erika and Nicholas are with me for holidays, I always have the feeling of not knowing if they ever will both be again.  I’ve gone through only one holiday without Erika, I think, when she was in England at Thanksgiving.  At this point I’ve been through lots of them without my own mother.

Tomorrow, after our meeting, Carole and I have invited everyone from the meeting to come to our house.  For me, it’s in memory of my women’s meeting back home, when we would have a party at the meeting every year on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s.  Next year, Christmas and New Year’s are on Saturday, and I’m already liking the idea of having a party-meeting both days.

I also noticed that the Obamas made it to Hawaii OK for their Christmas.  I bet they weren’t even a little bit afraid.

December 23, 2009 (this day)

I worked today and there was still more food at work today.  I can’t count the food occasions there have been there in the past few weeks.  At my meeting last Saturday, the person who set up brought chocolate chip cookies.  The guy who helps set up and lives next door to the meeting brought chocolate chip and snicker-doodle cookies, and donuts.  Another member brought banana bread.  Because of bad weather, there were less than 15 of us there.  But we ate well.

Last night my son came home from college and he ordered from the pizza place.  Tomorrow we will go to my daughter’s work’s Christmas Eve breakfast.  I just don’t remember all this food in years past.  The picture is of one of my cats (named for Bill Wilson) sitting in the sweet potato baking dish from Thanksgiving.

Last year I started Sparkpeople on January 1 and I lost 15 pounds between January and April.  I don’t want to know how many of those have returned.  A few.  I’m going to start it again in January and go for another 15.

I’m off work till Monday now and Saturday, after the meeting, we’re inviting everyone over to our house.  My women’s meeting back home used to have a party on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, so for me it’s in memory of that.  We’ve asked everyone to bring something so that we don’t have to cook.  Too bad cleaning for such a thing doesn’t burn many calories.

When Such Thoughts Break In (Step Eleven continued)

When such thoughts break in, we might recall, a little ruefully, how much store we used to set by imagination as it tried to create reality out of bottles.  Yes, we reveled in that sort of thinking, didn’t we?  And though sober nowadays, don’t we often try to do much the same thing?  Perhaps our trouble was not that we used our imagination.  Perhaps the trouble was not that we used our imagination.  Perhaps the real trouble was our total inability to point imagination toward the right objectives.  There’s nothing wrong with constructive imagination; all sound achievement rests upon it.  After all, no man can build a house until he first envisions a plan for it.  Well, meditation is like that, too; it helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it.  So let’s get back to that sunlit beach–or to the plains or to the mountains, if you prefer.

I was very much there while reading and writing this until we got back to the beach.  Then I said, “Shucks!”

I certainly understand the concept of imagining something I am going to create or build.  I might sort of imagine a blog post before I write it.  I also sort of imagine a successful plane flight, a successful return to home after a successful vacation.  I imagine successfully walking the dog.  I imagine what the scarf will look like before and while I crochet it.  When I was at Disney World, and afraid of Space Mountain, I imagined and envisioned being on line, boarding the thing, sitting there, having fun, completing the ride.

Not quite sure how this will lead me to a spiritual objective.


I am abundantly blessed with wife, mother, daughter, son – one of each.

I have a true partner at work who shares my employee and client caseloads, along with all the people above us.

I can go to a meeting any night of the week, within ten miles of my house, where at least two people (probably more) will know my name.

  • I hate the music my wife is playing and singing to, and I’m not going to tell her.  I hope.
  • I won’t call my mother because she still, after almost 40 years, does not get the point that I don’t want to talk to her husband for the time it would take to ask to talk to her.
  • She’s taking care of my animals while I’m in Hawaii, and she may stay several weeks before and after that due to my son’s graduation and my cousin’s wedding.
  • She doesn’t seem to hold my drinking against me even to the degree some people do who didn’t even know me then.
  • I have an umpteenth new boss at work and I sort of have a faint hope that he’ll really do something good and different.  I’m caught between not being cynical and wondering when I will finally learn what the real world is like.
  • I’m passively-aggressively hoping my wife reads this post and doesn’t do the music thing again without me telling her, except for here, without confrontation.
  • I still work day to day with some of the people I have seen act very very badly, in my unvarnished opinion.
  • I have not confronted my mother about her own drug and alcohol use even as she tells me constantly about my uncle’s, her brother’s drinking problem.
  • I haven’t reached out to try and help my uncle.
  • I’m highly annoyed and not saying anything about the music.  I could move.
  • Someone I introduced to the program is coming up on three years.  She’s a GSR or somesuch, and sponsors one or two people.  I’m amazed at the power of my destruction to bring good in another life.  I know if it hadn’t been me it might have been someone else, but it might not have.  She keeps meetings going so they’ll be there for other people.  She told me part of her job is “keeping the traditions.”  How awesome is that?
  • I work with a young lady whose mother is full of cancer, whose grandparents passed away within the past five years, whose father had a few small strokes.  She’s a very loving, nice young lady.  She definitely gets sad and upset with things.  Who wouldn’t?  I hope I can be a positive influence in her life.
  • From time to time I see the name of an upper administrator who gave me a terrible time a few years ago.  I still try to figure out (briefly, then I try to move on) how he’s not an awful person and may have been trying to do the right thing.
  • My wife is now whistling and I still haven’t broken anything in response.
  • I’ve been with my wife’s friend, the one who yelled at me a few weeks back, several times, and I haven’t said anything.  And neither has she.  I really really don’t think this is good for any of us, including my wife, and I feel wimpy for just going on.
  • Another young woman I work with is constantly late.  We have talked to her and borne all this and did an informal warning that formal discipline will follow.  She was on time a few times, thereby proving she could be, and now is constantly late again.  I struggle with what to do with piddly situations like this.  We have staff meetings first thing in the morning and she needs to be there.  It’s not unimportant.  Is formal discipline the way to go?
  • All the songs that have played on my wife’s computer while I’ve been writing this have been by men.  I haven’t liked any of the songs.
  • I’ve taken these people in random order from my prayer list.  These are some of the people I try to concentrate on, one at a time, in order to improve my cosmic energy toward them.

December 16, 2009 (this day)

Quick and boring.

I walked the dog this morning in the painful coldness.  I went to work, and I worked.  Things happened there.  People got served with papers.  People shared some of their scary illnesses.  People were nasty and people were incredibly loving.

I left work early because I want to go to a meeting tonight.  It works best for me if I don’t have to work all day and come home briefly, then go out half the night.  For me and the dog!  And Carole is working late, so it was more important for me to leave early.

I left work at 2 for what is a 30-45 minute ride that took two hours.  My ride takes me close to a concert hall, and there was a show starting at 3.  It took me two hours to get past the hall.

  • Many of those people on the road were very very late for the concert.
  • I knew YESTERDAY that there could be a bad traffic situation because of this.
  • I know an alternate route and debated with myself and almost took it.  A simple turn of the wheel would have avoided all that wait.
  • I have recently been thinking about tolerance, and trying to tolerate drivers who try to jump the line and merge at the last second.  Drivers who blow second hand smoke my way.  Drivers who don’t leave enough time for where they want to get, for parking, for walking in the place and to their seats.

I’d be interested to know when the show actually started, and if it was delayed because no one was there, and if the people who managed to be on time had to wait.

I also try to keep in mind that lots of these people are young, or not so young, but some of them are learning how long it takes to get places and when they have to leave.

So I’ve run up and down the stairs 12 times with the dog.  I’ve given her a marrow bone and a brushing.  I’ve written this and I’ll soon be leaving for the M-E-E-T-I-N-G.

As Though Lying Upon a Sunlit Beach (Step Eleven continued)

As though lying upon a sunlit beach, let us relax and breathe deeply of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer surrounds us.  Let us become willing to partake and be strengthened and lifted up by the sheer spiritual power, beauty,  and love of which these magnificent words are the carriers.  Let us now look upon the sea and ponder what its mystery is; and let us lift our eyes to the far horizon, beyond which we shall seek all those wonders still unseen.

“Shucks!” says somebody.  “This is nonsense.  It isn’t practical.”

Further illustration of one of the reasons I personally love AA.

I don’t say “shucks” but something a little stronger.  I don’t like this kind of thinking (meditation) and after all, isn’t it all about what I like and don’t like?

But I’ve learned to try and to keep trying.  I’ve learned that sometimes, after a very long time, I might get and understand and benefit from something I disdained before.

It’s of the minute for me, actually.  I’m getting ready to tell a dear friend that she really, truly should try a certain kind of therapy, even though she has no respect for it, has never found it to do any good, and fully expects that she never will.

Me too, with this stuff.

In working on my fear of flying, I’ve been watching videos of flights and trying to embrace it rather than escape it through taking my mind elsewhere.  I still feel pretty strongly that the sunlit beach crap is not for me, though I guess I really do know that I just haven’t learned yet to benefit from it.


–verb (used without object)

1. to fall or slip back into a former state, practice, etc.: to relapse into silence.
2. to fall back into illness after convalescence or apparent recovery.
3. to fall back into vice, wrongdoing, or error; backslide: to relapse into heresy.

From the time I was almost 17 until the time I was almost 22, I relapsed many times in AA.  Literally I cannot count how many times.  I consider it a relapse when I stated and acted on the intention of staying sober, then did not.  Right now, I intend to not drink, one day at a time, for the rest of my life.  I drank alcoholically, then achieved abstinence, then drank again over and over again for those five years.  The longest period of continuous sobriety I achieved during that time was about 18 months.  I remember deciding to drink and drinking that time, but I don’t specifically remember any of the others.

The time I drank after 18 months I made a conscious decision.  My very bad relationship hit an extra low point, and I debated drinking or killing myself.  I decided to drink.  Now, today, I can see the fallacy of this decision, and how it was the coward’s way out.  I figured drinking left alive some glimmer of hope whereas suicide did not.

Now I understand that the glimmer of hope doomed me to drink again.  As long as just a tiny part of me hoped I could drink and not die, or drink and recover again, I was destined to try it, because that’s the way my mind worked.

I did move away from the program, but I don’t know if I did that because I was going to drink or if I was going to drink because I did that.  It doesn’t matter to me now.  I wasn’t desperate enough to try and try again every aspect of the program, all the suggestions and to make it a life long quest.  Every other way I tried to moderate my drinking or to abstain didn’t work.

People mention often at meetings how staying sober is really easier than staying drunk.  I’ve moved beyond where picking up a drink would mean picking up lying, cheating, stealing, endangering others, and other assorted chaos.  I can only imagine that for me, drinking now would be a terrible catastrophe.

Being sober and working the program has gotten both easier and harder for me over time, but it didn’t really begin until I accepted that I really didn’t have a choice.  As long as I held out hope that I could drink successfully, I hadn’t “hit bottom” and I wasn’t walking down the path of sobriety.

As per the definition of  “relapse,” my former state was one of illness, vice, wrongdoing and error.  How amazing the remedy has turned out to be!

December 13, 2009 (this day)

We seem to be stuck inside on this Sunday due to weather.  Not the weather pictured – that was at my program’s holiday party last week, and that weather was nothing.  I like to post pictures of my work although I can’t  post pictures of the people.  Making it through bad weather to work is one of the worries I would be very happy to be done with, now.  But I won’t be done with that worry.  I have about 25 miles to go there, and the weather can be treacherous.  I’m now one of the people who have to try to make it through no matter what.  And I’m a middle-aged woman with a plain old car.  And my work partner lives near me, equally far away from our program.

When we were looking for a house, I kept in mind bad weather in the winter and would not consider living a big hills.  I mentally kept track of how many days the weather actually made getting to or from work dangerous, and the actual number is very very small.

I’ve gotten a lot better with this particular fear and worry.  I remember sitting in a meeting a long time ago, when snow was falling, and talking about how much time I lose to this fear of weather.  I have made progress and I will continue to do so.

But today, it is Sunday and I’ve gotten out of going to church and possibly shopping.  So I’m happy.  The only bad thing about today is that we won’t be able to exercise the dog outside.  I’ll have to run up and down the stairs with her many times.  Hopefully Carole and I won’t get on each other’s nerves too badly, and of course I must worry about my adult children trying to travel in this.  Erika’s not answering her phone (at ten in the morning) so I must hope she’s asleep and that she won’t try to travel until it’s safe.

I have a tough day tomorrow at work, though the weather shouldn’t be a problem then.  We’ll be short-staffed in the morning, and I have a pot luck lunch meeting for lots of the afternoon.  Carole is baking brownies for me to take and the bummer there is that it smells great and we can’t have any.

But I’m also very motivated to abate my anxiety about those situations, which are tomorrow, and which I will be truly blessed to experience.  Truly.  It also occurs to me and I’m also still grateful to not have to go chase alcohol or cigarettes in this weather.

The Actual Experience of Meditation (Step Eleven continued)

The actual experience of meditation and prayer across the centuries is, of course, immense.  The world’s libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers.  It is to be hoped that every A.A. who has a religious connection which emphasizes meditation will return to the practice of that devotion as never before.  But what about the rest of us who, less fortunate, don’t even know how to begin?

Well, we might start like this.  First let’s look at a really good prayer.  We don’t have far to seek; the great men and women of all religions have left us a wonderful supply.  Here let us consider one that is a classic.

Its author was a man who for several hundred years now has been rated as a saint.  We won’t be biased or scared off by that fact, because although he was not an alcoholic he did, like us, go through the emotional wringer.  And as he came out the other side of that painful experience, this prayer was his expression of what he could then see, feel, and wish to become:

“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace–that where there is hatred, I may bring love–that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness–that where there is discord, I may bring harmony–that where there is error, I may bring truth–that where there is doubt, I may bring faith–that where there is despair, I may bring hope–that where there are shadows, I may bring light–that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.  Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted–to understand, than to be understood–to love, than to be loved.  For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.  It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.  It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.  Amen.”

As beginners in meditation, we might now reread this prayer several times very slowly, savoring every word and trying to take in the deep meaning of each phrase and idea.  It will help if we can drop all resistance to what our friend says.  For in meditation, debate has no place.  We rest quietly with the thoughts of someone who knows, so that we may experience and learn.

I have been collecting a few prayers and poems that I like and reading and rewriting them and rotating them in the sidebar here.  It occurred to me that the prayers that are included in our books are only a few.  When I struggled to maintain a shaky sobriety, I fell back on prayers I had learned as a child and now I’m seeking to learn more.

I read and write these prayers and sort of meditate on them almost every day and sometimes several times a day.  I turn to them in times of high stress at work.  Still I don’t feel I’ve gotten very far with this and probably it’s because I don’t really ever, or hardly ever, try to quiet my mind.

When I arrive at work in the morning, for a long time I’ve listened to a “dial-a-prayer.”  I found that I don’t concentrate well or at all.  I’ve been listening in my car before I get out of the car to limit distractions, and that helps, but my mind still wanders quickly and widely.  I wonder if it’s because I am a Gemini?  Probably not.