February 27, 2010 (this day)

I have a diagnosis and some medicines that I think are making me sick!  I have MORE SNOW and less optimism and I need to get better to take care of things at home and at work next week.

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February 23, 2010 (this day)

I’m very down and discouraged and I feel terrible and I feel terrible about feeling terrible.

I have a rotten cold.  I have women’s issues.  The world is gray and frozen and slushy.  I have a sore in my mouth that hurts.  I can’t do much at work but stay away from everyone so I don’t infect them.  I’m still alone at home and doing all the house and critter care.

I feel horrible about this dog.  I can’t walk her, now I can’t even run up and down the stairs with her to give her exercise.  She’s the sweetest thing ever and she does not complain.  That makes it worse.  She goes out in the back yard and barks and barks and barks.  She comes in and chews herself and looks at me lovingly.

I’ve done all the litter scooping by myself.  One of the cats is eating cat litter, which is totally new for him.  I think he needs grass but I can’t grow it inside for him because he’ll attack it.  Taking some grass seed to work would mean battling the frozen slush to get to the shed to get some out.

Both of my kids have need ferrying to medical appointments.  The last one I had to do was this morning and they are done.  Both kids are beyond what any mortal deserves in a child.  They are wonderful and I feel like crappy crap for complaining.

Carole’s on her way home after being away and I know I won’t be any fun and no no pleasure to be with.  She’s off again next week for another time away and I can do all this again.  MAYBE without the cold, the slush, the period, the mouth sore.  Maybe.  Maybe with something worse.  That is where my head is today.

I just typed out those wonderful words about how I can’t control anything but my thoughts, perceptions and responses and for the moment I want to scream BS!!  I’m also slightly superstitious and think that if I don’t get a grateful grip soon, something truly awful will happen just to show me the difference.  Which I already know.

So for the first time in my life, I’m considering acreage, for the dog.  She deserves it.  But she probably wouldn’t live long enough for me to get that together.

Sanity

How it works for me, today.

The books tell us that sanity means soundness of the mind.  Sound means –free from injury, damage, defect, disease, etc.; in good condition; healthy; robust: a sound heart; a sound mind.  AA’s definition is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

The ultimate insanity for me was trying over and over to drink successfully, despite all I knew about alcoholism and the obvious fact that over time, my drinking got worse, never better.  Just like they told me would happen.

Now as far as trying something, I will say I’ve moved a step beyond even the understanding of “if you do what you did you will get what you got.”  Not only should I change the things I do in order to get a different result, I should also let go of the results, and not expect anything for certain.

When my mind is sound, and healthy, and I’m mostly sane, I think I have as clear a picture as I can of the world and my place in it.  Sanity to me means knowing that no matter what, my gratitude list is far longer than any list of complaints I could assemble.

It involves seeing “my part” as much as I can, and accurately appraising people and situations.  It means being humble and “right-sized.”

I don’t know if I ever was “sane” before I started drinking, and returning to sanity may be just trying to get back some of the good sense I was born with.  My actively drinking life was total insanity, and I guess I do need to consider that it takes a certain kind of person to do what I did.  I hope that the memory of that can make me gentler with others who still suffer.

February 21, 2010 (this day)

A lot about this day has to do with this dog.  At the same time, she both enriches my life and she causes me pain.  I cause myself pain because of the wrong-headed ways in which I think about her.

Carole left today for a few days, so I was alone with the animals.  Our temperatures are getting a bit above freezing and our snow pack is finally shrinking a bit.  But only a bit.  Everything is still covered with snow and ice, but now dripping and slushy as well.  The sun shines only once in a while.  It’s still quite cold.

I realized the other morning that before this weather started in, my morning routine was to get up, get dressed, walk the dog, eat breakfast, read something recovery related or religious and go to work.  For weeks now I’ve gotten up, fed the animals, maybe eaten something, maybe not, and battled the elements.  The cars constantly need to be scraped and dug out.  The weather forecast is constantly ominous about what our drive will be like, filled with peril.  Accidents abound, roofs are collapsing from ice and snow,  and everyone has had enough.  My son has needed medical attention and I took my daughter last Friday to have her wisdom teeth removed.

But I avoid facing how my day has been.  I have a slight cold that’s sort of on my chest.  I haven’t been sick for a long time and I really think this will be mild.  I fed all the animals twice.  I took out the recycling, loaded, ran, and unloaded the dishwasher.  I ran up and down the stairs 13 times with the dog.  Slowly, because of my chest cold.  I have ushered the older dog (and so both dogs) out the back door to the freezing slush many times today, so far avoiding a pee pee accident by the older dog.  I tried and failed to follow a pattern to make a scarf.  I cut that loose and started a simpler scarf.  I put more music on my new computer, read my message board, read the blogs I read, and I’m writing here.  Oh yes and I also watched the Dog Whisperer and brushed the dog.  She loves that.

My day is consumed, though, by the feeling that I haven’t and never do enough for this dog.  I know I haven’t come anywhere near satisfying her exercise requirements.  I also really suck at discipline and training.  I’m A+ for affection but that is only because she is so very mild mannered, and doesn’t take advantage.

After I fly to Hawaii and back without fear, I plan to seriously attack the problem of my attitude with this dog.

But meanwhile.  The picture is of her and our 19-year-old cat.  They don’t really seek each other out, but if they end up on the couch together, Xandra lets him stay there rather than biting his head off.  And he enjoys a warm spot very much.  She is the sweetest dog I have known and we were so incredibly lucky to find her.

She was unspayed, filthy, and had pneumonia when we found her at a very high-kill shelter.  The cat came from people who ran a crazy foster cat organization, and I use that term loosely.  His mother had been left, pregnant, when her people moved away.  I chose him over his sister because I thought the cat I already had might take more kindly to a male cat than to a female.  She didn’t, but he likewise turned out to be just the sweetest cat ever.  As long as you don’t have food around.  Then he’s the lion from Daniel’s den.

I have work tomorrow, and more medical appointments for my son.  I have a new hair straightener I feel unmotivated to try tonight, even though I know that everything is better with straight hair.  Everything.  A friend in the program slipped again last night.  Another told us yesterday that he has cancer.  The world is frozen, and gray, and I need to update the Menopause Chronicles.

” . . . the maladjusted life you have led . . .”

A reader asks:

Hi, I just read your disclaimer “just for the record, I refused to meet her (Carole) until she had one year sober”.

So I don’t see how that you getting with someone with 1 year when you have 12 years. It’s not that it is bad, etc, but odd. I mean come on, there are many SINGLE individuals in the rooms of AA with the same amount of sobriety as yourself. Now, if you are still married to her, she has 14 years clean, with 13 with you. Her entire soberlife has been manifested with you. While your 13 year-relationship with Carole has only comprised half of your soberlife. My point being is, what is her program like with out you? What if she left you? What if she wanted to leave you? What if you left her? Let’s just say, she won’t leave you out of fear. Fear of loss. Loss of: clean time, aa (friends, meetings, support networks), possibly money and career, housing, etc

Let me say this, you unintentionally finding a vulnerable individual in their first year of sobriety is a loud cry as to the maladjusted life you have led for those first 13 years, NO MATTER how well-adjusted newcomer with 12 months really is…

Please reply

Where to start?

First, I would not, in any circumstance, dismiss the questions raised.  They are legitimate questions to ask in any case.  It is quite painfully true that AA is filled with experienced people who know how to take advantage of inexperienced people.

  • I mean come on, there are many SINGLE individuals in the rooms of AA with the same amount of sobriety as yourself.

I’m assuming this means I was looking for love, and that I should have been looking elsewhere, in other words, to other oldtimers, for a relationship.

I was not looking for a relationship.  I had split with the father of my children seven years earlier, and I was very much enjoying being a single parent.  I had lots of help from the grandparents of my kids.  I had a job that let me take care of them when I needed to.  I supported them financially including health insurance.  I didn’t have to compromise with anyone as to if the windows would be up or down, or what to set the heat at, or anything.  I was truly determined to stay single.

Also, for the first part of our online relationship, Carole with involved with other people.  I was not, under any circumstances, going there.  We began as an online friendship between an oldtimer and a newcomer.

  • Now, if you are still married to her, she has 14 years clean, with 13 with you. Her entire soberlife has been manifested with you. While your 13 year-relationship with Carole has only comprised half of your soberlife. My point being is, what is her program like with out you? What if she left you? What if she wanted to leave you? What if you left her? Let’s just say, she won’t leave you out of fear. Fear of loss. Loss of: clean time, aa (friends, meetings, support networks), possibly money and career, housing, etc

This crosses my mind from time to time.  Not so much in terms of leaving, but I think, at times, about how difficult it would be if one of us was to die.  Like any married couple, we relate to so much of the world, the AA world included, as us.  If I’m calling someone from the program, and I think that person might not know who I am, I describe myself as, “Lydia, from Carole-and-Lydia.”

My sober time before I met her proves, I guess, that I can work AA without her.  Her year prior to meeting me proves that she can also.  But more than that, the AA (friends, meetings, support networks), money, career, housing, etc, falls squarely in my loss column, not hers.  She is much more outgoing than I am.  She has many more friends, meetings, support networks, much more money, a more secure and better-paying career, and much better potential to support herself than I do.  If we were to split up, she’d be in a much better position than I would be in.

Having met in AA, and having worked the program as a couple for so long, I honestly don’t think we’d make it through a situation where one of us wanted to leave, but was afraid to do so based on the loss of those things.  Our relationship is far too important, far too frequent, far too honest to make it that way for long.  At least that’s the way I see it.  I understand that people are made the fool every day, and that I may look back on these words bitterly, but I don’t think so.  Today I’m willing to risk it.

Years ago, it was important to me that I maintain my ability to independently support myself and my kids.  Now that the kids can see to themselves, I really don’t know if I’d make it on my own, or be too terribly devastated to do so.  That, I think, is from advancing age, not from unhealthy dependence.

  • Let me say this, you unintentionally finding a vulnerable individual in their first year of sobriety is a loud cry as to the maladjusted life you have led for those first 13 years, NO MATTER how well-adjusted newcomer with 12 months really is…

Well, I did think, from the very beginning, that Carole had the characteristics to be a winner and to make it in the program.  As I said, we started as an online AA friendship and (speaking for myself) fell in love.  Before we met.  Which is so cool!

Having fallen, I then did the prudent thing and said I would not meet her in person until she had a year.  Once she had a year, and she proposed meeting (at 14 months), I expressed my concerns to a friend that a year isn’t really very long at all.  I remember that friend said, “How long does someone have to have to date you?”  See at that point, I did want to come across as a snooty oldtimer of 12 years.  I was also concerned for Carole’s mental health and sobriety, should we not get along in person.  It could happen!  But at that point I was in love, powerless in those wonderful ways of resisting the object of my desire any longer.

This would have been a mess in person, and I’m grateful we met just the way we needed to do so, online.  I don’t think we would have been attracted to each other in person, but if we had been, that could have been a bad scene.

I can see how, looking from the outside, it might look as if I found someone vulnerable and took advantage.  I can’t convey in words on this page that it really didn’t happen that way.  I can say that I’m as confident as I can be that she would not stay with me out of fear of the external things she could lose if she left.  With any long relationship, AA-based or not, those issues are difficult and heart-breaking.

I hope our longevity speaks to the wisdom of our decisions back then.  Carole was newly sober, yes, but she wasn’t a newborn baby, incapable of acting and dependent on the evil oldtimer to manipulate her.

Love like this is risky under any circumstances.  The AA factor has added so much to our relationship.  I can’t picture it, nor would I want it, any other way.  Back then, I felt that I was the one risking so much.  My fidelity to AA was proven, and hers was not.  I moved my children 400 miles away from their home and their grandparents.  I took a career risk, a pay cut, and gave up my precious independence to risk it on a relationship with a newcomer.

I am astonished, now, at all I did.

But I was in love, and I could not resist.  I didn’t know about this kind of love before.  I had been in relationships, and maybe I’d had some of emotions of being in love, but I had not met and developed a relationship with someone who would be a true life partner to me.

The life I lived before her was maladjusted, to some degree, I believe that we all are.  But looking back, whatever I did and had done, it got me ready for the next step, which was my relationship with my wife.  I wouldn’t blame anyone who, at the time, was worried about the potential for pain all around.  But to me that is part of the life that AA enables me to live.  Before AA I was not well-adjusted enough to have a relationship.  After practicing for years I was able to.

I feel, in a way, that if I drink tomorrow, AA has still been a huge success in my life, having given me all these productive years.  If Carole leaves me tomorrow I would likewise call our relationship a success (barring some huge deceit I don’t know about right now).

So I’m sorry, Matt B, that you read my explanation of how I met my wife in AA as an indictment and see it as something that I should not have done.  I was mindful, and careful, and I hope the good results speak for themselves.

In the Morning We Think of the Hours to Come (Step Eleven continued)

In the morning we think of the hours to come.  Perhaps we think of our day’s work and the chances it may afford us to be useful and helpful, or of some special problem that it may bring.  Possibly today will see a continuation of a serious and as yet unresolved problem left over from yesterday.

I don’t do this.  I have a hard time waking up, always.  My alarm goes off at something like 5:14 am (to be approximate).  I hit snooze as many times as the alarm will allow and I get about of bed around 5:40.  Each time the snooze wakes me, I have to force myself to open my eyes and keep them open for a minute.  I rotate my ankles, because if I don’t, and I get out of bed without doing that, the stairs will give me pain.  In the winter, I collect my pajamas from the night table and warm them up under the covers.

I think about how I always really feel fine once I’m up.  I think about the animals begging to be fed and the lack of traffic outside at such an early hour.  I stretch and think about all this, but not about the hours to come.

Each day that I go to work, and as long as it isn’t slippery or pouring rain out, I walk the dog.  Sometimes then I start to ruminate on work problems that are to come.  I have recently, within the past year, I guess, often noticed myself being negative in my thoughts about the day to come.  At times I either project a problem (including my favorite problem, short staff) or think in otherwise negative ways.  I’ve often been able to catch myself and to try to either stay in the moment, walking the dog, or project pleasant thoughts about the hours to come at work.

Driving to work used to be a problem time for me as well.  I would often project negative situations into the coming day.  This year, I’m trying to read 25 books, books on CD included.  So since the beginning of the year, I’ve had a book to play, and I’ve done that.  I used to listen to NPR news and music CDs exclusively.  I find that lately, over the past year or so, the news is usually about Afghanistan or Iraq.  I do think those topics are vital for me, as an American, to be informed about.  I find that an hour or more of it each day, though, is too much.  I hate both those situations and I often ache for the people who are directly suffering through them.  So now I’ve listened to one book and I’ll start another tomorrow.

So I will try, in a more mindful fashion, to turn my thoughts to how I can be useful and helpful.  I’m truly lucky in that endeavor.  The nature of the work I do ensures I have practically unlimited opportunities to be useful and helpful.