And then I read something like this.
I’m trying to be brave about the weather forecast, which is calling for massive heat through next Thursday. I’ve had a small reprieve from the heat, and as the forecast goes into Friday and the weekend, it promises the heat will end. Even if it doesn’t end Friday or Saturday or next month even, I know that it will end, and then it will be back. I’m trying to look at it through the eyes of tolerance and gratitude. The heat is not so terrible that I can’t stand it. I have the economic means to temper the heat (even if it means hiding in the bedroom). I live in a place that has varying temperatures and four seasons, and the temperatures are not extreme compared to what others on earth are living with.
After last Christmas I set out to crochet 20 something scarves for this Christmas, and I’m coming to the end of that list. I wish I could crochet and read better than I do, but what I really need to do to accomplish that is to learn to listen to books on an iPod. The only time I attempted that was on an airplane, but it taught me that it’s possible.
Multi-tasking. Why can’t I just accept that my crocheting is limited in the time I can give it right now? Or my reading?
And something else just happened as I was writing this. A trigger for something that sets me off. Tolerance. Once at work last week, I lost patience. Well surely more than once, though I was only there for two days. But this particular time, it caused someone to ask me if they had done something to upset me, and they hadn’t. Tolerance. Recently, I even asked someone I was about to argue with if we could skip over the angry part to the part where we see where we’re wrong, or at least how unimportant it is, and get right to the part where we’re OK again.
And of course I’m trying to tolerate having my daughter be far away. She called yesterday with a banking problem, and told me that while she was at the bank, some students from China were having a terrible time setting up their banking stuff. Good AA mom that I am, I was immediately grateful that she hasn’t gone to school in China. Of course I’ve been grateful for that all along. Also grateful that she hasn’t gone to war, gone to rehab, gone to jail, gone to pot, to seed, nor to the dogs.
And my specific worries about my period and my dog while I was gone both came to nothing. The temperatures dipped and the bleeding stopped and what I needed to tolerate there was the uncertainty.
It all seems so very whiny when I write it down, my trifling worries and inconveniences.
Consequently, in Step Three we turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. For the time being, we who were atheist or agnostic discovered that our own group, or A.A. as a whole, would suffice as a higher power.
Sometimes I hear nutty anti-AA stuff that claims AA suggests an atheist or agnostic choose anything as a higher power, including a tree, rock, or inanimate object. This hasn’t been my experience. I was certainly agnostic and anti-religion when I came in. It was suggest to me that I view the collective wisdom as expressed by the members of AA as a higher power, since they had solved their drinking problem, and I had failed to solve mine. Worked for me.
The turn of the will, as I see it, is a commitment to try once, then again and again, to do the right thing.
I have a bit of a question and a wondering. The 12th Step says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps.” But I also understand the spiritual awakening to be that time when the fortunate alcoholic becomes ready and able to surrender. And I know that a spiritual awakening can happen when someone has worked all the steps, or some of them, or none of them. Finally I wonder about Bill W’s hospital, “help me God” moment.
To me at this moment, it means a broad change of character. I liked and admired good people doing good things, but I was completely unable to join them. It’s a nice word, awakening, to apply to a change in my drunken, drugged, comatose state.
There wasn’t much AA to report about the trip. We tried to go to one meeting, but when we arrived at the location, we found a run down church with only two cars in the parking lot. We sat for a few minutes and a man came out and smoked. That was a good sign for a meeting, but no one else arrived and we took off. We’re not desperate, we’re not about to drink, and I didn’t want to get involved. We did listen to an AA speech given by Father Martin. We listened to that on my computer, and I read a story or so from the Big Book. Since we’ve returned, Carole is at her second meeting in two days and I’m planning to go on Friday and Saturday. I hope that soon we get to experience a meeting where Erika lives. I’m pretty sure we will.
The other thing all this has to do with AA is the remarkable story of how a hopeless drunk (moi) went on to produce such an amazing child. In another two weeks, it will be Erika’s 25th birthday. I got pregnant with her when I was seven months sober. (Is that right? It seems wrong). I DO NOT recommend this, and both she and I and an unsuspecting society are just plain lucky that it all worked out. A few months previous to me getting sober, I would surely have given any fetus unlucky enough to find itself within me fetal alcohol syndrome. I’m sure of it.
Now by the time I was her age, I was several years sober and pregnant with her brother. I had moved across the country but this is all besides the point, for sure. The legacy of active alcoholism has been handed down again and again in my family. I’m glad I can hand down something different. I’m glad I can be here, not dead from alcohol like my father. I’m grateful that I have a plan, and a wondrous support system. Very very grateful that I got to live to see this day.
In Step Two we saw that since we could not restore ourselves to sanity, some Higher Power must necessarily do so if we were to survive.
I was listening to part of the Big Book today, and I was struck by the number of times “hopeless” was used. The concept seems to simple. I could not restore myself to sanity. I see it in the people I know who struggle time after time and year after year. The proposition of if we were to survive was very iffy indeed for me when I was drinking and I would not have survived much longer, I’m sure of it.
I didn’t think at that point that a Higher Power could or would restore me. I gave up hoping for that. And by that surrender I was able to start building a real life where there was no war going on anymore.
Moving around in sobriety and in AA, I’ve experienced a few different “anniversary” or “birthday” cultures. Where I got sober, a varying amount of fuss was made over anniversaries, and the usual way to mark them was that the last meeting of each month was devoted to celebrating all the members of the group who had an anniversary that month. That could range from none to fifteen or so, I think, at the biggest meeting I’ve been to. It was nice, the last week of every month, sometimes going from celebration to celebration. I liked it, and it never failed to make me feel upbeat about sobriety and AA.
I know there are good arguments against these kinds of celebrations. We used to try to be sure to say, “In order to show that it works,” as the reason we celebrate. We try to say that at the group I belong to now. Every celebrant worth her salt (what?) will be sure to say this victory does not belong to her, but to the group and the program and the higher power.
It seems to me just human nature to mark things in years. Something drastic happened on that day, something vital changed and something new was born.
As an oldtimer, I will admit that I often want my years to lend me credibility. I want my years to stop people from treating me like a newcomer. I want a pin that displays my years so that I (humbly) don’t have to mention them. I want my years to cause people to listen to me, so that I can spare them some of the pain I see coming their way, so that they can get better, quicker. To give them an easier, softer way. I cannot!
I would like to complain about my personal menopause (or lack thereof), but I looked at the bottom of my page, to where I choose a character defect to pay special attention to, and complaining is right there, chosen for this day. So no complaints. A report of my feelings about dragging out the old calendar to make another entry would include the words “sad” and “tired.”
We continue on with the preparations for Erika’s move. We now have more of a date and more of a plan. I will miss my dog and my work meeting, most likely. It promises to be an emotional, hectic, grueling, expensive time, and I hope I don’t bleed through it as well.
Not complaining though.
A.A.’s manner of making ready to receive this gift lies in the practice of the Twelve Steps in our program. So let’s consider briefly what we have been trying to do up to this point:
Step One showed us an amazing paradox: We found that we were totally unable to be rid of the alcohol obsession until we first admitted that we were powerless over it.
Yes! I repeat this part of my story a lot, both here and in person. But it is the key that turned the lock. How I wish I could explain it better so that others could benefit from my understanding.
I knew I was an alcoholic very early on. I knew it intellectually. I understood and could articulate that when I started drinking, I couldn’t predict what would happen and I was often unable to stop again. Alcoholic.
But again and again and again, deep in my misery, I decided to try drinking again. I believed at times that I could do it differently, that I could stop before I got too drunk, that I could control it enough to get by.
Those two trains of thought contradict each other. The thought that I could do it again, no matter how small that belief was, prevented me from achieving lasting sobriety.
The “psychic change” that occurred, for me, after years of trying to “get” AA, made me understand that I could not stop drinking, with or without AA, I could not stop. When I understood that on all levels, not just intellectually, I was able to be rid of it.
I love AA paradoxes. You cannot stop until you admit that you cannot stop.
I didn’t finish yesterday’s thought because a very important reality television show was on.
So I’ve identified anxiety as a character defect and even if I have good cause for anxiety, like a daughter moving away, I must grow in my ability to tolerate and handle it. I think my success with avoiding drugs on my flights is a good omen for me and lets me know that I do have the tools to handle things, if only I will practice and use them. The anxiety thing will be much longer lived than a few plane flights. It will last my whole life. I want to lessen it as much as I can. I still believe that if I take drugs to deal with it, I won’t get anywhere in my ability to tolerate it. Just like flying. Again, my mind considers “legal” highs, and my mind kicks my butt for not investigating further . . .
Along with anxiety, yesterday, I identified co-dependence and over-dependence. There are a few people who, when they are upset, I find myself too close to them to avoid getting upset myself. Again I don’t think it will be possible for me to eliminate that from my life completely. I do believe I can lessen it.
These dependency terms are not terms I’ve used to describe myself much before now.