Tools of the AA Program

The metaphor of “tools” is an excellent one.  I had so many problems I could not solve.  I couldn’t live without alcohol, I couldn’t handle or be successful at any aspect of life.  The program taught me coping strategies and gave me things I could use to manage my living – all aspects of it, mundane and dramatic.  Tools I use include:

  • The Steps.  Tool number one.  The Steps teach me a whole way of living that works, in that I can succeed at what I want and need to succeed at.  I get better and I get happier as I increase my ability to use the Steps.
  • Slogans.  Those quick-shot truisms that boil it all right down to the bottom line of what I need to do and what I need to remember.
  • The fellowship.  As an introvert, I’d really rather not talk and visit and call and tell my secrets.
  • The literature.  Well beyond just the “AA approved” books, but including those, there is too much there for me to get through in a life time.  It keeps me intellectually stimulated and then some.

These tools continually point me back to the point that when I’m disturbed, there’s something wrong with ME.  There may well be something wrong with the world.  There often is.  And I can do a little something about that, but mostly what I can change is me.  The tools of the program are tools I use to work on myself.  Just that concept is worth so much to me, as someone who continues to strive to be better.

Can We Bring The Same Spirit (Step Twelve continued)

Can we bring the same spirit of love and tolerance into our sometimes deranged family lives that we bring to our A.A. group?


Funny how issues clump together.  I was just talking to Carole about this a few hours ago.

My family life now is not deranged.  At least I hope it’s not terribly deranged.  My wife and I met in sobriety.  My children are 25 and 22, sobriety babies both.  The nightmares I imagine would have happened to any and all of us, had I not stopped drinking, are endless.  I’m pretty sure we just wouldn’t be.

But my family of origin is another story.  I haven’t, nor do I want to, try to change or heal or help those relationships much.  I surely don’t want to work the Twelve Steps on them except in ways that benefit me, by, for example, letting go and letting God, living and letting live.

In my day-to-day family life, I want to be more than loving and tolerant.  In my bigger family life, not so much.  And I have no doubt that this points to character defects, big and unhealthy, within me.

December 29, 2010 (this day)

I do NOT take criticism well.  Especially, I think, though I’m sure people who know me might see it differently, unjust criticism.  Wow it set my heart to pumping this morning, and since it was unjust (according to me), I fell back on, “What would YOU have done?”

“Well?  What WOULD you have done?”

It was my last day at work until Monday.  We have a party to go to New Year’s Eve – a program, sober party.  New Year’s Day we’re hoping our son will come over, then we have our meeting, then we’re having the party.

This afternoon at work, when we were talking about New Year’s plans, and I said about the party we’re having, someone commented, “Then do you make the people stay at your house?”

“Why would I do that?” I asked.

“Because,” the questioner answered, “At my house, if you have more than two beers, you’re not going anywhere.  I don’t let anyone leave.”

I explained that my party won’t involve alcohol, and everyone is not just permitted to leave, they are encouraged to do so.

And I’ll have a better time, and less regrets, and no overnight captives.


From the dictionary:

1.  a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.  4.  the act or capacity of enduring; endurance.
Both of these definitions are important to me, for different reasons.  I know that in the literature it tells me that although I can’t love everyone, I can take a kindly and tolerant view of everyone.  I understand this to be the ideal I will strive for.  And I understand it for both definitions.  I can be (or try to be) fair, objective, and permissive, and I can endure people who I find to be difficult.  I am much better on the endurance angle.  Being fair, objective, and permissive is difficult for me, especially when people are intolerant.  I can tolerate anything but intolerance!
Phillip C. commented a few posts back that not everyone will appreciate him as a gay man.  I then find it extremely difficult or impossible to appreciate or accept them, with their intolerant attitude.  This is a huge character defect of mine.  I want to (and in some ways I do) write people off who will not “accept” homosexuality.  I can’t be civil to people who seek to continue to deny me the right to marry, and so I don’t be anything with them.  Tolerant, I am not.
I do, however, tolerate lots of other things, and I think I usually do pretty well.  I’m not the road rage type and I tolerate the bad driving of all those other folks on the road.  I work with people who can be extremely slow, or take a long time to understand something, or they can be very selfish, or sometimes even sneaky, and I do fairly well with most of it most of the time.
I don’t know about my endurance, but I do know that it’s come to my attention over the past few months that I should try to do better with enduring, and so tolerating, lots of things that make me uncomfortable or event things that hurt.  The kids are out of touch for too long, and I don’t know if they’re OK.  Worse, I may have good reason to fear they are not OK, but I have to make it through the not knowing.  My mother or my dog or my cat declines in old age and bad health.  The roads are icy and snowy and freezing cold for yet another day.  My own body takes another step down the other side of that hill.
I understand on some level that all of these outward conditions are things I have to adjust to.  That my serenity or happiness cannot be dependent on any of them.  That on some cosmic level, all is well, all “IS.”
Tolerance is worth striving for.

Can We Love the Whole Pattern of Living (Step Twelve continued)

Can we love the whole pattern of living as eagerly as we do the small segment of it we discover when we try to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety?

Skipping ahead, I know that this question and the long list of questions that follows it are answered further down with a “yes.”  I’d like to consider them individually, though, and think about how they apply to my day-to-day life.

Right now I cannot love the whole pattern of living as eagerly as I love AA.  But I have come a very long way toward doing so, and, as with most concepts in AA, I love the ideal that this sets for me.  I love that AA gives me a clear-cut plan like this.

I struggle, as an example, with loving the people and the pattern of living that I experience at work.  I can easily see, often, how they are wrong, and I am right.  Even as I see it, though, I know, because of my years in AA, that they may have the exact same vision of right and wrong, with me living on the wrong side, and that both of us have equally valid points.

I find it so much easier to reach out to people in AA, with good reason.  The very fact of our being there together means that we have a past in common, a terrible past.  We have a wonderful present, together, and true hope for a brighter future.  But that wrenching past means we both have messed up terribly.  We’ve been humiliated, so we can have some humility.

I’d like to think it’s the same for the people in my life who are not in AA, and surely it is true for some of them, but, I think, not many.

Still, just like at church, I can consider the way I live the program outside of the rooms to be the real test of whether or not I have “gotten” it.  Easy to live right within AA.  Not so easy outside of the room.

December 24, 2010 (this day)

I don’t feel like pulling out the step book and seeing what’s next that I need to think about regarding the 12th Step.  So I’m not going to!

I took this picture today at the dog park.  That’s Carole, carrying a bag of poop, and Xandra, being the little leader that she is.  We took her there, then to the pet food store, then to the supermarket to get a snack for the meeting we will lead tomorrow.  We’re going to do it by candle light, and that should be special.

I’m writing this now on the living room floor.  Erika is here, back from school with her two cats.  Nicholas is here, and he’s spending the night.  Carole asked him to so that she doesn’t have to wait to open presents tomorrow morning.  Carole and I are headed for church soon.  Sadly, the kids won’t go any longer.  Maybe one day they’ll come back.

Erika’s been trying to help me learn to make a ripple in crocheting.  She is learning how to quilt, and she’s sitting here doing it.  I got a wonderful box of presents from one of my “invisible” friends – aka internet friends.  We’ve had a little little little bit of snow, just enough to be oh so pretty and cause no problems.  After church, these three have said they would play one of their childhood games with me.  And we bought real Tin Roof Sundae ice cream – not the low cal stuff.

So this is where practicing these principles in many of my affairs for many many years has brought me.  My mother sent me the nativity set we had under our tree every year when I was a child.  Those memories are not all good.  Some are quite bad.  I still remember the Christmas Eve sermon, the last one I took my grandmother to, two weeks before she died, when I had six years sober.  The pastor asked about the legacy we’ll leave our kids, and I think he meant something different that what went through my mind.  But their story so far is one of a sober mother.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I walked the dog yesterday morning for the first time in a while.  I have missed doing it, and, as usual, it frightens me.  For most of the year, I do it before I go to work every day that I go to work, which is most days.  It was interesting to have that time again to think, and I tried to think about “To Thine Own Self Be True.”

What came to my mind immediately was some of the very strong opinions I have about a few things.  It almost makes me laugh, to think of the picture I must present, especially in that I am a lesbian, living with a woman, and politically I have extremely liberal.

I don’t drink or take drugs, any, ever.  We all know about that.  I don’t swear.  Hardly ever.  I don’t like to listen to bad language.  I don’t gamble, even to play cards with friends for pennies.  And oh God do I hate football.

Are my hard-line opinions about these things too drastic, or am I being true to myself by adhering to them?

And I don’t know where this saying is in the Big Book or other AA literature, and so I hope people aren’t lead to this post hoping for an answer to that.