Tradition Seven

Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

Another amazing example, when I read it, of how AA works as a world-wide organization.  The text talks about AA not accepting money from a will, back when AA really needed money, and I find a few things interesting about it.  There are a few things I wonder about.  Not enough to look into it, but I wonder.

Do they accept money from wills of members?  I can see why it would be a very bad thing for AA to have more money than it needs.  The concept of having just enough is an excellent one.  In my group, we donate what extra we have to the church where we meet (they don’t charge us rent), and to our local AA office and the New York office.  But what do they do with it if they have more than they need?

In the text of the tradition, Bill writes about how little they used to throw in the hat in the early days.  When I first went to meetings, beginning in 1978, people sometimes put in a quarter or two, though usually a dollar.  When, locally, there’s talk of AA needing more money, folks point out how that dollar doesn’t buy what it used to.  There is constant talk that the Grapevine is in financial trouble, and really I don’t know how it can move into the future and stay afloat.  Carole and I subscribe and get two copies, to help support it.  I don’t read it at all, but she does.

Carole and I don’t get reimbursed for snacks or coffee when it’s our turn to provide them.  I usually buy the books for the meeting, and I don’t take the money out of the pot.  We don’t take money for that we’ve spent on cards or coins.  We have had members donate a coffee pot, when we’ve needed one, or donate food or supplies for our group’s anniversary party. Members have donated frames for our slogans and a picture of the man on the bed.

All of this, obviously, costs so much less than alcohol.  Add into that the fact that I’m employed because I don’t drink.  I haven’t wrecked a car or needed bail money.  I have no medical costs caused by alcohol.  I don’t buy drugs.

That’s all wonderful for me.  More important than all that, though, is the fact that AA is free.  Our collection at my meeting often works out to be less than a dollar for each person present.  Thank God.  As critical as critics can be, none of them can furnish a remotely possible solution that is available 24 hours a day, and free.

The concept of having just as much money as we “need” is an interesting one to ponder, for me, as it relates to the rest of my life.

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Can We Accept Poverty, Sickness (Step Twelve continued)

Can we accept poverty, sickness, loneliness, and bereavement with courage and serenity?

I don’t believe in “trying,” but, yeah, trying.

This is a very timely sentence for me to consider.  I’m quite sure I am much better than I was pre-sobriety, but, still, no.

As spring comes to my part of the world, I am surrounded by sickness and decrepitude.  I’m reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover, listening to it in the car, and I just heard the part where spring is coming to Constance’s part of the world, and she laments that “men” don’t do anything so lovely and regenerating as the plants do yearly.  I would extended that to women and actually to mammals.  We’re born, and we peak early, then we decline.

At home there is the 20-year-old cat and the 16-year-old dog.  Both struggle and get worse by inches.  The cat is arthritic, sometimes congested.  He can no longer scale the counter or the bed.  He walks with a stiffness that is painful to see.  Yet he eats (almost all the time) and purrs and stretches out to be brushed.  The dog has dementia, and something bad going on neurologically.  He can’t stand the cold and gets frozen almost immediately.  He struggles with the few stairs that go down to the yard, and he doesn’t attempt to come upstairs in the house any more.  He stares and collapses and pees on the floor.  And yet he eats, and smells the grass when it isn’t too cold out, and curls up in bed.

And Phyllis.  I’ve written about her before.  She’s a neighbor who came to our AA meeting at the age of 70.  She achieved some lengths of sobriety but didn’t really work the program.  She got cancer, and it’s been six or nine months since they stopped trying to treat it, and she is dying by inches, and just about done.

And it’s really, really, really, really difficult for me to be courageous and serene in these circumstances, with the three of them, dying by inches, and suffering, daily.  None of these three will get any better.  It’s not a question of “if,” but “when,” and the answer for all three is “soon.”

At times, with the pets, we will think that “this” is “it.”  And then it’s not.  We rehearse, in a way, and touch the pain we will come to know intimately and soon.  We even look beyond those deaths to perhaps other animals we might take into our family when we have those empty spaces.  And we know very, very well, that Phyllis’ space in our meeting can and will be filled and taken many times over with new hope for people who are despairing now.

But day-to-day, day after day, it’s honestly hard to cope with this.  I lost one old cat when she was 19, and somehow it wasn’t this bad.  She didn’t decline and go on for so long, though she did get old and feeble.  It seems somehow to me that the three of them all being like this at one time, now, is making it more difficult to cope with each one.  I’m sure it is.  The fact that I’m older doesn’t help.  I know a kitten I adopt this year could possibly outlive me, with both of us living a normal life span.

So to accept it with courage and serenity.  Today, I will try.

March 21, 2011 (this day)

  • I’m very limited on time because
  • I have a four-day training that is keeping me out of the house long, and away from work longer and
  • Carole also has three very long days so
  • the pets are neglected enough and then
  • my phone died today so after the long training I had to go to the phone store and make the day even longer and
  • spend money
  • I have a cold
  • my work is piling up while I’m away
  • I’m with strangers all day long
  • I’m concentrating on the character defect of “shyness” and so
  • I offered my phone number to someone at the training who is friendless and from out-of-town in case she needs anything local and then I realized that
  • I have no time
  • I have no phone

Luxury problems, all.  Tonight I’m very glad that I only have to live this day, right now.

March 17, 2011 (this day)

Like many Americans, I have some Irish heritage to claim.  My father, the one who died from alcoholism at the young age of 33, was of Irish descent.  I think his mother may have been all Irish, except that I don’t think she ever went to Ireland.  Her parents, though, were probably from there, maybe having come here because of the potato famine, maybe not.  Something that dying young like that does is it interrupts the story, it breaks the connection between the past and future.  My kids may possibly be mostly Irish by heritage.  Their father was adopted, and legend has it that one of his parents was Irish, one Italian.  Which means probably, for that time and place, their parents or grandparents came from Ireland and Italy.  He was put up for adoption, it seems, because his drunken father abandoned his young mother, and she did not have the resources to support him.  Another chain broken by alcohol.

I’ve had a rough week.  My work partner has been on vacation, making lots of work for me.  I started the week with a period and I’m ending it with a cold.  Late last week, I bought a new car.  This is not something I ever want to do.  I believe in having old cars and running them into the ground.  But with my work partner leaving, and my car being unreliable, I bit the bullet and put down cash for what I hope is an extremely durable, dependable and long lasting vehicle.  I hated parting with the money, but I’d hate debt more.

Erika’s been visiting for spring break, bringing her two cats with her.  Their addition to my menagerie is most definitely too many animals in one house.  But, she tells me, I’ll miss them when they’re gone.  I also spent many hundreds of dollars on Erika’s car today, because hers is old, and I need to feel that it’s as safe as it can be.  She’s in graduate school, working hard, and I do know that the world does need more environmental chemists.  I’m glad I’m able to support her in that.

Then I had a surprise inspection at work, and don’t they always find something wrong?  Then today I had to suspend someone for a bad drug test, then unsuspend her because the lab made a mistake.  I’m a name snob, for sure, but people, if you have a very common last name, please don’t give your kids a very common first name.  Bad moments there.  I didn’t get nearly the work I needed to get done at work, and next week I have to go to four days of training.  I don’t want to go, plus I won’t be able to do my work work, which will pile up behind me.

I’ve been trying to do this exercise with Carole.  Instead of saying “I have to” we’re trying to say “I get to.”  So:

  • I get to have a new car and no car payment.
  • I get to have a cold (some people have worse).
  • I get to go to training (some people are being fired).
  • I get to support my daughter in her education (some people can’t even dream of that).
  • I get to enjoy my daughter’s pets, and then they go home (grandkitties!).

I get to break that alcoholic chain for my kids.  I get to be here, now.

Tradition Six

An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

The few pages that explain this tradition talk about the problems that did and could arise as AA as an organization and AAs as people publicly identifying themselves get involved in education, hospitals, laws and other important and well-intentioned endeavors.  From here, from now, it’s easy to see why any of that has the potential to destroy AA, so I’m very grateful that none of it succeeded before, and that we now have the Traditions to guide us away from that.

At my meeting last night, the topic was “the tool that keeps you sober” or something like that.  One man said that last Tuesday, he tried to go to a meeting that wasn’t there.  He then headed to another meeting, and it, also, wasn’t there.  He knew of course that many churches had activities last Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, but he reflected on what it would like if AA was to cease to exist.  It sounded to me like a good Twilight Zone episode and it is something I hope I never live to see.  I had a slight argument with someone (who will not be named) about who would brew the coffee for that meeting, and ultimately I decided that I’m honored and privileged and grateful to open the door and make the coffee and keep the meeting going for, I hope, alcoholics who have not yet even been born.

 

Futhermore, How Shall We Come to Terms (Step Twelve continued)

Furthermore, how shall we come to terms with seeming failure or success?  Can we now accept and adjust to either without despair or pride?

 

Not me, not yet, not completely (or anywhere near).

I love the word seeming.  How often does something seem to be a success, or a failure, and turn out not to be?

My understanding of this continues to grow.  I know, on some level, that nothing is either good or bad, it just is.  I know that sometimes my real difficulties begin when I get what I want.  I know that it’s my attitude that colors everything under the sun.

One of my “sister” programs got audited by the state.  It is a program that deals with many challenges, and the managers have done a good job getting it in shape for inspection.  If they were to fail, their efforts and good works would still be there, but there would be many moments of despair.  On the other side, if they do well, some of those who have worked long and hard are bound to feel pride.

OK I need to think about me.  I strive in every case for the middle ground.  My ancient cat is failing, and I try to move my thoughts to the good life I’ve given him.  Not the best life a cat could possibly have, but a good life.  I’ve reached important adult milestones with my kids.  Neither one lives with me, both support themselves.  I haven’t been the best parent, and I try not to feel pride, but rather to feel calm about it, remembering I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Every day (or, at this point, year) that they allow me to stay at my job, I feel surprised, and lucky, and a little bit like they don’t really know the real me.  I can see that I’ve influenced things at work over the years, and I try to remember that and to be a good influence today for tomorrow.  If my relationship has (sadly) lasted longer than most, I know that people fail at this at every stage of the game.  If I set goals, and accomplish them, I really feel like at this time in my life, that is how it should be.

So that there is a list of successes, and really, that’s what I feel I have right now.  I failed in my resolution to not buy any yarn in 2011, but that is, after all, the sin of a really good person.

Every day sober is a success.