May 30, 2011 (this day)

Carole and I went to a meeting Saturday night on vacation.

I am so grateful that AA is everywhere I go, and that meetings are available, and that the good people of AA are the same all over in the ways that are important.

I am abundantly blessed with meetings where I live and it’s good to have a glaring example of that.  Many AAs are not able, the way I am, to hike it down the road a bit if they don’t like a particular meeting.

Regional differences are there but they are slight.  The important things remain at all the meetings I’ve been to all over the US.

I STILL give off a newcomer vibe.  I STILL don’t want to.

We may try to make another meeting before we head home.


May 26, 2011 (this day)

Carole and I are leaving these and many more with my mother while we go away for a week.  I’m sure the kittens will grow hugely in that week.  I’m really looking forward to getting away from them and everything else, sort of.  I’m sure we’ll make at least one meeting in a new place and that’s always interesting.

The Best-Intentioned of Us (Step Twelve continued)

The best-intentioned of us can fall for the “two-step” illusion.  Sooner or later the pink cloud stage wears off and things go disappointingly dull.  We begin to think that A.A. doesn’t pay off after all.  We become puzzled and discouraged.

Again, I’m in absolutely no danger of becoming a two-stepper.  I guess in my case the danger would be acting as a one-stepper, and just not drinking.

I wonder if this is where the expression “pink cloud” comes from.  A quick search showed me that mostly people use it the way do, as a sort of happiness that happens quickly when someone stops drinking.  That person is relieved of  many of the bad things that drinking brought, and has embarked on a new and wonderful way of living, and is just oh so happy, it cannot last.  If I experienced a pink cloud stage it has been lost in the haze of my continued relapses, and I don’t remember it at all.

I stopped writing the step at that point because the paragraph that follows is one of the most important paragraphs in all of the literature for me, and I want to set it apart.  At times I certainly find AA to be dull, but at no time do I forget that since I’m alive, it’s paying off.  As I write these words and think about this, I say a little inward prayer that if someone who is struggling with sobriety reads them, this person might see the light.  The light that I saw, that enabled me to stay sober.

AA may be dull, and dialysis may be dull, and chemotherapy may be dull.  No, those things are much worse than dull, yet people count themselves fortunate every day to be able to participate in them.  What I have to do for my life is not dull, and so what if it was?  If I said I hoped for any kind of life without AA, I would truly be insane again.

Tradition Ten

Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

The text uses an example of a society of recovering alcoholics who took positions on things like slavery, which is surely a cause we can all unite against.  When causes get a little bit more murky, though, I can see how opinions on outside issues would destroy the organization.

AA teaches me to try to be loving and tolerant to everyone.  With most of the other folks in AA, I at least have that shipwrecked-survivor bond and I know I have something very very important in common with people who are nothing like me.  That was especially important when I was a teenager in AA.  It was important then, and it’s just wonderful now.  I think this bond must be stronger (for me and for many people) than the bond of religion or citizenship.

So when my fellow AAs take a different view on an outside issue, for the most part, I am fine with that.  I’m very liberal, for instance, and for the most part I can sit with conservatives and not let if affect my participation in the program.

Honestly, though, there are a few issues that can cause a rift in my heart.  Gay marriage, for example.  When anyone is against it, I’m hurt by that, and frustrated with their ability to participate in my exclusion from full citizenship.  The bond of AA is very strong.  I would still do my best to help that person not drink, if they needed help, but I’d likely try to point them quickly in the direction of someone else who could help them.  Thankfully, this doesn’t really come up, and the only issue is the one in my heart.

I’ll extrapolate that to say I’m very grateful that AA doesn’t take positions that I need to either support or deny.  I imagine the number of people who could agree with any given position is small, and the number who would leave the program would be great, over things having nothing to do with whether or not I will drink today.

I won’t, no matter what shape my politics are in.

May 19, 2011 (this day)

I asked Carole if we could turn the page on all this death, and Sunday we went to the Humane Society and adopted two kittens.  In a way I’d like to think that the others made room for these two, who needed a home.
And how fun!  I was struck with incredible gratitude last night, hearing their purrs and feeling sad as they look at me and the dog for a place to nurse.  Also, Carole and I know that taking these two is an invitation to pain.  If we’re lucky, we’ll feel the pain of their leaving us some day and if we’re unlucky, they may feel the pain of us leaving them.
Such a commitment.  Our other cat is full of behavior problems but we persevere, for ten years now, in giving her a home.  We worry – what if the dog tries to eat the cats?  We would be stuck trying to find a home for these cats.  We WILL be stuck trying to find a home for these cats.
No we won’t.
Thatcher.  Named for Ebby Thatcher.  Black cats are hard to photograph.

May 14, 2011 (this day)

Phyllis passed away Thursday night.  I don’t want to be too specific, but she lived across the street from us.  She was so much more than a neighbor.  She showed up at our meeting a few years ago.  The few years before that, we couldn’t help noticing the police, the fights, the devastation.  Then, for the past several year, the healing, the calmness (I won’t go so far as to call it serenity), the hope.  Her husband told Carole that he is grateful for the last years he had with her. 
I have so many thoughts and reflections about it.  I’m so grateful I got sober young, and so grateful my whole adult life has been spent in AA (both sober and not).  There simply wasn’t time for Phyllis to really get better, although I think she did experience at least one miracle if not more.
Although she’d only known the folks of AA for a short time, they have been some of the most dedicated friends in her life.  I hope she picked up at least some of the tools of the program and that they eased her way.
Why do we have such a hard time with death?  She was here, and now she’s not.  She never will be again.
I walked my remaining dog past Phyllis’ car Friday morning.  I wonder if the last time she drove it she know it would be the last time.  The maple trees are shedding their polly noses on to the car, seeking to reproduce themselves and make new maples. 
Selfishly, I wonder how long it will take me to adjust.  Selfishly, I cling tighter to my sobriety, hoping I am truly taking the lessons I can from the examples of active alcoholism.  (I don’t know if I wrote about it or not, but someone up the street, someone unable to “get it,” died last month at 51).
Selfishly, I have had enough of death in this season of spring.  The three I was waiting for and dreading have come to pass.  Each, I have to remember it, came in old age, in the best possible circumstances with family and medical assistance and every kind of support possible.  My world has changed too much (for me).

May 10, 2011 (this day)

I’ve had this hermit crab for something like ten years.  It gets bigger, but not much.  I can’t imagine how big the baseball and grapefruit sized ones are.  I know it lives so long because it’s alone.  As much as they say hermit crabs aren’t violent, they are.

I started keeping crabs about ten years ago, when my daughter Erika was going through the worst of her teenage behavior.  At first I did all that should be done for crabs and really fussed with them.  As they died off I didn’t replace them.  I was down to about three when we moved into our new house and the crabs got neglected, so I took them to work.  This sole survivor lives there now.  The funniest thing about this crab is that it (he?  she?) fights to hard against change.  It grows and it needs to change its shell (and it has all these plus many more to choose from, not like I imagine crabs in the wild) and it tries shells on for months.  It practically has to burst from the shell it’s wearing to actually change.  At times I fear it will die rather than change yes, a lot like me.

Carole and I are getting used to our quieter house.  Feeding the critters is much much easier.  Coming home is easier and going out is easier with our reduced menagerie – now just one dog and one cat.

I’m very busy at work.  We’ve acquired many more clients all of a sudden, which is a blessing, but it strains everything at the same time, taking so many at once.  I continue to enjoy the presidency of Barack Obama.  The recession or depression or down turn or whatever it is, however, has meant that many people with severe and multiple disabilities (the people I work with) are not getting the services they need.  At times it can break my heart.  I don’t know how some people go on, struggling to care for their children and siblings.  I hope that all gets better soon.

This afternoon I watched Phyllis’ twin grandchildren toddle around their front yard.  They are just over a year old and adorable.  Carole went to say hello and Phyllis’ daughter said it is probably a matter of days for Phyllis at this time.

There was one other thing I meant to write about, with Mother’s Day just passed.  I know three women in the program fairly well.  They each have children in their teens or twenties.  Each of these three women struggle to stay sober and none have succeeded for any amount of time – yet.  I say yet with all sincerity because I drank in AA for six years myself before achieving a lasting sobriety.  But all three indulge their children and give them way too much.  They demand nothing and let the children engage in some terrible, frightening, even illegal behavior to “make up” for the years these kids had drunken mothers.  From where I sit, it is so obviously the wrong thing.  I hope all the children involved turn out OK.

More Anonymity

Is this my third or fourth post today?  I’m going to bed soon, but this is important.
Another view on anonymity.

In the age of confessionals, Alcoholics Anonymous has remained one of the few places where the CEO of Exxon could freely mingle with the janitorial staff over at Google, without wearing their markers of authority on their sleeves and without fear of exposure.


Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions.

A “Fashion and Style” (?) piece in the New York Times challenges that.

I think it largely misses the point.  We are to be anonymous at the level of press, radio and films.  Not (necessarily) in our meetings, our jobs, our day to day lives.

It must be difficult for famous people to tread this path.  The ones who do it will, I think, are those we know about, but they do not come out and say it.

It’s an exercise in humility, for sure, and I guess by default famous people can’t be all that humble.  But they also hold huge power to discredit AA and turn people away to actually die who otherwise might recover.

I’m not ashamed, and I’m not hiding.  The most important thing I’m not doing, though, is I’m not speaking for AA.