Though the Earning Power of Most (Step Twleve continued)

Though the earning power of most A.A.’s is relatively high, we have some members who never seem to get on their feet moneywise, and still others who encounter heavy financial reverses.  Ordinarily we see these situations met with fortitude and faith.

I guess I would have to say that’s mostly true in my experience.  Fortitude and faith, I think, are basic ingredients of AA, so the members I see go through financial difficulty, if they’re in meetings, and thus I’m seeing them, have a steady supply of fortitude and faith.  And the people around them help them with more.

This made me think of something else.  My experience is in suburban and small city urban AA.  People who get financially devastated are not going to have sustained contact with me.  It’s entirely possible that people I’ve known briefly in meetings have suffered financial ruin, but they didn’t do it while I was watching.  In my circle, people (grown and even aging adults) will move in with parents or children and go on that way, if I am to keep seeing them.  The support systems in my little world are generally strong.

I’ve also known people who are in some kind of support housing situation due to mental health issues.  I’ve known quite a few of those.  But again, they are folks who are able, however they do it, to continue with the meetings I go to.  They may be financially impoverished, but these are the people who can and do use government supports to have some kind of mainstream life.  People who are so ill that they aren’t able to do even that much – I’m not likely to come into contact with them, except briefly, and I don’t know what becomes of them.

Triggers

It has been a very, very, very long time since I’ve been triggered to drink.  It’s important for new people, or people who struggle with alcohol, to know their triggers and avoid and master and overcome them.  This isn’t what this is about.

Today I’m looking for the things that trigger my character defects.  Things within me or outside of me that result in me feeling, indulging, entertaining, engaging in those negative personality traits, those instincts gone overboard that I call character defects.

My favorite, most frequent character defects are anxiety, fear, and anger.  I have occasionally written down what I perceive is triggering them in an effort to master and diffuse those triggers.  When I engage in a character defect, when I feel those negative emotions, to my understanding of it, I have failed.  I will never be rid of any of them completely (except, maybe, the desire to drink), but I will seek to lessen them as long as I am able to progress.

My list of triggers is disappointingly vague.  I sort of had in mind my sudden death, or my need to have someone go through my things without me present, and my wife or my work partner being just oh-so distressed to find herself there, listed as a common trigger.  So now when I look back, I can’t remember what I was upset about, or what happened, or anything much about these situations.  And that says a lot about it right there.

So I looked quickly through my pictures, and I chose a few that illustrate things that “cause” me anxiety, fear and anger.  I didn’t have to look far.  They are posted in the previous post.

  • My daughter’s cat.  He is ill with a mysterious disease.  How much will it cost to treat?  What if he dies young?  What if he suffers much?  How will she take it?  How will I take it?
  • Death.  ‘Nuff said.
  • My meeting.  Will it survive?
  • Gas prices.  ‘Nuff said.
  • My dog.  Is she happy?  Is she healthy?  Am I the perfect dog mom?  How will I cope with losing her?  Is she afraid of thunder?  Is she overweight?  Does she get enough exercise?  Does the gentle leader hurt her face?  Will she eat the cats?  Will the cats eat her?  Is she shedding?  Is she clean enough?  Is she too clean?  Does she remember her past?  Does she wish to shut the door on it?  Does she like to be brushed?  Can she read my mind?  Does she like her food?  Is her collar too loose?  Are her nails too long?  Does she have an allergy?  Lyme’s Disease?  A crazy mother??
  • Politics.  “Nuff said.
  • Heights.
  • Bugs and pesticides.
  • Sickness and injury.
  • Religion.
  • Pollution.
  • Where’s the nearest bathroom?

Triggers

June 21, 2011 (this day)

Photographing black cats is so difficult, I’m afraid my little Olive will get most of the face time in pictures.  Thatcher, the black one, is reclined in my arms as I write, but pictures of him look mostly like black blobs.

I’m working at home today, and going for a mammogram later.  My first task is write a plan for a young lady who is one day younger than my daughter.  We had the young lady’s meeting yesterday, and it struck me hard how her mother and I have so much in common, and are so different.  However everything else in our lives went, we were pregnant at the same time and had daughters at the same time with very different results, all by (I believe) chance.

It’s instructive for me, because as we were talking about family, this mother told us that she’s one of six siblings, with everyone, including her mother, and excluding just one sister, nearby.  I can easily be jealous of a situation like that.  I am jealous.  But of course for today, the situation her daughter is in is drastically different from the situation mine is in.  There isn’t anyone here having a perfect, easy time of it.  It helps me remember to try to be humble, to consider that I will influence the day-to-day world of this woman’s precious daughter.

Our Basic Troubles (Step Twelve continued)

Our basic troubles are the same as everyone else’s, but when an honest effort is made to “practice these principles in all our affairs,” well-grounded A.A.’s seem to have the ability, by God’s grace, to take these troubles in stride and turn them into demonstrations of faith.  We have seen A.A.’s suffer lingering and fatal illness with little complaint, and often in good cheer.  We have sometimes seen families broken apart by misunderstanding, tensions, or actual infidelity, who are reunited by the A.A. way of life.

Firefox’s spell check doesn’t like “else’s.”

I don’t have much to say about this.  I don’t know if our basic troubles are the same.  Surely the troubles brought on by our favorite coping mechanism, drugs and alcohol, bring a whole truck load of extra problems piled on to the originals.  Practicing the principles of AA in all of my affairs is the only way I know to try to cope now, and to get better at it, and to get better.

I haven’t had much up close experience with people suffering lingering and fatal illnesses to know if AAs act differently.

As for couples.  I know some who were together when they were drinking, and who have stayed together in sobriety and so of course have done much better when sober.  I know some who have met in sobriety.  Some have made it and some haven’t.

I was in a sick and awful relationship when I came in.  It wouldn’t have lasted with or without AA, though AA was a constant source of strength for me to end it.  I got married and divorced in sobriety, and I’m married again.  The AA way of life is integral to my relationship.  It’s really all I know, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

More About Tradition Three

I happily thought I was done writing about the traditions and then I picked up the book The History of Gay People in Alcoholics Anonymous by Audrey Borden.  She says that my friend from tradition three, the man who suffered from a worse addiction than alcohol, was actually a “sexual deviant,” aka gay.

Well, that’s a horse of a different color.  I had always assumed it referred to heroin.  Looking at it more closely, I can see that the text leaves it vague so that we may substitute whatever addiction presents itself to us in the form of a suffering alcoholic.  But gay?

I hope we understand now that while gay people are a minority, they are not “deviant.”  In my limited personal experience, I have not seen gay people discriminated against in AA.  I have not seen their sexuality (our sexuality) impact their participation in AA or their sobriety.  I guess back then this was a much bigger deal.

So I will send my gratitude toward heaven once again and be even more grateful that the founders allowed the gay man to belong and to participate.

If ever I have felt that I didn’t belong or wasn’t welcomed, it was when I was very young, and some few individuals couldn’t wrap their minds around the fact of my alcoholism.  And that would have gone against the book as well.

June 16, 2011 (this day)

The day after licensing and the day after the day after licensing are always happy days, thankfully.  The day of licensing was grueling but we came through all right.

I complain about the weather enough I should record that we are having perfect weather.  Sleeping in the slight chill with the windows open is such a pleasure.  Days without oppressive heat are such a pleasure.

Tonight, Carole and I are going to try a new meeting.  Saturday is our meeting, and Saturday afternoon she is speaking at some kind of AA gathering.  Her topics sound very very dry, but I’m sure she’ll have people laughing their heads off.

The kittens grow each and every day, right before my very eyes.  I feel so very lucky to have them.  All is calm right, here, right now, but I’m sure that will change soon.

Have We Alcoholics in A.A. Got (Step Twelve continued)

Have we alcoholics in A.A. got, or can we get, the resources to meet these calamities which come to so many?  These are the problems of life which we could never face up to.  Can we now, with the help of God as we understand Him, handle them as well and as bravely as our non-alcoholic friends often do?  Can we transform these calamities into assets, sources of growth and comfort to ourselves and those about us?  Well, we surely have a chance if we switch from “two-stepping” to “twelve-stepping,” if we are willing to receive that grace of God which can sustain and strengthen us in any catastrophe.

Can we handle them as well as our non-alcoholic friends often do?  Often, we can handle them much much better than non-alcoholics.  I am certain of that.

The resources to meet calamities are awesome things.  The steps and the people of AA are truly wonderful resources.  For me it’s terribly true that when I was drinking, I couldn’t face up to the problems of life.  I also had a really difficult time of it when life was basically problem-free.  Now I’ve learned a new way of life, and it does help me meet calamities.

A truly inspiring man in my local AA area lost his wife recently.  They drank together and got sober together and had a scary story.  She died young, and I often look at him and wonder how he copes with it.  The other night at a meeting he expressed that things always turn out OK for him.  I can’t imagine how it seems that way to him, yet I know it does.  He is one power of example and potential source of hope and strength for me, and there are so many others.

Finally, the “grace of God” is an AA phrase that I have a bit of a problem with.  I don’t know why God’s grace should be given to me, and not to someone else.  There are more deserving people, maybe, but shouldn’t we just all be recipients of God’s grace?

The last line expresses my best way to comprehend this concept.  “If we are willing to receive that grace of God.”  For as long as I fought the program or continued to drink and do it my way, I was not willing to receive the grace of God that was there.  It reminds me of that story where a woman is on her roof during a flood waiting for rescue.  She turns away the boat and the helicopter because she’s waiting for God to save her.  She dies, and then asks God why he didn’t save her.  God replies that he sent a boat and a helicopter for her.

So I make some small sense of it that way, that people who continue to suffer are often closed to the help that is offered.  But I’m afraid that in some ways, some people aren’t capable of receiving or using the help.  Then God’s grace bestowed on me but not them fails to make sense for me again.  And yet again, we are not always sustained and strengthened in any catastrophe.  There comes for many people circumstances that they simply, really, totally, just cannot handle, whether open to God’s grace or not.

Tradition Twelve

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

The last line of the text:

We are sure that humility, expressed by anonymity, is the greatest safeguard that Alcoholics Anonymous can ever have.

The oft misunderstood “principles before personalities” comes from here.  It does not mean, though it could, that because we are fellow ship wreck survivors, trying to work the program of recovery, we need to let go of and overlook the faults of our fellow AAs.  For sure, I love most of the people in the program just because they are there, but AA should not be, in my opinion, any kind of harbor for criminals or worse.

Over the past month I’ve read in the news about people arguing that anonymity is out-dated and needs to go.  On the one hand, they are right, I believe, that alcoholics in recovery do not need to be embarrassed by our present state of affairs, although I have plenty to be embarrassed about in my past.  But my status as an alcoholic in recovery is not of itself a shame-worthy thing.

Those people are missing the most important aspect of it anonymity, though.  First, they are NOT being humble, and second, they are risking the reputation and good name of AA by publicly attaching themselves to it.

THE GREATEST safeguard that AA can EVER have.  AA saved my life and it’s extremely important to me that it be there for people in the future.  Yes, for my children or possible descendents, but people unrelated to me as well.  I want it for the future of human beings more than I want nature or religion or culture or government for them.  Why would I take a chance with the greatest safeguard ever?

**************

I’m happy that I read the traditions and I’m very happy that I’m done with them for now.  The exercise has increased my knowledge and understanding and appreciation of the program.  Over the past few months, I actually witnessed (through the kitchen door) a slightly heated argument between two people at a meeting regarding the traditions.  It’s the only argument I witnessed at a meeting lately (because the time some, um, gentleman? tried to call me out at a meeting, I didn’t respond, and so, no argument).  It’s one of the only two topics I’ve seen in the news about AA (the other being the Toronto groups who edited the steps and still want to be recognized by AA – which probably is a traditions topic as well).

I was recently listening to a talk Bill W gave and part of what he said had to do with circumstances that came together in provident ways to bring the program into being.  These traditions are a whole other truck load of magic to me.

I love AA!

June 9, 2011 (this day)

I’m home in between work and the dentist.  I have lousy gums and I’ve been going every three months in an effort to not lose any more teeth.  In addition to that, I seriously think that menopause is making me nauseous.  I was nauseous for a solid week, and Googled it, and of course that is a symptom.  Of course it is.

My workplace has state licensing next week, and that’s always anxiety-provoking, and it means I feel like I should be working every spare second, because there’s always something else that can be checked or checked again.

Carole and I are back from vacation, highlights of which included being about ten feet from a bear.  Viscerally frightened.  Eternally grateful.

The kittens continue to assert their new life and it is a tiring joy to care for them.  They know nothing of those that went before them, those that made room, except maybe a lingering smell they can’t attach to any of the beings they know.  Many of their toys have been used before, though by no one now present.  Phyllis’ car is not in front of my house today.  I passed it at a local service station on my way to work this morning.  Over the past few days a thick dust of pollen had settled on it.  Phyllis doesn’t need it anymore but there are folks that need Phyllis still, but have to do without.

I know I’m weepy because of the dentist, and the licensing, and the HEAT.  Ug.  Before I set out for the dentist, I’m going to turn my attention to another alcoholic, because I’m blessed to have one in my life who’d like my assistance with living this life that is mostly happy, joyous and free.