Using the Program Instead of Alcohol

A long time ago, someone asked this question of me in comments:  How did you replace the alcohol?  I see that people sometimes find the blog by asking that of a search engine.  It is a fundamental question, I think.

At the heart of it, I replaced the alcohol with the program.  The reason I drank was to cope with, well, everything.  I loved life so much better when I was just a little bit drunk.  If that had been a successful strategy, I wouldn’t be writing this.  I’m an alcoholic, so that didn’t work.

Without alcohol to help me cope, life was a very painful thing.  To be honest, even with alcohol to help me cope, life was a very painful thing.  It did not happen over night and it was far from easy.  In my case, it took me six full years to actually stop drinking in Alcoholics Anonymous.  I learned a little bit along that way, but really I’m just lucky I survived.  Many don’t.  I almost didn’t.

But over the years of sobriety, AA actually did teach me to cope with life, for the most part, in a way that far surpasses my strategy of being a little bit drunk.  Even if that had worked, I’m sure I wouldn’t have learned the tough stuff.  Learned how to cope and usually how to be moderately happy.

Now I think the person who first asked the question was still drinking, or had just quit.  At that point replacing alcohol is difficult and there is painful growing ahead.  I’m here to say it’s worth it.

For me, the way of alcohol was the way of death.  I got worse and worse, and I had many examples in life and in the media of how bad things get.  There was a girl, completely disabled by a drunk driver, on the hospital floor with me when I had my wisdom teeth out.  I’m sure the driver who did that did not mean to.  I can’t imagine the hell of either party.  I can’t kid myself that I’m not taking a chance of joining them by drinking.  I am.  I would be.

AA has so many helpful ways to enable a newcomer to make it through to where life becomes bearable:  phone numbers, meetings, literature, sponsors, service.  Online is a huge vista of recovery resources I did not even dream of when I got sober.  Newly-sober and not-so-newly-sober folks find refuge in these things when times are hard and they are made better by them, not worse.

I’m afraid some small measure of faith is needed to begin.  A person simply can’t experience sobriety without being sober.

So both in terms of how to spend my time, and how to cope with life, I replaced the alcohol with AA.  AA takes much less of my time now than it did at the beginning.  That’s a choice I make and a crucial difference, too, is that now when I spend time with it, it’s because I really want to.   Because I finally held on to some sobriety and lived long enough to see it get better.

August 26-27, 2011 (this day)

I’m in a funk with writing.  I’m uninspired by “unfinished amends” and “unmanagability,” though Carole said she would write a guest post about unmanagability.  We’ll see.  I know that the unmanagability of sobriety is nothing, nothing compared to the unmagaability of drinking.  My life was unmanagable then to the point that it was in serious jeopardy, caused by me.  I have not done that to myself in sobriety.  I don’t know about unfinished amends.  I suppose I will never have apologized for all I should apologize for, and I never will have changed everything I should change.
Our weather is finally a big cooler.  It’s really very nice.  Warm enough to have the windows open and not too hot.  I’m looking forward to the rhythm of the fall and “settling in” with the growing kittens.  My daughter starts the second year of her master’s, having made it through the first.  I worry about her cat, her car, and her snow, but I try not to worry too much.  It also stresses me to think of leaving the animals to go visit her, and of her bringing her animals to come visit us.  This is something I actively work on getting over, though, because I want the animals, and I want the visits, and I’m not being unreasonable with any of the people or animals.  I’m blessed, really blessed, to have pet sitters who are wonderful, and who I can pay.
My son moved out of what used to be his student housing into a place closer to his work.  He has two tiny adorable foster kittens and it just amuses me so much that he’s doing this, allergies be damned.  It is so much better for those babies to be in a house than in the shelter, plus he takes on the expense of feeding and littering them and the shelter can take in more.
And across the street, Phyllis’ family is having a yard sale, selling some of her things (among others).
I think that in order to get over the writing funk, I’m going to have to “just do it.”

As We Made Spiritual Progress (Step Twelve continued)

As we made spiritual progress, we saw through these fallacies.  It became clear that if we ever were to feel emotionally secure among grown-up people, we would have to put our lives on a give-and-take basis; we would have to develop the sense of being in partnership or brotherhood with all those around us.  We saw that we would need to give constantly of ourselves without demands for repayment.  When we persistently did this we gradually found that people were attracted to us as never before.  And even if they failed us, we could be understanding and not too seriously affected.

Yeah but . . .  what if they are lesser grown-ups?  What if they’re old, but not grown up?  What if they are selfish, greedy, bad and/or wrong?

OK I guess I mostly know the answers to my questions.  There is still an issue I can’t quite wrap my mind around, the issue of how best to deal with slackers at work over whom I have authority and am called to and have agreed to correct.  But I feel like I’m getting closer to a mental framework that might actually work.

So (way) into the third decade of sobriety, AA does way more than help me stay away from alcohol.  It still works as a system of beliefs that, if I choose, improve my life.


August 20, 2011 (this day)

This week!  I don’t know how that much time went by.  This is probably the longest I haven’t written.  I’ve been working and taking time off.  My daughter is visiting with her two cats, and my son has two foster kittens, four weeks old.  I have raised two crazy people, it seems.

24 Hours a Day

How often

  • Am I alcoholic?
  • Do I need to remember I’m alcoholic?
  • Do I need to follow the program?
  • Do I need to live the program?

These are not bad things.  These are wonderful, life-giving things.  I wouldn’t minimize someone else’s experience with illness or tragedy.  I won’t compare it to some other kind of survival.  But if I forget in a big way, for a long period of time, I’m doomed.  If I forget in a small way, for a short period of time, I’m diminished.  My life is of a lesser quality than it is when I remember.

Yesterday, at work, my office was chosen for the place to store all the alcohol and lottery tickets that were to be raffled off today for fund-raising.  All day long I had a giant cooler packed with booze in my office, and two different times someone handed me a bottle.  One of those times, it was wrapped in a brown paper bag, the type of which I don’t see very often but which I guess people still use to disguise their alcohol.

I peeked inside.  It was a bottle of rum.  Right there, in my hand.

How bizarre.  I hope the person who wins it doesn’t get into trouble with it.  For once in my life, the bottle of rum I was holding caused me no problems at all.

August 10, 2011 (this day)

For some reason PATIENCE keeps coming up for me lately.

This is a beach of my childhood, another my daughter photographed on her recent trip to see her grandparents.  I really see fishing as unnecessarily harassing the fish but I guess it takes patience to do it well.

There are several people and situations that are frustrating me more than I should be letting them.


I should be better than this.

Time takes time.

We have a momentary break from the heat and I’m so very glad.

A kitten is preventing me from typing any more, and I’m so very glad.

When We Had Taken the Opposite Tack (Step Twelve continued)

When we had taken the opposite tack and had insisted, like infants ourselves, that people protect and take care of us or that the world owed us a living, then the result had been equally unfortunate.  This often caused the people we had loved most to push us aside or perhaps desert us entirely.  Our disillusionment had been hard to bear.  We couldn’t imagine people acting that way toward us.  We had failed to see that though adult in years we were still behaving childishly, trying to turn everybody–friends, wives, husbands, even the world itself–into protective parents.  We had refused to learn the very hard lesson that overdependence upon people is unsuccessful because all people are fallible, and even the best of them will sometimes let us down, especially when our demands for attention become unreasonable.

I wont’ go back over it again that I was sort of actually a child when I came to AA, definitely, and when I finally got sober this time, mostly.  I was 16 and 21.  As I’ve already thought and written about, my affair with the married man across the street was plenty wrong, and my overdependence (Firefox doesn’t like that word) was just one of the reasons why.  Briefly, I think I depended on my mother in a few ways she showed herself to be dependable.  I still depend on her, though I know that if life goes according to plan (a big if) the time when I’ll be able to do that draws ever closer to an end.

It’s part of the last sentence of this paragraph that I love, and I’ve kept, and I’ve remembered and tried to learn.  Today, I hope, I have healthy dependencies.  My wife and I depend on each other in our marital partnership.  We depend on each other in the support of and running of the house and the animals.  A long time ago (long), she agreed to parent my children with me, and I’ve depended on her to do that in many ways since then.

People at work depend on my.  Tomorrow my work partner will be off, and our supervisor will be off, and they knowingly depend on me to show up and supervise well.  The other employees, the clients and their families, and the people higher up than our supervisor all depend on me to do that, though they may not know it.

But what if menopause symptoms keep me away?  This is a real fear I have of letting people down.  How real a possibility it is is another question all together.  But at times I depend on people to do the very things I’m proposing to do and the last part of the last sentence reminds me that I might fail, and they might fail.  At some point we will all fail.  They’ll depend on me to take care of that just like I’ll depend on them.

Dependency is a wonderful topic.  My kids get less and less dependent.  One could say my son is pretty much independent.  As they get older I depend less on them, because they’re not here with me anymore, though I know a time could come when I depend on them more.  My mother might get more dependent on me.

Finally, it’s kind of funny for me to think about unreasonable demands for attention.  I think I usually err on the other side of that, and try to avoid attention even though that might not be best for the situation.


Turning it Over

Recently I read something that said, sort of, that “turning it over” is working steps four through twelve.  I really need to think about that more deeply.

Usually what I mean by “turning it over” is that I’ll stop trying to influence an outcome, maybe by arguing a point or presenting more evidence.  Or that I’ll mentally try to stop rebelling against some awful truth that I can’t accept.

But I really like this new definition much better.  My will and my life are not momentary, specific things.  My will is constant and so is my life.  I guess I try to live in accordance with what I think a higher power wants.  Many good habits are deeply ingrained in me (and many bad ones as well).  And the “work” I do on myself as I strive to get better goes on purposefully and also unconsciously.

But that all seems so nebulous.  Inventory, amends, prayer and good works – maybe it is the doing of these things that is the act of turning it over.