September 29, 2011 (this day)

I’m sitting outside on my back porch because this threatens to be the last day I can do this for a while.  The weather forecast is calling for very cool, actually cold weather for the next few days.  Right now it is perfect.  It’s not hot or cold, it’s sunny but the sun doesn’t burn.  The leaves are mostly still on the trees but when a breeze blows some flutter down.  Very nice.

I’ve been very busy at work this week and next week won’t be better.  I went to a thrift shop to buy metal silverware for my work place to use instead of plastic.  The amount of Styrofoam and plastic we use and throw out amazes me.  My meeting uses real cups and in five or six years, if we’ve only saved 20 cups a meeting, that a lot of cups.

At work today someone was telling us about a trip she’s about to take with her husband, someone else we work with, who is afraid to fly.   I was telling her about the things I did to successfully fly to Hawaii (and back!) over a year ago now, and I’m still very grateful.  I made it fairly calmly, and without drugs, because of the program.

The picture is one I took of my Big Book on my lap while I was waiting (and waiting and waiting) for Carole to get coffee on the way to a meeting the other day.

Most Married Folks in A.A. (Step Twelve continued)

Most married folks in A.A. have very happy homes.  To a surprising extent, A.A. has offset the damage to family life brought about by years of alcoholism.  But just like all other societies, we do have sex and marital problems, and sometimes they are distressingly acute.  Permanent marriage breakups and separations, however, are unusual in A.A.  Our main problem is not how we are to stay married; it is how to be more happily married by eliminating the severe emotional twists that have so often stemmed from alcoholism.

This paragraph is, I think, I sign of the times the book was written in.

I went to a meeting last night where they were reading the last part of Chapter Five in the Big Book, the part about the sex inventory.  There was a pitiable newcomer there for his very first meeting, and he asked immediately what sex had to do with drinking.  He told us he was there to stop drinking because his wife had taken a PFA out against him, and he loved her, and he wanted her back.

I spent a lot of that meeting wrapping my hands around my Big Book, grateful I could see what he so obviously could not.

Some time ago, a friend in the program asked me if it was my experience that couples who come in together, stay together.  Thinking it over, most of the couples I know who came in together have stayed together, though that’s not always a good thing.  But sometimes it’s a very good thing.

But permanent break ups are not rare.  I remember when I was a child, in the late 1960s, then permanent break ups were rare in society, but not any longer.  I think it’s the same with AA.

I’ve been in three serious relationships.  The one I was having when I came into the program was all kinds of wrong.  Then, in AA, I married someone in the program and later got divorced.  Now I’ve been with my wife, Carole, in AA, for fourteen years (I had to count).  We met in sobriety, and have never known each other drunk.

As for the severe emotional twists, well, the wife of a blogger has to expect some degree of discretion.

But, we speak the same language.  We’re surrounded by the good people of AA in a wonderfully supportive community.  I would not want to be involved with someone who wasn’t in the program.  To me, that would be like being with someone of a different religion, if religion was the most important thing in the world to you.  Even more drastic than that, actually.

So I know AA doesn’t solve all relationship problems, or even many of them.  But I can’t imagine changing our AA marriage for anything.


September 25, 2011 (this day)

I was stuck for something to write about, then I checked out my own side bar.  I see that I am to concentrate on the character defects of “abrasiveness, hostility, belligerence, being generally bad-humored.”  That I can do (anyone old enough to remember A Chorus Line?)!

At my meeting last night, the topics that were suggested were (1) how have you changed? (2) why do you keep coming back? and (3) anger, fear, and resentment.  Not much to talk about there!  So putting these two together I thought about what happened after the meeting.

We traditionally have a meeting after the meeting.  Carole and I, as regulars, go out after, inviting all and sundry to come.  The tradition has changed a bit over time and what I had in mind at the beginning was to sort of recreate the diner experience I had when I first got sober.  I did that for years, then not so much as I moved many times in sobriety, then had kids at home I needed to get back to.  Now I’m free again.  Among other things, I do believe it helps newcomers socialize with AA folks in a non-meeting setting.

Because there are many financial situations represented at a meeting, I always push for a diner-type place to eat.  Somewhere that someone can have just a cup of coffee, or dessert, or a whole dinner.  I’m often over ruled though and we got to real restaurants with real dinners, and that’s what happened last night.

So on the way there, we saw fireworks.  Our town was shooting off fireworks, I don’t know why.  Our town is small and the fireworks are visible from all over.  They’re shot off less than two miles away and they shake the ground and are very loud.

And my dog is afraid, as are so many.  And I’m not happy when my dog is afraid.  We can comfort her to some extent, but she’s really still afraid even when we tell her not to be.  Fourth of July and Halloween (ringing door bells, lots of people walking around) are two times I make sure to be home with her.  I’ll add late September to that list, but last night I didn’t know about it.

On the way to the dinner, I really worried about her.  I was very torn about going home to be with her and letting Carole get a ride home, or coming back to get her.  I wouldn’t comfort the dog then go back out.  I think that would be worse.  I struggled with knowing the fireworks would be done by the time I got to the house, thinking the dog would still need some comfort, and the truth that at times I go away for more than a few hours, leaving the dog to cope with whatever comes, including, possibly, fireworks.

I stayed at the dinner.  It really put a damper on my experience and, from my above list, I’d have to say I was generally bad-humored.   I still feel kind of guilty about it.  Having made my decision and staying at the dinner, I couldn’t slough it off and just be happy with the company and the night.

Wait to Worry

I wrote last July about triggers, and what I was really thinking about are triggers to worry.  For me, I don’t know that resentment is the number one offender.  I spend far more self-destructive time worrying than I do being resentful.

Wait to worry is sometimes a good way for me to remember that most of what I worry about doesn’t happen.  A diagnosis, for example, while the tests are going on.  I can worry about the terrible disease once I know that it’s truly there.  There will be time enough.    I can worry about how much trouble my kids are in once they are in it.  I can worry about politics and pollution, my car and my dog when I know there’s something to worry about.

Which, of course, there never is.  Because worry (and fear) are destructive and they make everything worse, never better.  They make me worse and less effective than I can be when I’m calm and accepting.

Right now I’m worried about work tomorrow.  It’s usually the same thing I worry about, being short-staffed.  For several years now we’ve been well staffed because of the administrators, which is a very very good thing.  Now a series of events have made us short-staffed until we can hire some new people, which takes time.

And it’s all just part of it.  Worrying about it tonight will not make tomorrow any better, and it will surely lower the quality of tonight.  And it’s not justified, either.  There is no staff shortage so severe that we don’t get through the day.  I have never suffered in a short situation to such a degree that I lost my ability to cope.  I may be the only administrator at work tomorrow, and my attitude will surely affect the quality of the day (to quote Thoreau).

September 21, 2011 (this day)

I’ve seen four stink bugs this afternoon and I hear tell by the people who tell of such things that the plague will be worse than last year.  And last year it was bad.  To my understanding, this bug has come over from Asia but its predator has not.  So it flourishes.  I think that people haven’t poisoned the heck out of them yet because they don’t bite or destroy things.  The only time they stink is when squashed, like when my dog bites one.  The new kittens have not seen a stink bug but I imagine we are in for some heavy-duty stinking when they do.

So nothing fights and kills the stink bugs and they come back stronger than before.  I would like to compare this experience to the way I’m experiencing character defects, but it’s a bit of a stretch.

My character defects are really very tedious and boring after 27 years of continuous sobriety.  You won’t find me being very illegal, immoral or dangerous.  No.  Not passed out under the table, in a class, or behind the wheel.  No.  You’ll find me anxious and jealous, irritable and impatient.  Judgmental and arrogant as well.

The same work situations stress me out.  The same home situations stress me out.  The same world situations stress me out and I know the fault lies in me, not in the situations.

I don’t think the character defects multiply, like the stink bugs.  I hope they actually get to be fewer and weaker.  But I think my capacity to live with them diminishes as I raise the floor of my life and want to get better and want to have more – serenity.

Wanting and working or two completely separate things.  And I swear that while I was writing, another bug flew by.  A plague that will come no matter how I feel about it.  My feelings and ability to cope with it are irrelevant to it, and only effect me.

A History of Gay People in Alcoholics Anonymous (literature as a tool)

I read this book, A History of Gay People in Alcoholics Anonymous From the Beginning by Audrey Borden a few months ago.  I got it for Carole a few years ago, and she started it but didn’t finish it, and I finally took it back and read it.  And that shows the number one problem with it, to me, it’s kind of boring.

My experience of being a gay person in Alcoholics Anonymous is limited to the last 15 years.  For a while, I was a straight person in AA.  I started going to gay AA meetings before I met Carole, but in an admittedly liberal suburban area of a major US city.

Once I moved to be with Carole, I was presenting myself as a gay person in AA.  Of course Carole knew lots of gay people in AA.  This time, we were in a suburban and urban area of a smaller city, but still near a city.

I’ve had no problem at all being gay in AA.  I do believe that the people in AA are some of the most accepting people in the world.

The book describes some problems that people have had, being gay in AA.  It tells about some of the first gay meetings, and the struggle many of those meetings had to be accepted into main stream AA.

I learned, reading it, that the man in Big Book who has an addiction more terrible than alcohol was gay.  I had truly thought he was a heroin addict.  Silly me.

The book is a very important record, but it is rather dry to read.  I had to read it a little at a time, otherwise my mind would wander.  It left me, most of all, with that very important ingredient of good sobriety:  gratitude.

This New Outlook (Step Twelve continued)

This new outlook was, we learned, something especially necessary to us alcoholics.  For alcoholism had been a lonely business, even though we had been surrounded by people who loved us.  But when self-will had driven everybody away and our isolation had become complete, it caused us to play the big shot in cheap barrooms and then fare forth alone on the street to depend upon the charity of passersby.  We were still trying to find emotional security by being dominating or dependent upon others.  Even when our fortunes had not ebbed that much and we nevertheless found ourselves alone in the world,  we still vainly tried to be secure by some unhealthy kind of domination or dependence.  For those of us who were like that, A.A. had a very special meaning.  Through it we begin to learn right relations with people who understand us; we don’t have to be alone any more.

OK I wasn’t really like THAT, but I can relate so strongly to this paragraph.  I didn’t do barrooms and I thank goodness I didn’t panhandle, but I remember very well-being “alone” in my bedroom, embarking on a night of alcohol, searching for the perfect high and the right degree of drunkenness that would ease my pain.  I also remember, even back in high school, drinking for oblivion because the pain of being conscious was just too much.

I wonder now, what the heck?  What was so wrong with me that I couldn’t face reality undrugged?  My home life wasn’t the best but there was nothing there that hurt me terribly.  My school life wasn’t the best but again, I attended school –

Maybe this is important.  I attended school.  I did OK in school.  I didn’t really have any good, close friends, but I wasn’t teased or bullied or shunned.  I did have one very good friend one grade below me, and some other casual friends.

Physically there was nothing terrible or great about me.  I had hope enough for the future and even some things I actually enjoyed in the present.  I’m thinking about high school here, because that’s where my drinking began.

Although it all holds true for college as well, though there my drinking got so bad that I couldn’t function, do OK in classes, maintain a friendship or, eventually, function.  Still it didn’t get to panhandling status for me and I’m grateful.

But in AA.  Yes, it was so very important to find people who understood.  Looking back, I’m grateful that I immediately believed the folks of AA who said they understood.  I’m grateful that they welcomed me back again and again and again although, I have to say, they eventually shook their heads at me and threw up their hands as far as helping me stay sober was concerned.  I’m grateful too that I’ve known the people of AA for all these years, for all of my adult life.

This “new” outlook is old to me.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Sitting here today, writing this about how I used to be, I am profoundly grateful.

September 15, 2011 (this day)

It’s our first day of fall-like weather and the stink bugs have not yet made an appearance.  I went to work today before the dentist because, in some of the work badness, there is a staff shortage, and I went to help out.  Otherwise I would have taken the day off for the dentist.  I feel completely wrecked after the dentist, and all I had was a cleaning.  I go every three months now, in an effort to keep my teeth, and I’m grateful that the dentist is here and that I can afford to her pay her, but I really hate going to the dentist.

At home, after I walked the dog and before I went to the dentist, I called a few people, looking for someone to “lead” the meeting on Saturday by telling their story and leading a discussion.  It’s interesting to me, looking for someone not readily available in real life.  Actually I had gone to a meeting Tuesday night hoping to find someone, and the one person I asked couldn’t do it this week.  The meeting I went to was too male, I decided.  But anyway I keep numbers in my phone the way I used to have a book.  I vaguely remember the first little address books I kept in order to have AA numbers ready.  In those days, I didn’t call to find leads but to establish connections and avoid drinking.  I guess that’s one more thing that’s different now, people keep numbers in their phones and not in a book.  What will it be 30 years from now?  I can’t imagine.

The second call I made was successful, so there will be a leader this Saturday night.  Sometimes when our small number of home group members strike out, and we have no lead, we do something called a “topic bag” wherein each person chooses, in turn, a topic from a bag and speaks on it.  There’s no chance to know what your topic will be and so, the thought is, no time to rehearse what you will say, and so you will listen better.  I know I do.  Some people really hate that format.

My son had his foster kittens over last night, and that is a picture of one.  They are so tiny, whereas my own new babies are six months old now, and huge by comparison.  They grow so very quickly.  My son said he won’t have any problem handing these over to the shelter for adoption in a few more weeks, and that he’s going to foster again, though he’ll take a break in between.

Using the Telephone

I kind of hate it.  And cell phones have made it worse.  I don’t like talking on them.  It’s awkward when you talk at the same time, and cut out, and try to come back, and talk at the same time again.

This particular tool has changed so much since I first started in AA.  Back then, to call someone, you had to pick up a phone, attached to a building, and dial.  Then, if they were home, they would answer, and if they weren’t, they wouldn’t.  Or their spouse or child might answer.  You didn’t know who would answer, and they didn’t know who was calling.  And you had to leave a message with a person, if one answered.  And you had to hope the person you were calling got the message, because they might not.

My first sponsor had me do the excellent exercise of calling someone else in the program every day, besides her.  No I’ll amend that to talking on the phone to someone, because I had to keep going until someone answered and talked to me.  I really hated that but it set me up for success later.

Now …. there’s email and texting and probably other things I don’t know about.  And the cell phones can be so intrusive.  You never know, when you call, where the person you’re calling is, or what they might be in the middle of.  I try not to answer if I can’t talk right then, though I’ll check a message from someone in the program to see if they need help.

Oy.  It was an excellent exercise, and really, for me, a test of what lengths I would go to.

September 9, 2011 (this day)

This day was pretty awful.  Bad, very bad stuff at work.  Then I went to try to buy shoes.  There are no shoes in my size.  They don’t exist!  Apparently every girl goes from the size below me to the size above me without stopping in between, at a size 5.  I’m serious.  The stores just don’t have them.

Tomorrow is my daughter’s 26th birthday.  I sent her a gift certificate for shoes!  She inherited by lack of height but not my tiny feet.  Lucky for her.

Luckier for her, I have not ingested any alcohol since before she was born.  She has never been endangered by my drinking.