October 29, 2011 (this day)

This is Erika and Carole, from our visit last weekend.  Now we have snow and I believe Erika does as well.  Our son was heading into bigger snow, going for a trip for work.  Whether he went or not, or made it or not, we do not know.  He does not say.

Erika is much more communicative.  I know that she’s due to give a big speech on Monday.  That her car’s wheel is making a funny noise but she doesn’t have time to have it checked out.  That she probably won’t have it checked out before she drives to visit us next month, a drive of six hours and including two cats.  That she can only stay a few days and so my opportunity to check out the car is limited.  Which reminds me I forgot to call and try to make an appointment for the day before Thanksgiving.

Carole’s been sick, and our internet has been going in and out, on and off.  I’m paralyzed without it!  I can’t work or shop or practically live.  I needed help with a crochet pattern and I couldn’t send it to Erika to have her tell me what to do.  I guess that’s good.  She was too busy for that anyway.

Today we went to the sale the church across the street has every year.  Phyllis’ husband was there, and he said he’s buying snacks for our meeting tonight, the way Phyllis did every year.  The meeting will be in the smaller room of the church due to the sale.  I’m chairing tonight, and later I have to go try to figure out how to possibly cram many people into a small space.  I hate that.  Though too many people at the meeting is an excellent problem to have.

Today I really want to give up as much anxiety and worry as I possibly can.  There’s Erika, and yesterday I found out I may have to testify at a hearing having to do with work.  A very bad situation at work.  I’ve been in any kind of court exactly twice.  Once for child support and once to change my name.  I really really really hope I don’t have to go.

And I really really really know that there’s a bit I can do to prepare for it, that bit not including worry about it.  Then any extra time I give to it just detracts from the quality of my life.  Same with Erika and anything else I choose to worry about.

And, trying to expand the way I think about character defects a little, I’m thinking about how this will involves dependency and co-dependency and over-dependency.  Hmmm.


What Is AA?

It’s a “self-help” group where completely powerless people help each other overcome a fatal obsession.

It’s built on Twelve Steps which, when they work (are worked), help an alcoholic stop drinking, stop fighting the obsession to drink, make a new start at life, and live following ancient principles of honesty and good works.

The organization of AA follows Twelve Traditions that make it run smoothly and protect is from things like politics, personalities and brand names.  Members give voluntary, very small monetary donations and the overhead is kept to a minimum.

For me, the Steps would eventually enable me to live a life without alcohol.  The people in the meetings helped me understand is and kept me company throughout.  A crucial element of AA is one alcoholic helping another because some of us need to know, in the flesh, another person who has gone through this and who has succeeded.  We need it in order to have enough faith to keep trying over long periods of time.

A vibrant and active AA community has, for me, fulfilled a social need and given me most of my friends.  It’s where I spend most of my social leisure time and spending it there helps me stay away from alcohol.  People share at a very deep level in AA, and most of what I’ve learned about people in general I’ve learned there.  It makes me close to people in a way I can’t imagine I would have in any other setting.  The topic at meetings is life and how we deal with life.  Hearing things I disagree with helps, but with the Steps as a common framework, I agree with most of what’s said and I gain invaluable insight into my specific issues.

AA is a place where I see people who are unable to stop drinking despite horrible and worsening consequences, and where my presence as a sober member who once couldn’t get sober might help them live instead of die.

AA is the last thing in my life that I would give up, because if I gave it up before something else, I’d surely lose the something else anyway.  I was that unable to cope and live life and I don’t feel at all bad about admitting that.  That’s the admission that set me free.

October 20, 2011 (this day)

Today I went to the home of one of my clients.  She lives in a town that was once dominated by a single industry.  I got a bit lost, which is customary for me, but since I was early, which is also customary for me, I let the GPS guide me in a back way I had never gone before.  I go to this town only once or twice a year.

I won’t be able to describe it well, and I’m not going back any time soon to take pictures, but I got a very awesome view of the old town and old industry that took my breath away.  I love views like that.  I saw acres of huge old building that had once housed this booming industry.  The buildings weren’t falling down or looking bad, as can happen in many places once the main employer is gone.  But they did look “repurposed.”  That’s OK with me.  I’m glad they have a new purpose.  I think it would have been very cool to have seen it when it was bustling, but I’ll try just as hard to appreciate this time, when the bustle is gone, because this is the time I have been given to be there.  I did try to imagine it, as I looked to try and see where old trolley tracks curved around the bend.  Maybe as soon as I post this, I’ll see if I can find some old pictures online.

The client I visited is very dear to me.  She has fragile health and has had many health scares and near-death experiences over the years.  She’s just back from the hospital and she won’t come back to the program where I work until she’s healthy enough.  Every time I see her under these circumstances I think that it may be the last time I see her.  Eventually, that will be true.

Tomorrow Carole and I are off to visit our daughter, and I’ll be leaving my menagerie with someone who has walked the dog, on occasion, but hasn’t pet-sit on such a long-term scale before.  I am resolutely trying to work the program on the anxiety I feel when leaving my critters, especially my dog.  I AM looking forward to being away, and I DO need to visit my daughter (for goodness sake).  I even WANT to visit my daughter, which is a very good thing indeed.

Carole and I are having lunch with Erika and two of her friends, one of which has never met a gay person.  Um, yes she has!  But I guess if she didn’t know it, it doesn’t count.  I told Erika that meeting us would surely be anti-climatic for her, but Erika said that she thinks we are as good a representation of a gay couple as any.  And that is truly worth leaving the animals for.

When Alcoholism Strikes (Step Twelve continued)

When alcoholism strikes, very unnatural situations may develop which work against marriage partnership and compatible union.  If the man is affected, the wife must become the head of the house, often the breadwinner.  As matters get worse, the husband becomes a sick and irresponsible child who needs to be looked after and extricated from endless scrapes and impasses.  Very gradually, and usually without any realization of the fact, the wife is forced to become the mother of an erring boy.  And if she had a strong maternal instinct to begin with, the situation is aggravated.  Obviously not much partnership can exist under these conditions.  The wife usually goes on doing the best she knows how, but meanwhile the alcoholic alternately loves and hates her maternal care.  A pattern is thereby established that may take a lot of undoing later on.  Nevertheless, under the influence of A.As’s Twelve Steps, these situations are often set right.

I include this paragraph mainly for the sake of thoroughness.  The only relationship I had when I was drinking was sick beyond sick, and was really child abuse.  I don’t know about the mothering instinct, and all that.  Maybe a parenting instinct?  I also wonder if women (or men) go on doing the best they know how or quit that a lot earlier these days.

Glancing ahead, I see the step doesn’t immediately talk about the woman alcoholic so I’ll take this chance to explain something on my side bar, my link to AAnohelp’s Weblog.  I don’t remember when or why I began reading it, but I sometimes look for blogs having to do with AA, just to see what’s out there.  I also read some anti-AA blogs.  This one isn’t that, though, I think the writer explained once or twice that his wife tried AA and it didn’t help.  Well, for a Stepper like me, of course I know that she didn’t work it.  Regardless, it’s a really heart-breaking record of a man living with his wife’s drinking.  I want to reach through the computer and take them both to a meeting.  Reading it never fails to fill me gratitude for the road I took way back when.

October 17, 2011 (this day)

The picture recalls the cabin in the wood of a little over a week ago.  It was really perfect weather, cool enough at night for a fire, and cool enough during the day for me not to over heat when hiking around the forest.

Today is Monday, and I’m working at home, trying mostly to write a quality assurance report while my new car gets inspected.  I love, love, love my job, and I don’t even mind these report writing thingies, and it’s great to be able to stay home to do it while my dog barks at the neighbor dogs and my kittens try to climb on me.  The weather is perfect again, after lots of rain.  It’s very windy and leaves are flying but lots are still up.

In my sobriety life, someone who belongs to/used to belong to my home group went out and came back.  From what I’ve seen and also what I’ve heard, he comes to meetings high and talks and talks and talks and talks.  The debate goes on about what to do when someone does this at meetings.  Some people think the high/drunk talkers should be silenced, some don’t.  Some take it into their own hands to silence the talker and they seem to get ire from all directions.

That’s what’s mostly caught my attention with this current sad situation and the controversy.  Some people get so incredibly worked about a person trying to silence someone else.  The drunk/high talkers are one problem.  The people who try to silence them are another problem.  And the people who get upset with the people who talk and the people who try to silence the people who talk are another.

And here I sit, judging them all.

What Convinced You that You Had a Problem?

Convinced is a good word for me.  I knew I had a problem almost as soon as I started drinking.  I understood I was an alcoholic very early on.  I was unable to stay away from alcohol with that knowledge and understanding for a very long time.

I had some small understanding of alcoholism before I ever drank.  I was born in 1962, and I went to good schools in a liberal area of the US.  I don’t know if my understanding came from school or from culture.  I know I even looked into a bit on my own at that young age.  My father had died from alcoholism when I was 6 and he was 33.  I knew a little bit about it and I knew, pretty much as soon as I started drinking, that I had a problem.

I started drinking at 16.  I had a small list of things I would never do while drinking.  One that I remember is that I promised myself I would never drive anyone else in my car when I had been drinking.  Now that was the late 1970s.  No one I knew wore a seat belt, the drinking age was 18, people gave their children and their children’s friends alcohol at their Sweet Sixteen birthday parties, and the bars where they didn’t check IDs were abundant.  I see now that I would be a terrible menace on the road whether or not I had a passenger, but I didn’t see that then.

Anyway I broke that promise.  I drove the car with my friend in the car, as we went to a pet store to do something or other about pet hamsters.  I was a child.  I was very lucky.  But the self-realization was creeping in, even at that early time.

I furthered my understanding as I had contact with AA.  I talked to the people and I read the books.  One memory I have is of sitting at a young people’s meeting.  The topic was the first step, and when it came to me I said I had no idea what they were talking about.  A young woman gave me her phone number because she could relate to that, and she did become my first sponsor.

I grasped key concepts fairly quickly, like it’s the first drink that gets you drunk, or that any number of bad things hadn’t happened to me yet, but still I drank again and again and again and again.

So initially, just learning about alcoholism convinced me I had a problem.

What convinced me to surrender to the problem is another story.  That would be six hard years of trying to drink, and six hard years of failing to do it successfully, or even minimally functionally.

October 10, 2011 (this day)

I was back to work today after having driven back from the woods with Carole and the dog yesterday.  Our weather is still very very nice but of course changing even as I write.

Work is very hectic and that will continue for a while.  We need to hire a few people, so in addition to needing people, we have to do interviews, make phone calls, all that mundane stuff.  It’s quite a shame, I’m just saying, that people who have several DUIs cannot work in my field, no matter how long they’ve been sober.  The only reason I don’t have DUIs is because I was never caught, and never caused an accident.  Rather I have not been caught nor have I caused an accident yet.  I’m lucky.  Others are not so lucky.

In concentrating on letting go of the character defect anxiety, I asked Carole to handle the arrangements for our pets when we go visit our daughter over two nights later this month.  We were too slow to ask our regular pet sitters, but someone who works with them and who has walked the beast will do it.  And I will let it go.  Any minute now.

I’m now on to concentrating on letting go of apathy and indifference.  Quite another kettle of fish.

My mother tells me that my son has new foster kittens, though this is news to me.  Last I heard he was taking a break between foster kitten assignment, but maybe the shelter knows a live one when they see it.  Of course I hope that pictures will follow.

Nearly Every Sound Human Being (Step Twelve continued)

Nearly every sound human being experiences, at some time in life, a compelling desire to find a mate of the opposite sex with whom the fullest possible union can be made–spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical.  This mighty urge if the root of great human accomplishments, a creative energy that deeply influences our lives.  God fashioned us that way.  So our question will be this:  How, by ignorance, compulsion, and self-will, do we misuse this gift for our own destruction?  We A.A.’s cannot pretend to offer full answers to age-old perplexities, but our own experience does provide certain answers that work for us.

I’m looking forward to reading about those certain answers.  Not that I’m not a success in this way, today.

Carole and I just back from a cabin in the woods.  My first time at a cabin in the woods.  This wasn’t rough, at all, and it had hot running water and electricity, a DVD player but no cell phone reception.  We took the dog with us, so that was one of my major going-away worries eliminated.  Though I did worry about the dog, even though she was with us.

I’m glad I still want to do these things with Carole and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t want to.  We met in sobriety, so much of what the program has to say about marriage before and after sobriety doesn’t apply to us.

Looking at the paragraph above, I really hope we don’t misuse the gift of partnership for our own destruction.  Ever.

October 6, 2011 (this day)

I went to a meeting last night that was something like 40 miles away from where I live.  I went with a friend who had fun warning me about how uncosmopolitan the people are that far away.  The man who gave his first lead, having just achieved a year of sobriety (which is pretty much required to tell your story around here) is a retired factory worker from back when the unions gave good retirement benefits.  His three daughters were there for the occasion.  He read to us from his hospital report of a little over a year ago and we laughed at the parts that commented on how he denied drinking or being drunk, though he had so much alcohol in him he could have died.

So we’re seeing the beginning of his second chance in retirement.  He has a shot at grandchildren who will never see him drink.

Carole and I and the dog are off to the woods for my first camping experience.  “Camping” in a cabin with electricity and water, and does it have heat?  Being close to dirt and bugs is not something on my bucket list.

Search Terms That Brought You Here

I’m completely uninspired, so on to the search terms.

Alcoholics Anonymous Discussion Topics:  That’s still the number one reason people end up here.  I can’t even remember why I started that list, but I’m glad it helps people out.  I always listen for “new” topics and add them as I find them.  Last week, my home group did a “topic bag” discussion where you pull a topic out of a bag and talk on that.  Most of the people there don’t realize the topics mostly come from here.

NA Topics for Discussion:  I hope they work just as well there.

List of Character Defects Alcoholics Have:  Another big reason people end up here.  I hope my list is helpful.  It is not official in any sense of the word.  When I’m having a particularly hard time, sometimes, I try to refine it a bit.  And I always try to think about these things and how they apply to me.

if you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. you will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him:  Yikes!  I had to put this into Google to try and see why exactly that phrase would lead someone here.  It’s because of the translation of Corinthians 13 from The Living Bible that I posted without comment.  I think now I should have commented.  Taken at just that phrase, to this I would have to say no, no, no!  I don’t think that “love” demands loyalty “no matter what.”  I don’t think that love demands unearned defense.  Oy.

HALT:  This gets a lot of traffic as well.  It’s not an AA slogan that I’ve ever really liked much.  Maybe because I am seldom, if ever, hungry.  I guess it’s a good thing to keep in mind in early sobriety, not to get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  But it’s hard to maintain perfect comfort all the time.  We can get uncomfortable, sometimes extremely uncomfortable, and stay sober.

Sample goals for overcoming character defects:  Oh, I wish I had some of those!  Right now I’m trying (blah blah blah) to write down my triggers when I’m suffering from “an excess of negative emotion” and go back later, with a calmer outlook, to see where my acceptance is lacking.

Smashing the idea of drinking big book:  Yes, please don’t drink the Big Book!  I wonder now if the Big Book uses the word “smashing” and, if I remember, I will research that on my Kindle later.  I don’t like violence, but for some thick-headed types, like me, the idea of drinking needs to be smashed.  Violently.

AA is a cult:  No, it’s not.

Being late character defect:  Being late IS a character defect.

I don’t like some people in an AA meeting:  And they don’t like you, either!  Really, I don’t need to like everyone in AA.  I do need to remember their right to be at the meeting, to appreciate the fact that they are sober (if they are), and to think about what’s wrong with me that I don’t like them.

My wife is self righteous:  My wife has the same problem!

Horrible topics in AA meetings:  Linked to my blog : – X