December 31, 2011 (this day)

The view from the hospital window.

It has all been so very complicated, simple, and unrelenting.

Carole is recovering, at home now.  My mother is here to help.  My daughter is here to visit and help.  My son pops in to eat.  Carole’s niece came through on a visit to friends.

I’ve been back to work.  End of the year craziness has my work partner threatening to retire.  It’s been a hard year at work, ending with lay offs.  As 2012 begins, we will have to take care of the things that those who are laid off used to take care of.  Already that is unmanageable.

My home group’s meeting is falling on New Year’s Eve tonight, like it did on Christmas Eve last week.  Every year, Carole and I have a party after the meeting on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s. This year we debated a little bit (she wanted New Year’s, I wanted Christmas) until it became apparent we would have to party, we would tend to her knee.

Still the meeting will be a bit festive in the way our meeting is.  That is, unrehearsed and pretty much unprepared.  Someone offered to chair and bring food.  Someone is celebrating an anniversary.  I will start the coffee and put the soda in the fridge on my way to get Carole’s medicine, then come back and hopefully get her over there for the meeting.

I’ll thank God that whatever I did in 2011 enabled me to take care of these things at the end, and I can go into 2012 (the year, if I’m lucky, I’ll turn 50!) with hope.

Why Did You Get Sober?

I thought about this in a new way last week at my meeting.  I did not try to stay sober outside of AA.  Any time I was trying to stay sober, I went to AA.  When I wasn’t going to AA, I was trying to drink successfully, not to stay sober.

I got sober because I couldn’t drink successfully.  That’s what I really wanted to do, and tried to do, for years.  I am blessed and lucky that one day, before it killed me, I gave up trying to do it successfully, admitted that I couldn’t, and went back to AA.

I got sober because my choices truly were sobriety, death, or institution.  I chose sobriety.

December 24, 2011 (this day)

I was looking at the subtitle of my blog, “how to become and oldtimer in AA.”  How?

One way is by treating pain killers with extreme, extreme caution.  They really scare me.  I’m sure that many of the people I know who went out or died because of pain killers, started with actual pain.

Carole is home from the hospital and in a lot of pain.  Our house has a very terrible lay out for anyone with a mobility issue.  The hospital stay was difficult and sometimes scary.  It’s Christmas Eve, so health care services aren’t what they usually would be on a Friday.

But my daughter’s here, helping, and she’ll stay with Carole while I go to a meeting later.  In the hospital, I read several of the stories from the first edition of the Big Book to Carole.  When it’s all over, her new knee should be better than the old one.  It’s not snowing, and my mother is coming to help us tomorrow.  The kids are cooking tomorrow, and there is a pile of presents waiting for tomorrow.

The Considerations are Equally True (Step Twelve continued)

The considerations are equally true and important for A.A.’s who marry “outside” A.A.  With clear understanding and right, grown-up attitudes, very happy results do follow.

Trying to think of couples I know who fall into this category.  I don’t know many.

Carole and were reading stories from the first edition of the Big Book yesterday, in the hospital.  It always strikes me how the marriages so often endured back then, a much different time than this one we are living in.  But also reading Elizabeth Cady Stanton, I know that it wasn’t long before the people of the first stories when women had a terrible time divorcing, and often weren’t allowed to.

I’m left just imagining that someone who is not in AA, who marries someone who is in AA, must be up against a huge thing they can never completely understand.

December 20, 2011 (this day)

I’m in the hospital waiting room, waiting to hear that Carole’s knee replacement is done.  I’ve worked on a report for work while I’ve waited, I’ve read internet message boards, talked to Erika and Carole’s sister, and read from two huge books (Big Book edition #1 and the Bible) stored on a tiny Kindle.  Meanwhile I’ve waited for a report on my cell phone, and checked the surgery display board to track her progress.

This is all amazing to me.  Almost as amazing as the fact that she’ll have an artificial knee.

Erika is at home with the animals.  The puppy sitter walked the dog, and I should be home in enough time to help Erika feed the zoo.  When I come back to the hospital, I’ll give Carole her cell phone and know she can call me later if she needs me.

How could I fail to be grateful in all of this?  I couldn’t fail to.  I am grateful.

Why Are You Here?

I came for the pie!

You’re here because someone made you come.

You’re here because you want to stop drinking.

You’re here because you don’t want to go to jail.

You’re here because you want to save your marriage.

You’re here because the court made you come.

You’re here because your way (your many ways) aren’t working.

You’re here because it’s your last hope.

You’re here because you have nothing else to do.

You’re here because you think you might have a problem.

You’re here because someone asked you to check it out.

You’re here because you love it here.

You’re here because it’s your home.

You’re here because you lost a bet.

You’re here because your therapist made you come.

You’re here to make your wife/husband/kids/parents shut up.

You’re here to remember what it was like.

You’re here so you don’t slip.

You’re here to give it back, pay it forward and pass it on.

You’re here because it works.

I was told, when I first showed up at meetings and found myself to be very, very different from most of the people there (in some ways, exactly alike in others) that no one ends up there by accident or mistake.  I believe it.

December 11, 2011 (this day)

I can’t believe it’s Sunday again.  Last week went by in a total haze.  I was sick.  Really really sick with a cold.  I think it’s been a few years since I’ve been sick.  And this one went with post nasal drip that made me cough.  I’m still coughing.  But today I feel for the first time like I turned the corner on it.

Usually, I’m able to take off from work when I need to.  Or should I say often I’m able to.  This week I wasn’t.  There were lots of things coming together that made for a difficult week at work.  We had our annual open house on Friday, where we sell crafts the clients have made and use the money to pay for the Christmas party, which will be this coming Friday.  Tons of preparation goes into that, along with the actual event, while the regular work piles up.

Monday, a few short hours from now, my work will also upgrade the computer system.  I expect weeks of chaos and lots of extra work to follow that.  We also had a sticky situation where someone in the company who doesn’t work directly with us was being rather unkind.  This caused interviews and discussions and all kinds of things.

And coming up I have the Christmas party, Carole’s surgery, my daughter and her cats to visit, and Christmas.  My mother is coming around Christmas to stay and help with Carole’s recovery so my mind is much much at ease.  I couldn’t imagine how I would handle it all without that, though of course I knew I would handle it, one day at a time.

I went to my meeting last night but didn’t go out after it.  It was the only meeting I went to for that week.  I’m really OK with that.  I feel fine about it, I feel the same, and if I didn’t, I would have dragged myself to more meetings.  At 27 years sober, this is how it works for me today.

Now I’ve painted my nails and cleaned one litter box.  I’m going to try and ease into this week like I am totally fine.  I can’t believe a cold hit me so hard.  My chest still feels kind of awful but I’m not coughing as much, and last night my head didn’t fill as badly as it has every other night.  Yes, I’m better, or at least acting as if.

It Is Only Where Boy Meets Girl on AA Campus (or, no relationships for the first year – Step Twelve continued)

It is only where “boy meets girl on A.A. campus,” and love follows at first sight, that difficulties may develop.  The prospective partners need to be solid A.A.’s and long enough acquainted to know that their compatibility at spiritual, mental, and emotional levels is a fact and not wishful thinking.  They need to be as sure as possible that no deep-lying emotional handicap in either will be likely to rise up under later pressures to cripple them.

AA has no “musts,” just suggestions, and I like that saying that “the suggestions are free, you only pay for the ones you don’t take.”  I have moved around in AA, and everywhere I’ve lived, “no relationships for the first year” has been a suggestion.  This doesn’t apply to people who come in already in a relationship (I want to say, “obviously,” but I guess I’ve learned better).  And, not to show my attitude or anything, Big Book thumpers who say, “show me where it is in the book” may be directed here.  If they do not want to follow the Twelve and Twelve, well, I don’t know what to say about that.

Now I’ve also known lots of couples who got together as newcomers and lots who have broken apart.  I’ve written before about the fact that many of the long-term couples I’ve known in AA may be together long, but they still don’t have what I want, aside from that longevity.  I think I’m a cynical menopausal oldtimer and it seems to me that the older the people are going in, the more chance they have to succeed.  That’s probably not right either.  And I’d add to the “long enough acquainted” stipulation that they should be long enough sober to know they won’t slip and slide.  The first few years of sobriety are, in my opinion, tenuous, though I know of course that we are never, ever safe.

As for deep-lying emotional handicaps, well, I think we all have them, and the longer the live the more we will see them.  I hope, though, that by living sober in the program we are more able to deal with them when they rise up.  I think that sometimes, too, we develop them as we go along.

All that said, in my own story I fell in love before first sight, over the internet, with someone who had less than a year.  I refused to meet her in person before she had a year, but I know that was splitting hairs, really.  Things happen!  She could probably tell it differently because in her case, I do think girl met girl on AA campus, but this time the other girl had twelve years.

Which brings me to the thirteenth step, which I’ve written about before.  I still get comments full of pain about bad experiences with established AA members who take advantage of newcomers.  That’s not what happened in my personal story, and that’s not what this section of the Twelfth Step is about.  This section is about two newcomers getting involved with each other.

Regarding the thirteenth step:

  • It is not child abuse, unless one of people is underage.  In that case it is illegal and immoral.
  • Newcomers have to use all the common sense they can muster.  AA is not a “safe” place and really, it can be a very unsafe place.  There is no certification process for any member having any length of time that says he or she is “safe” and will never harm anyone.
  • “Girls with the girls” and “boys with the boys” is a good suggestion, although I think it ignores that fact that not everyone is attracted to people of the opposite gender.  Regardless of gender, people with any amount of sobriety or none at all need to be careful about who they trust.

December 6, 2011 (this day)

I’m not feeling very Christmasy.  I think it’s the warm weather, which they say is ending even as I write.  I like snow to look at but not to drive in.  I’m really trying to change that attitude because snow is an inevitable part of my life.  I may as well like it.

Also the lay offs at work have dampened everything.  And Carole’s knee surgery.  That will be a good thing, but until it gets good I plan to suffer.  She sees “tons of people who will help” and I see a bathroom and kitchen I have to keep constantly clean by myself.  Plus work, her, kids, and too many cats.  Luxury problems each and every one!

Work is hectic, and that’s a luxury problem too.  I have a cold, and that’s a luxury problem too.  Best luxury problem of all, though, is the big black cloud of a kitten trying to help me type.  Funny to think he did not exist last year, though some that are gone, did.

What Outside Forces Keep You Sober?

The good AA answer to this is that none do.  I keep myself sober by following, participating in and practicing the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, but even then, it is a truism of the program that at certain, unpredictable times, there will be nothing between me and a drink except my higher power.

I wrote about my closest call so far and honestly, it may or may not have been the hand of my higher power that saved me.  I don’t know.  I don’t need to know.  The other time that comes to mind is when my ex left me with two small children and a terror of sending them to child care.  I was really frightened and at times the thought of drinking crossed my mind.  I had about seven years of sobriety at that time.  I would, then, think the drink through and picture my six-year-old daughter trying to get up and get herself ready for school.  I believe that she would have done that.  The thought was unacceptable to me, and so I didn’t drink, but this very thought process shows me that sanity had returned.

When I slipped and slipped and slipped, I may have admitted that it would probably not end well, but I held out the hope that it would.  So I tried.  By the time I thought of drinking with seven years sober, I knew that it wouldn’t end well.  I knew that the scenario where my daughter tried to get herself to school was a very good scenario.  More likely, I would damage her in a drunk driving accident, or burn the house down, or something even more tragic.  A power greater than me had restored my sanity.

That’s what kept me sober then.  I knew that if I drank, I would sacrifice everything on my gratitude list, if I was lucky.  If I was unlucky, I would suffer one or more of the tragedies I’ve heard about in the rooms, but haven’t experienced for myself, yet.

The things, outside of the program, that help enhance my sobriety (but do not keep me sober) are many.  I will include books and friends and church.  But it all comes back to the program, because there I learned to interact with and benefit from books and friends and church and such.