January 31, 2012 (this day)

This is part of the scene of my last drunk.  It is my grandmother’s house, and my uncle lives there now.  My uncle didn’t live there 27 years ago when I kept my grandmother up all night with hysterical ranting and crying.  He kept his business there, though, so he arrived in the morning.  I don’t know what my grandmother told him was wrong with me.  I don’t know if she knew.  I begged them both not to tell my mother what I’d done, and I don’t know if they ever did tell her or not.

If you had asked me that day, I really had no idea or feeling that this would be the last time I drank.  In fact I was on my way to admitting and understanding that I could not stop.  Which enabled me to stop.

My family is streaming with alcoholics.  I don’t know why, but I’m always reluctant to say anything helpful to anyone in my family.  I guess that early on we are told that we can’t really help family members, but I think that’s harder rule in my head than it needs to be.  The uncle who was at the scene of my crime has a drinking problem.  I’m on the edge of reminding him what I was like and telling him what happened that enabled me to refer to that night as my last drunk.

Upon Entering A.A. (Step Twelve continued)

Upon entering A.A., these attitudes were sharply reversed, often going much too far in the opposite direction.  The spectacle of years of waste threw us into panic.  There simply wouldn’t be time, we thought, to rebuild our shattered fortunes.  How could we ever take care of those awful debts, possess a decent home, educate the kids, and set something by for old age?  Financial importance was no longer our principal aim; we now clamored for material security.

For anyone who doesn’t know my story, I will explain that I was just four weeks away from my 22nd birthday when I stopped drinking.  There were certainly years of waste behind me, but they weren’t the type these sentences speak to.  If any young person ever reads my words I will tell you, it is worth it to stop drinking so young.  It is worth it to live your entire adult life sober.  There’s a quote I like, I’m not sure where it’s from, but the essence of it is: If you can’t be grateful for what you have, be grateful for what you’ve escaped.  And I am.

January 20, 2012 (this day)

It’s hard to find a good gear cutter these days.

It’s  Friday, and I made it through a different kind of week.  I had Monday off, and on Tuesday Carole started driving again for the first time since having her knee replaced.  I went to the dentist on Wednesday and found out I need a cap and a filling, and I may have to have a tooth pulled.  One of my very back molars is at an angle and no matter how much I try, I can’t keep the gum from deteriorating.  I wonder what it will feel like without that tooth.  I have one artificial tooth (I couldn’t think of the proper term and just remembered, dental implant.  Yeah, false tooth).  Parts of my body are going and they won’t be back.

I’m also experiencing the never-ending peri menopause like I did two years ago, and that was bad.  I will update the Menopause Chronicles soon, for anyone who wants to be glad they aren’t me.

So dramatic.  I’m upset because my body is working properly.  I’m still hoping to get through this without drugs or surgery.  I know some people need those things, and if it turns out I need them, I will have them.  But I’m hoping I don’t need them.

Tomorrow at our meeting we will hear someone tell his story with only three or four months sober.  That’s how it’s done where I’m from, but where I am, it is never done.  One year is needed to tell your story at a meeting and I’m glad they didn’t have that rule when Bill, Bob and Bill began this adventure.

And I need to have my judgementalness removed.

Willing to go to Any Lengths

If you want what we have, and are willing to go to any lengths to get it . . .

Another phrase that I believe has changed meaning since it was written.  Or has acquired an additional meaning.

This is what frustrates me about chronic relapsers.  I’m allowed to be frustrated by them, since I was spectacularly one of them in the program, in your meeting, in your face, for six years.

I did a lot of very good things during those years, but I didn’t do everything.  I don’t know that I was capable of it, and they probably aren’t, either.  I’m just supremely lucky in that I lived through it long enough to recover.

We’ve talked about this at meetings, how somewhere in the Big Book it says we may have to go to awful, dangerous places.  All of my life I’ve lived in the suburbs of cities, fairly safe from harm and also fairly nearby people who aren’t so safe.  But this isn’t the time when AA is beginning and, here in my suburb, I get a letter from headquarters telling me about some desperate someone who is all alone and wanting to recover.  In my time and place, people show up with slips to be signed, sent here by the courts, glad they got off or resentful to be forced among us or, every once in a while, ready to change.

Every few years (in only my experience, again), when someone acts dangerously at a meeting, there are many cool heads and strong bodies to make sure he (sorry it is always a he) doesn’t hurt anyone.

*****Caveat*****This is my experience.  It doesn’t mean that AA meetings are safe places or that AA members are safe people.  People are victimized all the time, and, unfortunately, everyone going to an AA meeting needs to have their wits about them.  Better yet, bring a friend.**********

But the history of any lengths has little to do with my chronic relapsing or the people I know who do it today.  Today, to me, any lengths means

  • working the steps
  • really working the steps
  • making amends
  • changing the behavior
  • going to meetings
  • even when I don’t feel like it
  • even when I have other responsibilities
  • telling my story when I’m asked to
  • even when I don’t feel like it
  • talking to people in the program
  • even when I don’t feel like it
  • working the steps again and some more

The people who I know, who struggle, leave some part of that out.  Or lots of parts.  Usually it’s meetings, but not always.  It wasn’t meeting in my case!  I went to lots of them, often drunk.  I left out the steps.

To stop thinking about this, I end up hoping that the relapsers I know will stick around until they want to stick around.  That may sound really wrong to a critic of AA.  I wouldn’t suggest this approach with, say, a church.  But people who end up at AA meetings have very few, if any, options left.  Or if they have options it is my experience that they will exhaust these options and end up back at AA, minus their jobs, families, health, and/or dignity.  I wish for them that in the beginning, before they lose those things but when they still just aren’t feeling it for AA, that they would wait and stay until they want to be there.  I want to be there now, and I’m just lucky I lived long enough to experience that particular miracle.

January 15, 2012 (this day)

The neighborhood rapist hasn’t been heard from again, so far, plus it got too cold to walk before work.  I draw the line at 20 degrees, though the dog would draw it at a colder temperature.

Yesterday, we went to our meeting, and the format used the “topic bag” where you pull a topic out of a bag and then talk on it.  That way, you don’t know your topic until you pull it, so you don’t sit there and think about what you’re going to say until it’s your turn.  I pulled “fear of success,” and honestly I couldn’t relate, even though Carole was sitting next to me gesturing and whispering that, apparently, I have a huge fear of success, plainly visible to her and to my mother.  They talked about it, recently, when my mother was here.  Oh joy.

Then we went to the hospital to make sure Carole’s heart is OK.  It is.

Off and on the topic, when I count the people I’ve known in AA who died young and died from drugs and alcohol, all but one that I can think of used pills as well.  And maybe the one I’m thinking of who didn’t, who ran out of her house drunk and got hit by a car, was also using pills.  Maybe my father didn’t use pills.  I don’t know if he did.  It just seems to easy, to me, for people to get a doctor to prescribe them.  I’ve heard it said that doctors don’t understand addiction and maybe some do and maybe some don’t.  Addicts understand it, though, and they know how to use doctors.

Or just take what the doctor says and run with it.  Doctors (and vets) really want to fix things, that’s what they are there for.  What fixes things in the majority of people could have a fatal effect for an alcoholic.  The return of sanity, in this regard, is some kind of impossible.  I may be completely sane as far as alcohol and drugs are concerned, but once I take a drink or a drug, my sanity is gone.

I’m not sure why I went there, but tonight I am profoundly grateful that my attitude about drugs and alcohol has evolved into what it is, because that has kept me safe from those things now for decades.

Where the Possession of Money and Material Things was Concerned (Step Twelve continued)

Where the possession of money and material things was concerned, our outlook underwent the same revolutionary change.  With few exceptions, all of us had been spendthrifts.  We threw money about in every direction with the purpose of pleasing ourselves and impressing other people.  In our drinking time, we acted as if the money supply was inexhaustible, though between binges we’d sometimes go to the other extreme and become almost miserly.  Without realizing it we were just accumulating funds for the next spree.  Money was the symbol of pleasure and self-importance.  When our drinking had become much worse, money was only an urgent requirement which could supply us with the next drink and the temporary comfort of oblivion it brought.

I didn’t look ahead in the book and I don’t know what comes next.  I am one of the few exceptions, because I never had a good relationship with money, and I was always saving and not spending in a frightened kind of way.  Of course I did buy alcohol.  At certain times in my life, it was like paying for water or air, I just had to.

I was very young when I stopped drinking.  I didn’t throw money around in high school or in college, though I’m sure some people do.  One of the ways in which getting older has been better, for me, than being young, is that my attitude about money has softened and I’m not as worried about it as I was when I was younger.

I think part of my fear was providing for my children.  They are now both in a better position to provide for themselves than I am to provide for them, though I’m still helping financially, especially my daughter, because she’s still in school and doing well and that’s something it’s a joy to support and contribute to.

Drinking, I was sometimes irresponsible, and not together enough to, for example, pay my car insurance.  That almost got cut off due to plain old drunkenness. Well I’m sure nothing screams “high bottom” quite so loudly as almost having your insurance cut off.

January 10, 2012 (this day)

I’m waiting to take my mother to the airport.  Carole and I will be on our own for the first time since her surgery.  She’s getting around really well, but she can’t do everything and she can’t drive.  After I take my mother I’ll go to the supermarket.  Of all the things Carole did before, I miss her shopping the most!  That, and her going into the basement for any reason.  I hate the basement.

I didn’t walk the dog this morning because some women were just attacked in my area, doing just that, at just the time that I do it.  I walk the dog every morning before work.  I had a traumatic dog walking experience several years ago, and I swore I’d never walk a dog again.  Well the dog is here and I can’t accept that she doesn’t need to be walked, so I do it.

Physically, I have never ever intimidated anyone, except when I am walking this dog.  She’s big and black and she acts anxious, what could be seen as aggressive, on the leash.  I would not walk her if I felt there was any danger she’d hurt anyone.  She even calmly accepts the occasional aggression of little dogs.  But people approaching me don’t know that, and once in a while someone will cross the street to avoid me.  It boggles my mind that someone is attacking women who are walking dogs.  I have no idea what my dog would do if I was attacked.  I’m able to walk her because I think that she is an unlikely target for attack, and that she’d be able to defend herself, whereas my little dog that was killed didn’t have a chance.

So today I will walk her in the broad daylight when I get home from the airport and the supermarket.  Tomorrow, I don’t know.  I have to work and I don’t like to walk her after work, at least not by myself.  Carole can’t come with me.  Often the weather keeps me from walking at this time of year but that’s not the problem this week.  I’ve been very fortunate to be able to walk her pretty much every day up until today.  I have to choose between my fear of the attacker and my fear of facing a later walk.

What would Dr. Bob do?

Willpower

I don’t have enough when it comes to cats or books.

Sometimes I hear people get balled up about willpower.  Willpower will not protect an alcoholic from drinking.  That’s why I’ve belonged to AA for 33 years, 27 of them in continuous sobriety.  And I should probably correct that.  Willpower would not protect this alcoholic from drinking.  There are many people who, I hear tell, quit drinking without AA.  I can’t say that I’m happy for them, since they are missing the best thing in my life, but I’m glad that if they’re alcoholic, they’re not drinking.

I couldn’t do it.  As long as I had a little hope that I could drink successfully, even if alcoholically, I was driven to try, sooner or later.  It’s a fact of my alcoholism that once I took a drink, I could not control my drinking or predict the results.  Sometimes I was able to stop without getting drunk, or after getting drunk, but at least when I had planned to stop.  But much of the time I could not stop when I wanted to or should have, and that’s what makes me say I’m powerless over alcohol.

Now, when I’m sober, I have a choice.  It would be an act of my will and a failure of my willpower to pick up a drink.  I know that if I do pick up a drink, my power of choice is gone or severely impaired.  I can’t choose when or if I will stop.  Right now I can choose.  As long as I choose not to drink, I retain the ability to choose.

It’s taken willpower for me to work the program, go to meetings down through the decades, read the books, talk to the people.  It takes willpower to continue to try to turn my will over to God.  There have been a million intermediate steps down the road that I’ve had to take.  Time after time I chose not to go to the meeting, not to use the phone, not to read the book, not to fortify my defenses against drinking and dying.

And so those pesky problems other than alcohol.  My willpower fails me when I buy too many books or obtain too many pets or eat too much or choose not to exercise.  And/or when I choose not to use the tools I have on those problems.  That is really it.  I don’t practice the principles in all my affairs and so some of my affairs are still unmanageable.  And as long or as much as I stay in that state, to be honest with myself, I really haven’t turned my will and my life over to a higher power.

January 5, 2012 (this day)

From this time last year, I have pictures of Carole’s back surgery.  She’s a teacher and has a long break at this time of year.  Perhaps this will be our winter ritual.  Perhaps this is our winter ritual, and I haven’t realized it till now.  Or perhaps I’m being dramatic and silly.

She was checked by the doctor today and graduated to a cane.  We saw her bionic knee on an x-ray.  My daughter has gone back to her home, after a very tense night when she tried to leave and had to turn back due to snow.  It’s snowing where she is now.  It snows there all winter.  I miss her but not really her cats.  Five cats in one house is too many.

My mother is still here helping, thank goodness.  I’ve been working at home since we’ve been back from the doctor, the notary (to get her a temporary disabled parking permit for work), the drugstore (to buy the cane) and Starbucks, because she’s an addict.

Neither of us has been to a meeting since last Saturday but we’re going to try tomorrow to go to one that has no stairs.  Along with the stories from the first edition of the Big Book, we’ve been reading from “Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers.”  Fascinating stuff there – not!  But one thing I love about very long-term sobriety is the ability to internalize and study so much of the program, including the history.  The recovery from the knee will end, and this recovery won’t.  All is well, for today.

And What Can Be Said of Many A.A. Members (Step Twelve continued)

And what can be said of many A.A. members who, for a variety of reasons, cannot have a family life?  At first many of these feel lonely, hurt, and left out as they witness so much domestic happiness about them.  If they cannot have this kind of happiness, can A.A. offer them satisfactions of similar worth and durability?  Yes–whenever they try hard to seek them out.  Surrounded by so many A.A. friends, these so-called loners tell us they no longer feel alone.  In partnership with others–women and men–they can devote themselves to any number of ideas, people, and constructive projects.  Free of marital responsibilities, they can participate in enterprises which would be denied to family men and women.  We daily see such members render prodigies of service, and receive great joys in return.

I like that part about trying hard!

From the time I was 16 and continuing till now, I’ve been involved with people on a daily basis.  I did spend seven years single in between my marriage breaking up and meeting Carole, but I had small children then, and so a daily family life.  Now that my kids are older and not daily for me anymore, I’m again married.

It often occurs to me that Carole and I are one of a few couples among our AA friends.  There are even a few couples we know who have been together longer than we have, but not many.  Most have been together for less time, and most of our friends are single, and some are in dysfunctional relationships that probably will and probably should break up.

I know it is in Carole’s make-up to be part of a couple.  Even if she doesn’t know it.  Though I think she does.  I’m more surprised at myself.  As an only child, I like a certain, big amount of solitude and I absolutely need time to do “nothing” to keep an emotional balance.

The above passage cracks me up also in that it assume so much domestic happiness.  I’m sure single folks are often very grateful not to have the problems that family life brings.  I can absolutely see how being involved in AA activities would be a very good way to spend time, and I hope I do that if I’m ever in the position where I’m not coupled or otherwise engaged with daily family life, and/or if I’m ever not working full-time.

Bottom line:  for a person who has recovered from alcoholism, AA activities are an excellent way to spend great amounts of time.  I personally would have no time for anything else, if there was no AA.