February 28, 2012 (this day)

Last year at this time I finally lost faith in my car and its ability to take me on the 23 mile a day one way trip to work and back, and the 300 mile trip to my daughter’s, and I bought a brand new car for the first time since 1992.  I’ve driven 11,000 miles since then and it’s prompted me to change the oil once so far.  And almost every day I remember to be grateful and to appreciate the fact that I’m not worried it will break down.

Someone I work with got hurt.  This isn’t unusual, because the people I work with, both the staff and the clients, are fragile.  It’s troubling and sad and frightening, because often they don’t recover.  There’s all that every time but in addition, this time, I’m worried it could be my “fault.”  Did I fail to do something I should have done?  It’s not out of the question.

So along with having my reactions, I examined my reactions.  Hope for her well-being is my number one reaction.  But after that . . . is it my fault?  Should I cover up?

Should I cover up?

With 27 years of sobriety?  No, I should not cover up.  Should I admit it?  Yes, I should admit it.  But what if I admit to something I didn’t do, and everyone likes and accepts that explanation, and it goes down as being my fault when it isn’t?

It would crush me to lose my job, but I would survive.  I’m in a very enviable position of being able to be supported by my wife, though that would be at her discretion, of course, since legally we aren’t married.  Still our relationship is good and I can believe in that right now.

So, what if I’m wrong and I don’t admit it?  Will I eventually drink?  I was thinking of psychological “baggage” and that this situation is like being handed a suitcase full of crap.  I have to unpack the crap in order to get rid of it, and then I’m flinging the empty suitcase into the fire.

I had another interesting thought about it, which is that I might want to try and trust the process.  There is actually a formal process that seeks to explain these things and to see if someone actually is fault.  It may be that no one is.  Then let’s say that there is someone at fault, and let’s say it’s me.  I could then trust the discretion of my bosses to decide if I should stay at work or rent a U-Haul and clean out my desk.  I’ve been there for a very long time.

Trusting the process and trusting the bosses and trusting Carole are the most soothing thoughts I’ve had about this.  And I do wish someone would update me on the actual situation.  I glanced at a newsletter this morning that said something about “absolute honesty.”  Those are the kinds of newsletters I receive!  Well, one kind.

Carole’s on her way home from a few days away.  She’s helping the folks I work with protest budget cuts tomorrow.  Then, we’ll take our son for a birthday dinner.  He’ll be 24, or 6, depending on your calendar.   Twenty-four years ago I spent the day in labor and just about anything I do now will be better than that, but without such a reward, obviously.

Wisdom to Know the Difference (from the Serenity Prayer)

I’m wise enough to know that basically all I can change is my attitude.  Or, actually, my attitude and my behavior.  In other words, me.  All I can change is me.

It’s difficult when I’m called to change something else, like (especially) the work someone else does or fails to do.  My number one way to do that is to be an example, but, sadly, some people just won’t follow my of example of, for example, being on time.

But to back up from this picture and take a broader view:  There are people who are chronically late (for example).  I can do what I can to get them to change this and happily some will and sadly some won’t.  How much this disturbs me is up to me.  The latecomers will always be with us.  I should not let them distress me, even if I think it’s a darn shame.

February 24, 2012 (this day)

So many times, when I talk about struggling or slipping, I want to communicate to someone (maybe a particular someone, maybe not) that it is possible to go from “chronic relapser” status to “oldtimer.”  Talking to Carole last night I was saying that I have trouble identifying with people who come to the program and stop drinking and that’s it.  That was far from it for me, and I think it’s a different (though similar) kind of deflation for the chronic relapser to show up at meetings having slipped again and again and again.  And I really beg the people at that meeting not to be anything but welcoming and maybe a little bit sad or scared.  But not judgmental.  That makes it tougher to come back.

It’s an anniversary night at my meeting tomorrow and that will be nice.  I got some news that another of my cousins died young and mysteriously.  I’ve had only sporadic contact with my father’s side of my family since he died when I was six.  He was 33.  One of my cousins died a year ago at 46, and this one recently at 51.  I know he died from alcoholism but I don’t know what they died from.  It shakes me up a bit.  In a way, I wish I knew that they did die from alcoholism because today, I’m able to recoil from alcohol as from poison.  A bad heart or veins or something is trickier (for me) to deal with than alcohol.

I go to meetings and talk to others and work the steps.  Chronic relaspers, join me!

The Fourth and the Tenth (Steps)

This is on my mind.  I have a friend who, with a few years sober, keeps doing fourth and mini- fourth steps.  She said that none of her sponsors ever talked to her about steps 10, 11 and/or 12.  Another woman I know has repeatedly slipped over several years, and has had two sponsors, and though the sponsors talked to her about a fourth step …… well, the way she put it is that when she asked them what she’s doing wrong, they couldn’t tell her.  Yet her fourth step remains a huge mountain her mind that she has yet to climb.

I was listening to a “Clancy” CD on the way home from work and he said that repeated and constant fourth steps are a socially acceptable way to stay completely self-absorbed.  He also said, as I guess we see every day, that many many people who climb the first three steps fail to do a fourth step and beyond.

As for my personal experience, I’ve done three formal fourth steps over 27 years of sobriety.  This has worked for me.  I anticipate that if I live long enough I will do another many years hence.  I wouldn’t call these constant or repeated.

My understanding of the tenth step is that there are two distinct and important parts of it.  Continued to take personal inventory is one part, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it is another part.  Often the parts go together, but not always.

It was a great relief and revelation to me to promptly admit when I’m wrong and I know that, compared to the way I was before the program, it has saved personal relationships, especially at work.  It was a freeing proposition when I first employed it.

But the continued inventory is almost more important.  If, for example, I am jealous, this is a character defect and I want to list it on my daily inventory.  If I fumed and stewed and made myself miserable with my jealousy, I don’t think I necessarily have to apologize to anyone, depending on what I did that day, or failed to do.  But for the sake of my argument say I had no responsibilities that day, and rather than enjoying the free time, I made myself miserable feeling jealous.  No harm done to anyone but me.

But say in my jealousy I snooped somewhere I shouldn’t.  Then I might owe an apology and and amend (a change).  Now I could wonder if the person I snooped on is better off not knowing I did that but that is beside my point.

I try to look out for excess negative emotion and in a daily (or more frequent) inventory think of which character defect is at play resulting in my excess negative emotion.  If the problem is bad enough or frequent enough I also try to think about how to do away with the defect, how to ask God to remove it and be able to let it go.  I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again, expecting and getting the same result.  All that, to me, is tenth step, not fourth.

Now all that confused me but I think I’ll go with it and move on to something simpler . . .

February 18, 2012 (this day)

Last year at this time Carole and I were walking around the city with the dog, taking pictures of fading ads, and this year we…….are not.  Her knee still hurts.  For me, it seems to be a repeat of 2009, for which interested parties can consult The Menopause Chronicles.  She’s also constantly getting a sinus infection, but that may have been true last year as well.  Last year we had ancient and dying pets and this year we have kittens about to mark their first birthday.

We’re all crawling toward death!  Still I have hope that her artificial knee and my change of life will lead to good things for both of us.  We’re just not there yet.  She informed me yesterday that her friend is having a hysterectomy next month for exactly the symptoms I’m having now.  I am a freak for not wanting surgery or drugs.  Carole didn’t say I’m a freak, it just seems that everyone, most importantly the doctors, have a fix for this, and it isn’t time, it is medical intervention of some sort.

This all relates to my program (really) in too many ways to count.  It’s an excellent mental exercise to deal with this uncomfortableness not knowing how long it will last.  Could be over tomorrow, could go on for many more years (although my lack of hot flashes lead one doctor to tell me that makes her think I’m not nearly there yet).  I do not want to chemically, hormonally alter my healthy body to relieve symptoms.  I do not want to go into the hospital, charge the insurance thousands of dollars, go under anesthesia, and have a healthy organ removed to relieve symptoms.

I want to be brave and patient and cheerful.  I want someone (anyone) to understand and commiserate and tell me she made it through fine and so will I. Or that if I can’t make it through, I’ll have the drugs or the surgery and all will be well.  What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.  Kumbaya!

Yesterday it took me 15.5 second to generate this gratitude list regarding my female reproductive system.  This is how the program works for me:

  • I didn’t start my period early
  • Although I had long, frequent, painful periods, it was nothing that handicapped my life
  • I got pregnant right when I wanted to, immediately
  • For two pregnancies I had two children – a girl and a boy – as perfect in every way as human beings can be
  • I didn’t have a premature menopause
  • I’m not having one that requires medical intervention
  • So far I have no tumors, cancer, polyps, infections, or other bad, scary things
  • Should I have those I have access to the best medical care in the world

This too shall pass!!!!!!


Even When We Were Well Reestablished (Step Twelve continued)

Even when we were well reestablished in our business, these terrible fears often continued to haunt us.  This made us misers and penny pinchers all over again. Complete financial security we must have–or else.  We forgot that most alcoholics in A.A. have an earning power considerably above average; we forgot the immense goodwill of our brother A.A.’s who were only too eager to help us to better jobs when we deserved them; we forgot the actual or potential financial insecurity of every human being in the world.  And, worst of all, we forgot God.  In money matter we had faith only in ourselves, and not too much of that.

I’ve come a long way in my attitude about money and I’ve overcome a lot of fear of financial insecurity.  These days I’m more likely to suffer from financial resentment about the cost to my family of being gay.  But in general I do well with it.

I really like the thought about the actual or potential financial insecurity of every human being in the world.  Some people, I know, are so financially insecure that they starve to death or freeze to death and I am not special or chosen or different, I’m just lucky.

I hear it over and over, how “God” comes through for this person or that person in this time of need or in these circumstances.  I just don’t believe it.  “God” fails to come through for others.  Was it “their time?”  Am I special and protected, until it’s “my time?”

So I think about the eye of the needle, and how difficult it is to live right while having so very much in a material sense.  To whom much is given, much will be required.  Even as I sit here, my kitchen light is on, illuminating an empty kitchen.  I don’t know how I got here, but that’s where my mind went.

February 11, 2012 (this day)

It’s a cold and snowy Saturday.  Carole has baked some yummy things for the meeting tonight.  We watched half of the first half of the first Harry Potter movie.  I am, was, going to walk the dog momentarily before I get ready for the meeting, but I see it may have gotten too cold.  Twenty degrees is my limit of coldness.  I should have gone earlier.  Although now I just checked the thermometer and it says it’s actually 20.  So off I will go.

I’ll walk the dog down to the mailbox, which is a very short walk.  We’ll return the DVD “Gasland.”  Carole and I watched part of it until she fell asleep.  But we got the gist.

It’s an election year here in the US.  Well, a presidential election year.  We won’t be as involved as last time, when Carole campaigned and then some for Hillary.  I have been so incredibly blessed to live through this time and see this president.  And my liberal bleeding human services heart has been hurt by the things politicians from the other party cut.  I honestly struggle, and struggle hard, to see the other side of these questions.

And I’m happy that my mid life has brought me more involvement in these things.  Carole and I cried real tears when GW Bush was sworn in, and we promised to do more than cry next time, to try to prevent anything like that from happening again.  And we have.  Her much more than me, but she is a people kind of person.

And this is not the opinion of AA, this is the opinion of this AA blogger.  AA has been the place where I’ve come closest to loving my neighbor whose opinion differs from mine in this way.  Closer, but I’m not there yet.  I’m very far from there.

And AA teaches me that this is a character defect of mine, and I accept that.  One day I might be ready to work on it, if it hurts enough, and I live long enough.

Willingness Part 2

I thought I would forget to think about willingness, and I did forget.  Then today, facing perhaps some time to write about it, I decided to take the dog for a quick walk.  That’s because we were going to an evening meeting, and I’m unwilling to work all day and then go out half the night without at least walking the dog.  So I thought about willingness.  It’s better for me to think about that than about having a confrontation with another dog.

I thought about how, when something is new and exciting, like a relationship, or a job, or a project, I am very willing to put in lots of time and make many sacrifices.  Likewise when I perceive the potential pay off to be big, like in learning to knit, I’m again willing to try and fail and try again.  Time on task.

I did not approach the program that way, enthusiastically.  Really almost no one does.  And I still don’t, even though I’m committed it to longer and more than to anything else in my life.

Then I went to the meeting, and the topic was “choice.”  The woman who brought the topic up spoke of having an annoying co-worker.  Honestly I don’t know how she worked that into “choice” since my mind wandered badly.  But I got the gist.  And I have an annoying co-worker or two myself.  And what came to my mind is the choice I make, many times a day, when I choose whether to work on my attitude, or not to work on it.

I have many many tools at my disposal.  Some I’ve used long and hard and well, like gratitude.  Gratitude is second nature to me now, and it feels more like a part of my being than like a tool.  I use it constantly and automatically.  Other tools I make a conscious effort to use more effectively.  Inventory and prayer are two things that don’t come as naturally, that I make a point to think about, when I can, in times of distress.  Some tools I’m sure I still probably ignore, or almost ignore.  If I live long enough, and/or if it hurts bad enough, I may pick them up and ask for instructions as well.

Then I got home and I read this poem, by Robert Frost:


When a friend calls to me from the road

And slows his horse to a meaning walk,

I don’t stand still and look around

On all the hills I haven’t hoed,

And shout from where I am, “What is it?”

No, not as there is a time to talk.

I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,

Blade-end up and five feet tall,

And plod:  I go up to the stone wall

For a friendly visit.




I looked the word up, because I wanted to see what the dictionary definitions are.  I looked at one or two and I’m baffled.  They list meanings like “eagerly disposed” and other very affirmative things.

In AA my experience with willingness has been grudging.  I wasn’t willing to consider a higher power, to pray, to do lots of things they told me to do until I was completely beaten into the ground.  I became willing through hard, hard knocks and experience.

When I finally became willing, it was almost as if I was willing to try each and every thing as an “experiment.”  I know that I’ve heard recordings of Bill W telling us to  pray to a higher power that I may not know is there as an experiment, if nothing else.  That this experiment may bring about the desired result of belief.  “Willing to experiment” is hardly “eagerly disposed” or “cheerfully consenting.”

When I hear willingness discussed at meetings, it’s usually in the context of reluctance.  I have experienced a few lucky souls who showed up at AA very willing to take suggestions and change, but they are the minority in my opinion.  I was very, very unwilling to change and so six more years of drunkenness was my result.

My willingness today . . . I know I’m not so hard-headed as all that but I can be very stubborn and rigid and …… unwilling.  I’m going to think about that one and see if I can’t see my unwillingness in terms of a character defect that is here, now.