Let’s here take note of our improved outlook (Step Twleve continued)

Included for thoroughness, because this ain’t me.

Let’s here take note of our improved outlook upon the problems of personal importance, power, ambition, and leadership.  These were reefs upon which many of us came to shipwreck during our drinking careers.

Practically every boy in the United States dreams of becoming our President.  He wants to be his country’s number one man.  As he gets older and see the impossibility of this, he can smile good-naturedly at his childhood dream.  In later life he finds that real happiness is not to be found in just trying to be a number one man, or even a first-rater in the heartbreaking struggle for money, romance, or self-importance.  He learns that he can be content as long as he plays well whatever cards life deals him.  He’s still ambitious, but not absurdly so, because he can now see and accept actual reality.  He’s willing to stay right size.

I was more the “hide beneath the heap” kind of person.

April 24, 2012 (this day)

The leaves on the trees are opened much, much bigger and wider this year than last.  I took this picture exactly one year ago today, and difference is striking.  It’s been such a warm winter, it frightens me.  Global warming, the myth, and all that.

Today, Barbra Streisand is 70!

I went to work for a while this morning then came home to work here.  I had a craving for McDonalds.  Carole followed me right down that muddy path and we both ate it.  We’re a bad combination in that way for each other.  But today I’ll be glad that she doesn’t and I don’t drink or smoke any more.  We haven’t for a long time.

And menopause is making me sick.  I believe it.  Nauseous.  My back hurts more than it has in a long time, and the exercises I do when it hurts aren’t helping.  My knee pains me and today I made an appointment to go see an oral surgeon to see if he can save one of my very back teeth.  My dentist said this guys puts a camera down in the gums and kills all the infection.  I asked her how long I will need this back tooth for.  50 years?  40?  30?  20?  She commented that if I left the office and got hit by a bus, all my dental work will have been for nothing.

The final report that I was worried about beginning in the end of February is in, but no one has said a word about it.  Still waiting, and plotting different futures, and trying hard to appreciate what I have this day.

At my meeting last Saturday, a “chronic relapser” like me asked what everyone does to stay sober.  For a chronic relapser like me, I shared my number one strategy.  Don’t drink.

Make My Pulled Pork a Virgin, Please (cooking with alcohol)

Today is Carole’s 16th AA anniversary.  She’s still a teenager.  We’ve been together for almost 15 years (because I wouldn’t meet her until she’d had a year).  It was a little scary for me, back then, getting involved with a newcomer.  I told her then that AA was central to my life and had to be central to hers, for us to be together.  As I write this she’s at a meeting and I’m …….. not.  I’m really glad she’s stayed with me even though I don’t go to enough meetings.

Yesterday she and I went shopping in one of those giant warehouse stores.  As she mused about possibly trying Jack Daniel’s pulled pork, or some such monstrosity, she pointed out that she and I differ in our attitudes about alcohol in cooking.  Later, as she went to the check out line, I doubled back to frozen foods to see if they had any frozen dinner type things.  I try to bring myself something “good” to work on Fridays, when my building is dripping in my favorite food, pizza.  I found one combination package that included Margarita chicken, so I passed.

Today I read goplacidlyamid’s post about cooking with alcohol.  This is something I would never do.  I spent part of my sobriety living in my mother’s house which was stocked with alcohol.  It’s not that I can’t be around alcohol or even live with it in close and constant proximity.  But what are we hoping to gain from this type of cooking?  Alcohol flavor?  We think not!  I mean, talk about triggers.

The Jack Daniel’s pulled pork may not have a drop of alcohol and it might not even taste like alcohol.  It has the label that looks like alcohol, and it’s not coming into my house if I have any choice about it.  And I certainly won’t eat it.  Same goes for the Margarita chicken.  In that huge warehouse full of obscene amounts of everything under the sun, do I need to buy these two things?  Or one of them?  Why?

Why?  Why would I risk it?

I remember (sort of) a time in my early attempts at sobriety when I took cough medicine and then I took that as a total excuse to drink.  I don’t know if the medicine had alcohol in it or not, and I know I probably would have latched on to any excuse that came my way, but that was the thing that I felt “made” me drink that day.

I’ve had no problem for 27 plus years staying away from alcohol in cooking except for one day.  At my cousins very fancy wedding two years ago, I swear (and I have witnesses) that every single dish had alcohol in it, even the desserts.  I think I may have eaten some cheese that seemed safe.  But that was it.  I’m lucky I don’t get invited to many shindigs or I might have to face this issue more than once every quarter century or so.

It’s my choice, and I’ve drawn a very hard line around it.  I won’t purposefully eat anything that’s made with alcohol or is flavored like or with alcohol and now I have to also say I won’t eat anything that has an alcoholic label.  Why would I?

Acceptance 4.17.12

In thinking about the concept of acceptance, I decided that it is such a big idea, I need to write more than one post about it.  It is one of most important concepts in AA for me, and it touches every single aspect of my life.

My understanding of acceptance in AA is, as is everything else here, purely my understanding.  I believe my understanding has enabled me to stay sober for a very long time, but it is only my understanding.

I don’t think that acceptance is stressed in the AA writings of the Big Book or the Twelve and Twelve.  It’s there, but not stressed.  I believe that acceptance got its push forward in the Third Edition of the Big Book, in one of the stories.  It appeared on page 449 and that page number was a bit of a mantra for some people when I first got sober.  Many people would answer most difficulties with the word, “four forty nine,” meaning look up acceptance, and that is the answer to any given difficulty.

The passage reads:

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life -unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake.  Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

It was moved to page 417 in the fourth edition of the Big Book.

Just even this passage is so full of meaning, I find it hard to even begin.  For this reason I think I will write regularly on acceptance until I’ve exhausted it and myself.  I hope to have a deeper understanding by doing this.

So the first thing I’ll write about it is that this is from a story, one alcoholic’s story, and it is that person’s perception, nothing more.  It has resonated deeply with many people for many years and in my opinion it is the most important thing said in any story (apart from Bill’s, I guess) for this reason, but it is still only a small part of one person’s story.

Personally, I don’t believe that everything is the way it’s supposed to be at this moment, although I hold out the possibility that it is.  In other words, I don’t know if God influences the tiniest thing that happens here on Earth, in fact I think that God doesn’t, but I’m in no way sure enough of that to claim I know it to be true, or to argue with anyone who feels that everything is indeed the way it’s supposed to be.  I also don’t believe that nothing happens by mistake.  I believe in chance, not fate.

But the passage still holds lots of meaning for me, and it has influenced me and eased my way a lot through the years, maybe more than any other passage, or at least up there in the top ten.  There are parts of it that seem infinitely true to me, and beyond that, the concept of acceptance has been one of the most important concepts of my recovery.  So I’ll keep coming back to it for a while.

April 13, 2012 (this day)

Today would have been my father’s birthday.  I guess he would have been 76?  He died when he was 33, from alcoholism.  This fact drove me to AA, and makes me fear for some of the people I know who continue to suffer.

I’ve had another week at work.  The report that will detail what I did wrong has not yet been submitted.  Meanwhile I was asked today to do something, and I said no.  I don’t often do that.  I was asked to learn how to teach people to do the physical techniques we use on our clients in emergencies.  My agency needs some people to go learn to be trainers, since in the budget cut/layoffs the whole training department was laid off.  I said no mostly because I don’t feel physically up to it.  I’m very short.  Too short to do most of the techniques.  But I’m also getting more feeble by the minute and I have something really wrong with my back and at least one knee.  But I will truly take the fact that I was asked as a compliment, and maybe a sign that all will yet be well there.  The important lesson is, as it always has been, that I need to be grateful for what I have today.  For what I had in the past, yes, and for what I will have in the future, yes, but mostly for what I have today.

There was a politician at the door earlier.  I am left of liberal and very political.  But Carole chased after him to ask how he felt about same-sex marriage.  As part of my daily moral inventory I will record that I am extremely resentful when straight people want to deny me the right of marriage.  When Democrats do it, it is all the more infuriating.  I know that this will come to be standard one day, and the only question is if I will live long enough.  And that’s selfish.  I’m sure people are dying in my state right now who didn’t get to marry and it’s just so wrong.

The ideal is for me to humbly accept that I am discriminated against and I just can’t get there.  This is very personal.

I really try to stay away from the news of politics because I know who I’m voting for, I know whose campaign I will give time and money to.  I don’t need to hear what the others have to say and I don’t need to get worked up about this stuff.  I just need to be healthy and live a really long time.

What would my father think?  I have no idea.  My mother seems OK with things . . . alcoholism made it so that I have no idea what my father would think of anything.  He’d probably be astonished that this is even a question and as for being OK with me as a daughter?  I will never know.

If Our Circumstances (Step Twelve continued)

If our circumstances happened to be good, we no longer dreaded a change for the worse, for we had learned that these troubles could be turned into great values.  It did not matter too much what our material  condition was, but it did matter what our spiritual condition was.  Money gradually became our servant and not our master.  It became a means of exchanging love and service with those about us.  When, with God’s help, we calmly accepted our lot, then we found we could live at peace with ourselves and show others who still suffered the same fears that they could get over them, too.  We found that freedom from fear was more important than freedom from want.

My fear of not having everything I need, or think I need, is lessened very much from how it was years ago.

I just watched a documentary about Ayn Rand, and in it she explains why she thinks it’s wrong to care for other people.  She called it giving up your life for others, and this to her was like suicide.  If I understand her correctly, which I most certainly may not.

It just made me think about the way I exchange love and service with others in return for money.  It’s actually the government that pays me.  I take care of adults who have profound disabilities, and the agency that employs and pays me to do it gets its money from the government.  So really the tax payers pay me to do this.  In the past I would have been working at an asylum or institution or state school.  Now these folks are cared for in the community.

Anyway I get a very selfish pleasure from doing it.  I get rewarded far beyond what any amount of money could give me.  It makes me wonder if I’m missing something, or if Ayn Rand was missing something.  It’s a service I provide in exchange for money to live, and for me it’s more pleasurable than digging a ditch or painting a bridge.

But calmly accepting my lot has never been a challenge for me, because I’ve always had much more than enough and I’ve never really “wanted” anything in the spirit of the text.  In this way I can probably be most helpful to other spoiled suburbanites who irrationally fear that someday, we may not have enough.

April 4, 2012 (this day)

Elizabeth Cady Stanton most likely sat in this chair.

It’s four days until Easter.  Unless something unforeseen happens, this will be the first Easter that I haven’t seen my daughter since she was born.  I’m not happy about it.  Last year, Carole, Nicholas and I road tripped to Erika’s town to have Easter with her and head home.  That is when the 16-year-old dog decided to give up the ghost, and we ate Easter dinner while worrying about what was going on at home, trying to hurry and not to hurry.  It was pretty awful.  For that reason I didn’t ask for a road trip this year.  We saw Erika a few weeks ago, and she assures me that an Easter on her own doesn’t bother her in the least.  Both kids says say they are confirmed atheists.  There are much worse things, I know.

At work the staff for Friday, “Good” Friday, dwindles, and I worry.  I still haven’t heard about the state of my job and I’d really love it if I could learn much more quickly through bland experience than through pain.  Friday will pass and it will be fine.  Anxiety is doing nothing for me here.  I’ve been helping some younger (in the program) women with some steps.  For two of them, that’s Step Ten.  If only my inventory resulted in a better stock.



Yets in AA are things that haven’t happened as a result of drinking, YET.

My own experience proved to me that what I was told about it was true.  AA said that if I continued to drink, things would continue to get worse, and all the bad things that had so far happened to other people would happen to me.

I have six years of drinking in AA to prove to myself that it was true.  It got worse, I did bad things I hadn’t previously done and got into trouble I hadn’t previously gotten into.  My belief that all the rest of the bad things out there will indeed happen to me if I drink is something precious and it is a cornerstone of my sobriety.  I feel sorry for people who haven’t gotten there yet.  Drinking, the only limit on the bad things would be if I killed or disabled myself, or got locked up.

I’m also lucky that I was young when I got sober, so my list of yets is quite extensive.  I’ll list a few.

Drinking, for me, hasn’t yet resulted in

  • car accident
  • jail
  • rehab
  • my children seeing/hearing/experiencing me drunk
  • lost job
  • lost marriage
  • bankruptcy
  • debt

All those, plus an additional whole world of pain, will be mine, if I’m lucky, if I drink.