How We Alcoholics Did Resent That Verdict! (Step Twelve continued)

How we alcoholics did resent that verdict!  We would not believe that our adult dreams were often truly childish.  And considering the rough deal life had given us, we felt it perfectly natural that we were sensitive.  As to our grandiose behavior, we insisted that we had been possessed of nothing but a high and legitimate ambition to win the battle of life.

Again, this doesn’t resonate with me too well.  My “dream” was to be the stay-at-home mother of many children, mainly because of the way I grew up, as an only child with a dead father.  My dream was to be the drunken stay at home mother.  It was a childish dream, and grandiose in its way of hoping for something I couldn’t possibly pull off given the way I drank.

Often, when I tell my story, I tell of how the two people I “admired” and aspired to be like in way were Ted Kennedy and Mrs. O’Dwyer.  Ted Kennedy, because he was a famous drunk and yet seemed to hold down a job.  Mrs. O’Dwyer, because she was the neighborhood drunken mother of four, who, despite her drunkenness, somehow managed to still be the stay at home mother of four.

I did think that life had given me a rough deal of sorts.  I felt certainly different, very different from the kids in the neighborhood and at school.  I knew no one that didn’t have a father, that had a dead father.  I had severe allergies and later bum knees that required surgery.  And I’m short.  I don’t care what anyone says, being short is not a good thing.  It’s just not.

Of course all of this is well beyond the point as I understand it now.  Whatever my circumstances, and my blessings and advantages far, far outweighed my lackings and disadvantages, my situation was my situation, and absolutely nothing could get better or even be OK while I was drinking alcoholically.

May 22, 2012 (this day)

Behind my house, there are boys breaking things.  Just because.  I have no hope for humanity.

I went to a periodontitis this afternoon, and he asked me things like, “How do you feel about dentures?”  I told him I’d rather not have them, if I can avoid it, and he asked me why.

This is going to be painful and expensive, but he told me I can avoid the dreaded dentures because I don’t smoke, I wear my seat belt, and I care.

I wonder if he was once a boy behind someone’s house breaking things.

I have nothing AA related to report.  Carole and I read in Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers this morning how, when AA began, all the women who came in were nymphomaniacs.  And here I thought it was difficult to come in as a 16 year old high school student.  At least, if the people who greeted me then thought I might be a nymphomaniac, they didn’t let on.

Acceptance 5.19.12

Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober . . .

So important.

I will add that, until I could accept my alcoholism and all that entailed, I could not stay sober.

I knew I was an alcoholic before I went to a meeting.  I understood it, accepted it, admitted it.  But I didn’t know, understand, accept and admit all that it means to be an alcoholic.  And so I couldn’t stay sober.

I had to accept and understand that

  • when I started drinking, I couldn’t always predict what I would do
  • because I couldn’t predict what I would do, I risked my safety as well as the safety of everyone around me
  • when I started drinking, I couldn’t always predict when I would stop
  • there were people who had been down the exact same road, and whatever had happened to them could happen to me
  • my drinking always got worse, never better

When I understood those things, then I knew I couldn’t drink anymore, and then I really saw no future ahead of me, and then I was able to stop drinking, just for a short time, which has resulted in 28 years of continuous sobriety.

It seems so obvious now.  I can’t get over a tooth ache until I accept that my tooth hurts and take action to heal it.

Taking this concept and these words out into the real world, there are things I fight against and argue with and get upset about that just are.  The amount of upset I feel over the weather, or other drivers, is completely up to me.  My emotions don’t change the weather or the other drivers one tiny bit.

Accepting some other things means working to change them, or admitting to myself that I am not going to work to change them.  I should not accept global warming, that women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia, or my weight.  But honestly, am I willing to do the work to change them?

May 16, 2012 (this day)

Back from a family wedding.  My younger cousin got married, and Carole, Nicholas and I drove the 400 miles, and Erika flew.  We dealt with bigger cities than I ever hope to deal with again on a regular basis.

All my cousins on that side of my family are younger.  In addition to the one getting married, another is expecting a baby in August.  My mother and her three siblings are all still with us.  This was really my family of origin, since I’m an only child, my father died young, and my grandparents, aunts, uncles and then cousins were a big part of my life.  I moved away and back several time, and now away for most likely good fourteen years ago.  My mother moved away from them about five years ago, and it will never, of course, be the same.

The older generation got drunk and …… not too crazy.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it would be.  There was lots of awful drama leading up to the wedding and I just don’t know why people can’t decide to be happy, look on the bright side, give people the benefit of the doubt.  But it wasn’t too bad.

While we were there, we took the kids to their grandparents’ house.  They passed away, in their 90s, within a few weeks of each other, some months ago.  Since the trip is so long and difficult, I didn’t know if they’d get there again before their possessions are done away with, and I wanted them to have the chance to get any mementos they might want.

It was very spooky and surreal.  Like an estate sale, but nothing for sale, just most of their possessions there where they had left them.  A whole world and life now done.

I won’t draw too much of a contrast between their son, my ex, the father of my children, and myself.  He was, at one time, at least six years sober, successful in business and at least fully functioning, if not outrageously happy, or happy enough.  He’s not functioning now, and I hope that my kids at least get what their grandparents meant to give them, but whether they do or they don’t, no one has taken anything from them, or from me.  They’re both doing really well and I have no reason other than a mother’s anxiety to think they’ll go the other way.  It’s like the world balancing on the razor’s edge.  Two paths, one decision that leads to another.

And I haven’t been back to work since last Friday, but I’ll be going tomorrow.  Today Carole and I shopped briefly for a stained glass window to put in our house in honor of our 15th anniversary, which will be June 5.  Of course that anniversary isn’t a legal one, since we’re not yet legal.  Because we’d set a bad example for the children?  Because this is against one or another religion?  Because ………….?

But Not So With Alcoholics (Step Twelve continued)

But not so with alcoholics.  When A.A. was quite young, a number of eminent psychologists and doctors made an exhaustive study of a good-sized group of so-called problem drinkers.  The doctors weren’t trying to find how different we were from one another; they sought to find whatever personality traits, if any, this group of alcoholics had in common.  They finally came up with a conclusion that shocked the A.A. members of that time.  These distinguished men had the nerve to say that most of the alcoholics under investigation were still childish, emotionally sensitive, and grandiose.

I still resent the male-centeredness of AA and as soon as I feel that resentment, I replace it with gratitude that there’s AA at all, and then I let it go.

I’ve learned to pretty much name and claim every character defect that exists as at least partly belonging to me.  Any amount of time I spend considering any one of them is time will spent.

The focus of my writing and thoughts is how these things related to oldtimers.  I often consider newcomers, usually when I’m at a meeting or when I’m trying to help a newcomer, most especially my person favorite kind of newcomer, the chronic relapser.

I love the language of the 12 and 12 and how it says here that the alcoholics were STILL (were they still drinking?  probably) childish, emotionally sensitive and grandiose.  If they were still drinking, than I take it to mean that children exhibit these character traits, and non-alcoholic children grow out of them, whereas alcoholics-to-be do not.  And I honestly have to say that, among newcomers and constant slippers, I do see those characteristics to one degree or another, but all more so than in people who have been sober for some time.

I went to a family wedding this past weekend, and it would be incredibly easy for me to list all the thousand and one ways in which the active alcoholics in my family (that would be my mother’s entire generation, basically) are childish, emotionally sensitive, and grandiose.  But then again, my decades of AA training make me shrink back from making those judgements just as soon as I’ve made them (in other words, too late!).

Instead, I’m off to my character defects list to make sure these adjectives are included and in that way, consider them in my own life, each in its turn.


May 8, 2012 (this day)

We live on the edge of a city and, because of things going on in the city, were thwarted in our efforts to cross through it to the other side to walk a trail.  Instead we walked around a few blocks near our edge of the city.  It was cool to do, but some strangers are afraid of our dog.

Our dog has been acting sickly though she seems better at the moment.  Carole took her to the vet yesterday.  She’s been not eating right away, which she has never done in all her years with us before, and she’s been throwing up.  The vet said she could have reflux (which, if she does, she got from Carole.  I have an iron stomach and haven’t had an issue in decades).

The dog may be nine years old, or maybe 10.  Today, like every day, could be her birthday.  For reasons that are probably all recorded here somewhere, I am extremely attached to this dog.  I’m very grateful that we got to give her some good years.  I really hope we get to give her many more.  And I’m still hoping to have one of my pets go quietly in their sleep of old age.  Hasn’t happened for me yet.

Last year we brought these into our lives, and the other night they knocked the smoke detector off the ceiling.

Today I’m off from work first, to go for my womanly yearly.  My cycle has been so messed up I’ve thought of not tracking.  The menopause chronicles are there for anyone interested.  To summarize, I bled for 35 days in 2008, 93 days in 2009, 56 days in 2010, 49 days in 2011, and so far I’ve bled most of this year.  After all the tests to see if I had cancer or something else really wrong, I’ve gone without drugs or surgery.  I really don’t know anyone else who has gone without drugs or surgery and so there’s no one to talk to about it.  But, what to say?  Whenever symptoms appear I remind myself (and those lucky enough to be listening to me) that I’m upset because my body is working properly.  Really.  I’ll be 50 at the end of the month.

After the doctor we are heading out on a mission of mercy to buy a used, special chair for someone we know who needs one.  The state of funding for people with disabilities is terrible right now.  I cannot believe that in this land of plenty, we (society) cannot provide a special chair to someone who needs one.  I hope the chair works out but, sadly, I know that if it doesn’t work for this particular person, it will work for someone else who needs it and doesn’t have it.

So today I’m grateful for the ability to help get the chair.  I’m grateful that the dog seems OK and if she’s not, I can provide medical care for her, if that’s what she needs.  I’m grateful that I’m going for my yearly and haven’t been to the lady doctor in a year because, well, my body works properly!

Acceptance 5.5.12

Taking each part of the acceptance passage one piece at a time.

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.

I believe that when I am disturbed, it is because there is something wrong with me.  I believe that I can’t have serenity until I accept the person, place or thing exactly the way it IS – not, that it is exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment, but that it IS this way at this moment.

I don’t think that starving children (to reach for an extreme example) are SUPPOSED to be starving.  I understand that they ARE starving, and I won’t have serenity if I don’t accept it.  Well, some things, maybe, we are not SUPPOSED to be serene with.  I don’t like the path of “supposed to be.”  That leads me to the assumption that I am NOT supposed to be starving right now.  I do not believe that God arranged their poverty and my over-abundance.

So, I have to accept that things are the way they are, I agree with that.  Next, I need to accept the things I cannot change.  As for the things I can change (it is within my power to send food to people who need it right now), I have to make choices about what I do, what I act on, and how I feel about those things.

I sort of wish I believed that “nothing happens by mistake” or that things are the way they are “meant” to be.  I seems simplistic and, in a way, easy.  But I don’t believe it.  So I’m left with deciding what I can work on, and what I can change, and honestly that generally leaves me with a feeling of not doing enough for other people.

That issue aside, and extreme examples aside, in my day-to-day life I like to think of acceptance as more of an open-minded mental stance.  Some other people are bad drivers, and I have to share the road with them.  I can fume and feel angry and superior, or glad that I haven’t had an accident because of them.  People will never drive to my standards.  I read a survey of people who tailgate, and the number one answer to the question of “why do you do that?” was “because I think I’ll be able to stop in time.”  This makes no sense to me.  I’m right (leave room, just in case!), they are wrong.  I’ll meet some of them on the road if I choose to drive.  I’ll accept that some people drive that way if I have to have serenity.  If I’m disturbed by them, it’s because I’m not accepting reality, and reality is not going to change, so I better change my mind instead.

May 1, 2012 (this day)

Today I have 28 years of sobriety.

There’s so much I could say about it, and I’ve thought about what to say, but someone posted a comment to an old post and I think there’s no better way to mark my anniversary than to try and answer this.

From How Did You Replace the Alcohol?  Sharon writes:

Hi. I’m new to AA, and constantly hear people say as you did “I relapsed many times before I “got it.” But no one ever says what “got it” means. Over 30 meetings in 30 days, I have tried to figure out the purpose of the meetings (my group just sits around sharing horror stories of their drunken past). I learned someone asked (behind my back) to another group member if he thought I would ever “get it.” I don’t understand what I need to do because no matter what I do seems to be wrong. I shared every meeting because I copied what I saw others doing. Since I have no horror stories, I instead shared things I was learning from the Big Book and my journey to recovery. No one ever talked about moving forward. And on and on. I’m absolutely baffled at how others’ behavior, words, etc are all correct, but I “don’t get it.” What don’t I get? Other things happened that made me feel humiliated and isolated from the group, to the point where I spiralled into depression. For now I have stopped going to meetings. Can you please help me understand?? Thanks!

What “getting it” means to me is having a spiritual awakening, becoming a “reformed” alcoholic (and actually re forming).

Unfortunately, this takes much, much longer than 30 days.

It means

  • having the humility to accept that, even with all of their glaring faults, the folks at an AA meeting have something more than I do, they have a way to stay sober, and I don’t
  • working the steps, all 12, but especially (at the beginning) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
  • identifying, not comparing, and seeing how much we all have in common (these folks have, along with me, survived a metaphoric shipwreck after all)

Sharon (and others who are struggling) “it” is a way of life, and it takes time to learn this way of life.  And it’s difficult.  The only reason I “got it” was that I had no other choice.   Most people I know will not truly do the tough stuff of the program unless they have been driven to their knees, or lower.  It was only when I lost all hope of a drinking future that I could really accept a non-drinking future.

I know that most people won’t “get it,” partly because they won’t work for it.  If you want what I have then you’ll do what I did, and what I did was hang around far, far beyond the first 30 days.  It is the biggest blessing and most important fact of my life.