” . . . the well-understood fact that in God’s sight . . . ” (Step Twleve continued)

. . . the well-understood fact that in God’s sight all human being are important . . .

Like anyone, I struggle with understanding and placing, in God’s universe or the family of man or what have you, people who are truly evil.  I’ll leave that question aside for now.

And I’ll just claim and be grateful for my very liberal upbringing.  My mother has worked with people who have severe, multiple disabilities from the time I was five years old.  She’s also been a pretty much by the book bleeding heart liberal Democrat, so realizing the importance of people who I perceive to be somehow less than me, even as I know that concept is very, very, wrong – this has not been a problem for me.

The main part of my struggle takes place in realizing the importance of people who I perceive to be, well, intolerant, even as I struggle to tolerate them.  As I think that my philosophy, my politics, my religion, my spirituality is all superior to theirs, I know that I have just done what I accuse them of.  I am them.


My Gratitude List

My gratitude list gets a lot of hits this time of year.  November is “gratitude month” in AA and I know that many non AAs are also looking to increase the concept of gratitude in their lives at this time.

For me, gratitude is a foundational concept of AA, and it is most definitely one of the major contributors to my long-term sobriety.  It is traditional for me to put in to the “gratitude” collection a dollar for every year I’ve been sober.  My contribution this year will be $28, and that is a major miracle.

I was told early on to say “Thank God” instead of “God dammit.”  I wasn’t, I don’t think, a particularly ungrateful person when I came in, but I have no doubt I did not see an appreciate all the many, many, many good things in my life.

As I’ve grown and stayed sober in the program and continued to live by its guiding principles, I hope I have broadened and deepened my understanding of gratitude and of all I personally have to be grateful for.  As I’ve studied the literature (both “approved” and not) and heard it discussed and as I have done it myself, I’ve come to understand a little bit better that, as a spiritual ideal, I am to be grateful for everything, both good and bad.  That is the target I’m aiming at, and I will hopefully come ever closer, and I know I’ll never get there.

There are two “fox hole” kinds gratitude exercises I engage in when I need a little bit more gratitude.  One is to imagine that reincarnation has been proven and that it is known that, when I die, I will come back again and live as the next person to be born.  My goodness.  I really hope I don’t come back as someone who is disabled/impoverished/oppressed/ seriously ill/mentally ill/intellectually impaired/unemployable/unable to vote/not allowed to drive/doesn’t have clean water/can’t access medical care – you get the idea.  I have a great gratitude list going right there.  Those people do exist, and I would hate to have to tell them what I perceive to be my problems.  Any “thing” that exists in my life is most likely a “thing” that most of the world, or at least a huge portion of the world, does without and would perceive as luxurious.

The second is the saying that heads up my gratitude list:  What if, when you woke up tomorrow, you had only the things you remembered to be grateful for today?  If that happened, I might be existing without most of my “stuff.”

How does all that help me stay sober?  Honestly, I feel like I have an incomplete understanding of that.  It’s been so long since I drank that it’s harder and harder for me to touch the hopelessness and desperation that drinking entailed.  But I don’t think a lot of gratitude preceded the alcohol.  And, if it did, it wasn’t in a truly grateful way.  I was more like, “Look at all the good things I have, and I’m still such a fuck up.  Poor me.”

So I used a random number generator to choose something from my gratitude list and came up with “Books on CD for the car ride.”  Perfect.  I work about 25 miles away from where I live so I spend a lot of time in the car.  My daughter lives several hundred miles away and so we listen to books on CD on the way there and back.  I cannot “waste” all that time in the car.  I need to be doing something productive, so I’m “reading.”  Plus, I just like it.

Perfect.  I will be buying myself a huge iPod after Christmas so that I no longer have to deal with the inconvenience of books on CD (and other reasons, but that’s a very big reason).  Because now I have to drive myself all the way to my local library, which is a few miles away and takes 15-30 minutes to get to.  I have to look through the books on CD and choose some.  I have to check them out and then renew them.  My library only allows me to do this twice and so, after six weeks, I have to drive myself back to the library, return those and repeat the process.  How inconvenient!  With the new enormous iPod I will borrow the books from right here in my dining room!  Anyone can see why this is necessary.

And I can see why my own personal gratitude needs some more work.

Monday, November 19, 2012 (this day)

My mother is here for Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow, my daughter will come.  I’m taking turns with my work partner and I will work Tuesday and Wednesday, and she will work Friday.  This is the first year for our agency that Friday, the day after the American Thanksgiving, is not a “holiday.”  We are not happy!  It’s part of what we’ve had to give back in the bad economy.  Less time off for us, and more billable time for our clients.  But even as I grumble, I’m very aware that at work I am beyond blessed.  Beginning with the fact that my work place is safe and warm and cleanable if not clean, going all the way up to fact that I get paid (a little, but in the terms of the world, a lot) to do very meaningful work, I am very very lucky there.

And at home, again, my mother and my kids will be here.  And I’m still glad to be sharing all of this with Carole.  The pets are all healthy today.  The people are relatively healthy.  What’s wrong with me and with Carole could probably be taken care of by better living.  My mother is just old.

After I post this, I’m going to spend some time trying to figure out what to get my son for Christmas.  Twenty-four years old.  My daughter is easy, and he is hard, but my mother’s impossible.

Luxury problems indeed.

Amends Beyond “I’m Sorry”

Of course every amend must go beyond “I’m sorry.”  Without a change, which is the definition of amend, “I’m sorry” may be just useless or, even, rather sad.

One of the first gifts of sobriety that I received was a reprieve from causing harm left, right, and sideways.  So much less to apologize for, and that can still be a relief to me if I take a minute to remember to havoc I caused.

I was at a meeting once where we were reading either “To the Employer” or maybe something about the Ninth Step.   I remember someone commenting that he would not, if it meant losing his job or going to jail, admit to some crime that wouldn’t be found out otherwise.  This man is something of what I would call a Big Book Thumper, and he actually said that this is where he parts ways with the Big Book.  He thinks the instructions about this are wrong.

I think it’s easy for those of us who are, for this moment only, of course, some years away from our last drink to say we would or wouldn’t do something to stay sober.  I also think that times have changed drastically from when the books were written, and that families, employers, and the world in general is not so forgiving of drunken behavior as it used to be.

Drastic circumstances aside, the change, the apology, the restitution – they are freeing concepts today, while the alcohol remains outside of my body and my mind.

November 10, 2012 (this day)

I’m still on a pink cloud from the election.

I’m usually so skeptical and cynical, plus I came of age (18) the year that Reagan beat Carter.  I spent much of my young adulthood thinking that someone I supported couldn’t possibly win.

I had heard that President Obama (in some mysterious manner that I don’t understand, nor do I want to understand) took money from the profits of the oil companies and spent it on clean energy.  Who could oppose this?  Sun and wind, it needs our financial support now, but it doesn’t pollute the environment or make the earth uninhabitable the way burning fossil fuels does.  I heard a conservative talk show person say that those who support Obama are like kids who want goodies now and don’t want to work hard or pay later.  Quite the opposite.  Let’s pay now and do the right thing and lead the world toward better living for everyone.

Kumbaya!  I guess enough people do actually agree with me and so our president gets four more years.  I am so lucky to get to watch.

Pink cloud.  Good things in the country and at work.  Next week I should have my family together for Thanksgiving.  I can’t call them nuclear, I guess, since only Carole actually lives with me anymore.  But each get together that my mother and kids can participate in is a blessing.  I know that each time this happens, we are one closer to the time when it doesn’t happen.  But mostly I’m really glad for right now.

At my meeting, someone spoke who Carole and I have known for 14 years.  We knew her way before she got sober and after she relapsed.  She’s working on a year now after some significant losses and if only it didn’t take that.  Still, she’s one of the very lucky ones today.  We used to live across the street from her and I’m thinking that maybe living across the street from us is good luck, since in our house now, Phyllis, who I’ve written about, lived across the street and got sober.  It’s interesting, running a meeting across the street.  In 8 years so very many of our neighbors have popped into and out of our meeting.  Some have died drunk.  Others we can hear through the yards need to come and should come and if they’re very very lucky, will come.  This life is good.

October 31, 2012 (this day)

We are victims of relentless rain, but of course I can’t feel badly for myself or my dog as I see the devastation elsewhere.  My home and my work and my meetings can carry on as usual.
Things are mostly good.  We have new people starting at work and I’ve put it in the front of my mind, at least, that I need to act on all those thoughts I had about my self-consciousness/shyness/fear of change and fear of the future.  This will be no revelation to people who know me, and it’s just become more obvious to me, that I depend on my life partner and my work partner to be the friendly half of our relationship.  I can’t imagine either one of them gets any benefit from being in partnership with me that is anywhere near equal. 
I really never thought of it this way.  Carole and I are fairly opposite in this way, and we always remark that had we met in person, rather than online, we wouldn’t have gotten involved with each other.  But now I’m thinking of the way in which I’ve built my relationship with my work partner.  I was at the job first, and chose her to work with me.  It’s been probably over 12 years, and she did leave briefly for a time but otherwise we’ve been together.  That is a really hard thing to accomplish, and I know it’s taken lots of effort from both of us.  Like my marriage.  I don’t know why Carole or Irene have stuck with it, but maybe I have because, among other reasons and of course things that defy reasoning, they fill that need for me – to be outgoing and social.  By being partnered with them I get some of the relationships with others without the work.  Hm.  This would be both trick and treat.
(and, as always, I am grateful to note that before I knew either of them I was, truly, a fully functioning adult in my work, my family and in AA)