Bill W. A Biography of Alcoholics Anonymous Cofounder Bill Wilson (literature as a tool)

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Carole and I read this book together in the morning on days that I went to work.  We read just for a few minutes, so it takes us a long time to get through a book.  I chose this book because I truly enjoy learning more about AA, and I enjoy history.  Books like this can make me just a little bit nervous, because I don’t want anyone to get turned off of AA and also because I don’t want to learn things I’d rather not know.

I have to say that the author is a Bill W fan, and so am I.

Most of it is familiar territory.  The book covers a bit of Bill W’s family history before he was, and continues until his death with a few anecdotes about after his death.  Although the tone is very positive toward Bill, it does include negative things like his infidelities, his love of niacin and his inability to quit the thing that ultimately killed him, smoking.

What was new to me or more in-depth to me than I’d gone or understood before is the way Bill W stepped down from the head of AA and created a structure that has stood the test of time until today.  It’s amazing, but it’s dry stuff, and I needed every ounce of it to happen in order for AA to be there when I needed it.

One of the last paragraphs says ” . . . we can hardly imagine what the world would be like without him . . . ”  I can’t be anything but a fan because without him, I wouldn’t be.  I’m afraid my objectivity gets swamped every time by my gratitude.  And for that, I am grateful.

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April 23, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0186A few days ago, Carole marked 17 years sober.  A few days from now, I will mark 29 unless something very drastic happens.

It’s completely amazing and incomprehensible, good beyond belief even though I’ve lived it one day at a time.

We had the privilege of trying to help someone sober up the other day.  This is someone we’ve known for years, and have tried to help for years.  She’s had periods of sobriety followed by not.

She spent part of that night on our couch, and it reminded me so strongly of one of my more colorful drunken escapades (story here).  Yet after I almost died, could have died, should have died, I drank again.  I so hope that our friend does not.  Anniversary time makes me reflective and grateful and incredulous.

These Little Studies (Step Twelve continued)

These little studies of A.A.’s Twelve Steps now come to a close.  We have been considering so many problems that it may appear that A.A. consists mainly of racking dilemmas and troubleshooting.  To a certain extent, that is true.  We have been talking about problems because we are problem people who have found a way up and out, and who wish to share our knowledge of that way with all who can use it.  For it is only by accepting and solving our problems that we can begin to get right with ourselves and with the world around us, and with Him who presides over all of us.

As I was writing that I heard someone on TV talking about he Boston bombing.  He said that he lives by spiritual principles and basically wakes up and asks God to show him how he can be useful that day.  Carole wasn’t paying attention, but I said to her, “AA?”  Because that’s what we do!  When we remember.

I’ve heard it said as a criticism of AA that we dwell on problems.  Even the way we introduce ourselves, “My name is ___ and I’m an alcoholic,” or some version of that.  I’ve heard people say that this focus on the problem, this giving it priority, keeps us sick.  But I disagree.

” . . . we are problem people . . . ”  We are.  That’s why we go to AA.  No one goes there because everything is good.  And when people go to AA and don’t accept and solve their problem, their problem gets worse, and the havoc they wreck gets worse.

Even so, I don’t think the majority of the talk I hear in a meeting is negative.  I’m curious and if I remember, I’m going to try to keep track for a while.  I hear lots and lots of positive things and so many of us feel that we wouldn’t change our alcoholism even if we could, because the solution is so wonderful.  I never want to be without it.  Waking up and asking God how I can be useful that day is a wonderful way to live.  But I wouldn’t have even tried to live that way had I not been forced to by alcoholism.

There are a few more lines of Step Twelve and I’ll be at the end of the steps.  I’m going to start at the beginning because I began writing at Step Six . . . several years ago now.

April 13, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0143Still not too much going on.  Today would have been my father’s birthday.  I’m not sure how old he would be.  He died in 1968, at the age of 33, from alcoholism.  I don’t go on about it much in real life, but this is my AA blog, and that is one of the most important happenings of my AA story.  He didn’t know me beyond 1st grade, he didn’t know my children at all.  He doesn’t know that his sister may be trying to do me out of my inheritance from his father.  He doesn’t know that his sad story may have been the pivotal point in my happy one.  I thought, growing up, that alcoholics died young, ugly deaths.  Many of them do.  I probably would have.  He did.

But I didn’t.  It’s too late now for me to die young!  Instead I’ll mark 29 years without a drink on May 1, God willing and the creek don’t rise.  My sobriety is not bullet proof.  I’ve been watching The Walking Dead, just a few episodes a year.  We just saw the one where Hershel goes back to drinking and I have to say that in the zombie apocalypse, I might also.  Since that hasn’t happened, I’ll go on.

I’ve had really really really good changes at work.  Really good.  The past few years have been good and getting better.  Mostly I think due to the person who is presently my boss.  I’m enjoying it.  It makes the hard times easier and I’m really optimistic for the whole thing.  It’s nice.

Tonight I’ll go to a meeting I hope to go tomorrow also.  Then on to another week of work and it’s ordinary and it’s good.

Attitude Part 2

IMG_0116So my attitude has to do with my evaluation of things – people, situations – things.  Is it (the thing) good or bad?

AA taught me that almost every single thing in my life is good.  AA taught me that if I can’t see the truth in that, I’ll have a hard time and may not be able to stay sober.  AA taught me that when I can have that attitude, that almost every single thing in my life is good, I will want to stay sober and actually want to live.

There are terrible tragedies and great suffering in life, and I really haven’t had these be a part of my little life.  The Big Book talks about serenity when bad things happen like losing a child in a war, which is surely one of the worst things I can think of.  I haven’t been tested like that, and I don’t know if I’d pass a test like that.  I might not.

I didn’t make it through raising two teenagers unscathed.  There were times I worried for both of their lives.  They have truly been in that much jeopardy, but those experiences were short-lived and even as they took place, I had some of the most advanced medical technology and psychological help available, and since these things turned out OK, the bright sides I was trying to cling to came to pass as true.

For the more mundane things that test my ability to stay positive I looked back through the blog and I came up with this list:

  • people at work coming in late or not at all
  • I am not the perfect dog mom
  • I am often afraid to drive in the snow
  • politics in general, and people who want to deny me the right to marry in particular
  • people commenting on the way I look (only positive comments, mind you)
  • people in my vicinity expressing negativity (!)
  • missing people and situations from the past

Something in Step Eleven (I’m not sure what) says that we bring light to bear on the negative aspects of our personalities.  Something like that.  Here I’ve got a list of things to bring to that light.  I hope the light makes them shrivel up and die!  Or at least get a little smaller.

April 3, 2013 (this day and search terms that brought you here)

Not much is going on for me right now.  I’m going to work and coming home, going to meetings, going to the doctor and the dentist.  Our weather is still frigid with frequent snow but warmer temps are forecast.  We are planning to have our bathroom redone and planning a trip to Vermont in July, including the place where Bill Wilson grew up.  I did go to a meeting last week where we read Tradition Three.  That was interesting, since as I understand it, the man with the “worse addiction” was gay.  How awesome to read that he was welcomed into AA, and that 75 short years later the Supreme Court would be hearing arguments for legalizing gay marriage.  My attendance at that meeting, or membership in AA has never been questioned by anyone because I’m gay.

On to some search terms that brought readers here:

  • what does humbly asked him to remove our shortcomings mean  It means that after doing a moral inventory, and identifying character defects, we become ready to have them removed and then actually ask our Higher Power to do so.  To me this means doing the work and suffering through the experience of giving up my bad habits, and using the wisdom that’s out there in other people and other resources because I can’t or won’t or don’t do it on my own.
  • restraint of pen and tongue  One of my favorites!  Sleep on it.  Don’t react.  Take time and think and talk to other people and then respond.
  • how to find a higher power  Look for one.  Acknowledge that you are not the most potent force in the universe.  Any group of people in AA is a power greater than you.  They have solved their problem with alcohol.  They have wisdom and experience beyond what you can ever hope to have.  Look into religions that appeal to you.  Read about spiritual experiences.  Ask other people how they did it.  Be open and even just a little bit willing.
  • why is people pleasing a defect of character  Because it’s dishonest and self-serving.  It’s like trying to trick someone into liking you.  It’s all about you and your desire to be liked, not about the needs of the situation.

And finally

  • do women 13th step me in aa  I don’t know, do they?  I hope not, and shame on them if they do.  But hey, that’s a terrible thing, taking advantage of a newcomer.  As much as women should not do this, newcomers also have to be aware and look out for themselves.  AA is not a safe place.  It just isn’t.