Being Useful

I’m on vacation, so this concept takes on a bit of a different meaning.  In my “real” life, the chances to be useful are practically endless.  My home always needs to have something cleaned or fixed or put away.  My three cats and one dog always need to be walked, fed, petted, brushed, played with and loved.  My work is endlessly useful.  Though it’s not as much fun as it once was when I worked with clients all day long, it is, in a way, more useful because it’s less fun.  Now I have to find, interview, and hire the people who do that.  I have to discipline them when they go wrong, encourage them when you try to go right, and endlessly teach them to work with the clients.  With state licensing coming up, I have to make sure all the day-to-day goodness is packaged correctly so as not to invite censure by the state.  Useful.

My AA life at home is slightly useful, I think.  Of course I’m an example at all times of long sobriety.  I participate and try to help and try to grow.  I hope my love of AA is obvious and inspires someone somewhere at some time to keep going.

On vacation I’m participating in AA.  We went to a meeting last night that was listed incorrectly on the web.  That happens a lot.  We were late to the Big Book meeting but I think it’s just as well.  They were reading “Working with Others, ” the entire chapter, then had 15 minutes left to discuss.  But I won’t judge.  Anyway we showed up to support them and participate and represent.  Today we are planning to visit a historic AA place and I’m so hopeful that it works out that I won’t even go into it until I see that it did work out.  And, in some small way, I think that our participation in that helps support and continue AA.  We have no holy ground or consecrated places, but to me all of the ground is holy and every place is consecrated.  I’m so grateful for the history of AA that I can’t find words to express it.

Now, on vacation, I have the opportunity to help a friend with a paper for school.  It’s not about AA but is about my work.  My experience can benefit others.  My way is clear and I will go right now to do that.  Being useful, and grateful for the chance.

July 21, 2013 (this day)

IMG_1130Our son moved into an amazing place.  When we saw it, he said do me, “Don’t worry, you taught us to be frugal.”

First of all, I love the way he thinks of himself and his sister as a sort of unit.  Secondly, I don’t think I did teach them to be frugal, not after seeing this place.

But it’s wonderful to feel that he’s doing well and OK for now.  There are times I was afraid that wouldn’t happen for both of my kids.

I’m trying to live in the now regarding upcoming occasions of possible jury duty, an impending vacation, licensing at the place I work, and a scary medical thing that four doctors have told me is OK.  And the heat, although living in the past or future would be preferable to me as far as the temperature goes.  This is the hardest time of year for me with the weather and this too shall pass.

We Admitted We Were Powerless (Step One)

Step One

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.

And so I have decided to come around and do the first five steps – transcribe them from the 12 and 12 and comment on them, or not.  I began this blog with the idea of doing that, starting with Step Six.  In my 29 years of sobriety I have worked and reworked the steps by thinking about them in detail, but I had usually, formally, started with one and gone through a new fourth and fifth step and then petered out.  It’s been a great exercise for me, and one of the antidotes to boredom that can set in after so many meetings and readings over the decades.  I’m grateful that at difficult times in my life, I turned to the steps and did them anew and that got me through.  Twice, I think, over these almost 30 years, so not excessively.  In my opinion there is a danger in throwing a new fourth and fifth at too many difficulties.  But I digress.

Part of the Big Book tell us that the reason the first step is first is because without admitting powerlessness, most of us won’t put in the effort to work the rest of the program.  I know I wouldn’t.  In as much as I knew and understood and could articulate that I was powerless and an alcoholic, I still harbored a hope that I could somehow drink and as long as I had just a little of that hope, I couldn’t sustain sobriety.  The admitting for me must have been on some other level and it took a long (to me) time and just about complete ruin.  I really wasn’t functioning at the end of my drinking.  I literally couldn’t write my name, and I couldn’t go on much longer.

So this step became the best news of my life.  Today, at 51 years old, when I have a twinge or a swelling that makes me fear for my very life, I quickly remember that truly every year I’ve had since I was 22 (and some before that) have been against my best efforts to kill myself.  They are all extra, and a gift I didn’t deserve.

It was on the news this morning that a young actor died yesterday at 31 years old.  The news said that he had a history of substance abuse.  There doesn’t seem to be any other predictor of an early death without another disease than that. 

I’m not chosen and I’m just lucky.  This first step is where my second life begins.

July 8, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0108Our bathroom was done, and beautiful, and then there was water on the kitchen ceiling, just below the toilet.  Now it’s done again.  I had been writing before (and thinking before) about optimism and pessimism and being hopeful vs. being realistic.  The fantastic bathroom may just very well be too good to be true.  We shall see.  Expecting it to take longer and cost more than the estimate turned out to be realistic.  So far we’ve been accepting and appreciative, mostly.  Almost completely.

The heat has not been terrible, and we’ve rigged window air conditioners and curtains across the doorway where there can’t be a door.  I like many things about the summer, but it is the toughest weather for me to handle.  We’re going on vacation soon, and going north for a change.  I think it is an excellent idea in summer, and there’s quite a lot of the world north of us.

Other exciting events in my life recently include the thrashing my car got Friday by a very young person I work with.  She was parking next to me and why she didn’t stop when first her bumper met my bumper, I just don’t know.  But she didn’t.  I’m pretty sure next time that happens to her, she will.  Again so far I’ve managed to be accepting and appreciative, even with the annoying insurance people.

And I got a jury summons for the second time in my life.  The first time my kids were young enough that I was excused for that reason.  This one came for when I’ll be on vacation, so I asked for and got a postponement.  Now I’m waiting for the second summons and this is much, much more difficult for me to accept and appreciate.  I don’t want to go so strongly I would gladly pay someone to go in my place.  But I’m working on my attitude, which is the only part of this that I can change.  At least today I have an ideal and a plan.  And a beautiful bathroom!

Being Considerate of Others (inside and outside of AA)

It has struck me, looking at what I know of the life of Bill W from books, movies, CDs, and being in the rooms, how drastically he went from only trying to please himself to caring almost completely about others.  There’s a scene in, I think, My Name is Bill W, where Lois says something to him about something she needs, and he basically says he can’t give it to her.  That without devoting himself to suffering alcoholics, he will die.

I read some sobriety blogs, some by people who are in and working AA, some who are not.  Those trying to stay sober without AA have been to AA and rejected it for various reasons.  I rejected it for many reasons, so I understand that.  Ultimately I couldn’t be sober without it, but that’s just my experience.  I know that many people do maintain sobriety without AA.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I’ll say that something I notice these non-AA alcoholics are missing is work with other alcoholics.  And by “work” I mean, at a very basic level, the contact with other alcoholics that attendance at AA meetings gives, even if a person arrives late, leaves early, and doesn’t interact with anyone.  To me that is “work” with other alcoholics at a minimum level, and it goes up from there to sharing at meetings, befriending people, having or being a sponsor, setting up and cleaning up meetings, putting $2 in the basket (please, people, put $2 in the basket – what did your alcohol cost for goodness sake?), greeting someone at the door and telling them where the coffee and bathroom is.

They miss out on all that.  And of course they miss out on the “program,” which is the best and most important part.  I wonder sometimes if it’s easier to stay self-centered outside of AA, and if self-centeredness really is the root of our problem.

Being considerate in AA is almost always easy.  From time to time there appears someone who rubs me the wrong way for some big reason.  I have lots of trouble with arrogant men.  I also have trouble with very tall people.  Sometimes there is someone who acts in an aggressive way that is frightening.  I’m usually not actually frightened at meetings, because there are generally lots of people around to intervene in any actual violence.  But Carole and I open our house to people, and if we have an AA “party” that’s all the people, and sometimes I wonder or worry if some individual is dangerous.  So far so good.

But again, the scary and difficult people in the rooms are easy.  My guidelines are clear and at least I know that I am to keep trying to love each and every one like I do each and every other one.  I have an ideal and a plan and lots of guidance.

Outside of AA I hope I’m generally considerate.  I spend my days with people with multiple severe disabilities, and it’s easy and obvious that I should be considerate of them and put their needs ahead of my own.  I’m paid and called to do that.  Yet even there, there are some individuals who irritate the heck out of me, and once in a while, one who scares me.  But again my path is clear and obvious.

So I looked it up:


Careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to others.

A worthy goal indeed.