But Upon Entering AA (Step One continued)

But upon entering A.A. we soon take quite another view of this absolute humiliation.  We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength.  Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built.

I think of the jaywalker story in which a man keeps jaywalking and getting hurt worse and worse.  It’s obvious to everyone but him that if he keeps it up, he’s going to die.  He promises to stop and tries to stop but there he is again.

The part that I don’t think is in the book is that he probably sees many successful jaywalkers all the time.  The analogy of course is to how we alcoholics keep drinking even as the consequences get progressively worse.  The jaywalker is insane, and so is an active alcoholic.

If I couldn’t walk, but I wouldn’t admit it, and I kept trying to walk, I’d only hurt myself more and more.  If I admitted I couldn’t walk, and learned to get around by other means, I would be free from the inability to walk.

Not a perfect metaphor, but close.  As long as I didn’t admit I couldn’t drink without worsening consequences, I kept doing it, and I hurt myself more and more.  When I admitted I couldn’t drink, I could then start to learn to live without alcohol.  To cope with life without alcohol.

Sometime back a commenter here asked me “how do you replace the alcohol?”  Alcohol for me was a coping mechanism because I couldn’t stand the reality of life without it.  Or maybe I could stand it, but it was rough, and I didn’t like it.  As long as I stayed under the influence, I couldn’t learn any real coping skills.  I stopped drinking and started to live the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  There I learned to be able to stand reality, then to cope with it, and finally to mostly love it.

So glad I was defeated.  If I was able to go back, I’d have to do it all again.

September 22, 2013 (this day)

IMG_1177I’m waiting until it’s time to go meet a friend at the dog park.  We talked briefly about how I’m afraid to do that, and the difference between masochism and being brave.

I had a very traumatic dog walking experience in the past.  Just last week, this same friend’s dogs attacked and killed a ground hog at the dog park.  It’s difficult and frightening for me to get my dog out of the car and into the dog park.  My dog is big, and she barks and struggles and acts aggressive when she sees other dogs, especially on a leash.  She is not aggressive, and I wouldn’t consider taking her if I thought there was the slightest chance she would hurt a person or dog.  I feel confident that she won’t, but it’s still a difficult thing for me to walk her when I’m alone and she’s acting that way.

Anyway I told my friend that if I don’t do it because I’m afraid, it will eventually become something I don’t do at all, ever.  As an example, I’ve kind of given up riding very big roller coasters.  Each time over the past however many years I’ve been presented with the opportunity I haven’t gone, knowing this makes ever going again much less likely.  I’m OK with that, but still a little bit sad.

I know that there’s danger every time I take my dog out of the house.  I know that better than most people.  But I know there’s danger every time I get in a car, and still I choose to do it.  So I’m choosing to take her out of the house and take the risk and hope for the best.  Every time I survive it does make it more likely I will do it again, I hope.

And it moves my mind away from the worries I have for the coming week.  They are nothing major and I still have a bit of my pink cloud left from having survived jury duty.

The person on my prayer list right now is someone who wouldn’t work the program and has quit.  I hope that she doesn’t need the program, or if she does, that she’ll come back.

Bored with AA

IMG_1180Boredom with the program is a big problem, I think.  People who drift away sometimes complain that we are going over the same thing again and again and again.

Because we are.  I admit that I am sometimes bored at a meeting.  I value “free” time very highly, and I can feel that a boring meeting is taking away from that.  I can be judgmental as well about what is said at a discussion meeting.  Especially if people go on what is, in my opinion, too long.  For some lucky ducks, just being out of the house, somewhere among friends is stimulation enough to keep meetings interesting and to make them enjoyable.  I have a theory that these are people who liked to drink in bars.  I’m not one of them, though I am a bit jealous of those who profess to “love” meetings and show it by going often, year after year.

That said, I am not bored with the program and I’m not bored at most meetings, which really to me is just a bonus.  I’m sure that dialysis must be quite boring, but people who need it, need it.  It’s that way with me and meetings.  I need it.  The fact that it’s usually satisfying and interesting is a bonus, that’s all.

I do a few things to keep my boredom at bay.  I try hard not to talk about “when I first stopped drinking” in a discussion meeting unless it relates very directly to the topic.  I try to bring what I say into the present, and sometimes other people do that as well.  That’s more interesting to me at this point than observations about “when I first stopped drinking.”

I belong to one group and I attend that meeting every week.  Over time that gives me long relationships with some of the people there, and so I look forward to seeing them and enjoy being with them.  I usually make one other meeting every week, and I switch that around all the time so that I don’t run the risk of hearing the same people say the same thing week after week.  There are many meetings in my area, and I’ll travel a bit to go to one I’ve never been to, or hardly been to.

I read program-related stuff, old and new.  That keeps me interested and adds to my total experience of AA, making it richer and deeper.  There’s so much to learn, I know I’ll never run out of material.  Learning more about AA can make meetings more interesting for me because I understand better what’s actually going on.

Being entertained by AA is not a goal of mine.  The fact that AA is often entertaining is a plus, but it’s not necessary.  If everyone who got bored had left before I came to AA, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here.  If I get bored, I’ll actively look for ways to change my mind and attitude and I will stick it out and keep coming back.

September 11, 2013 (this day)

IMG_1097Jury duty!


This is testing my serenity so severely!!

I got my original summons in July, for a time when we’d be away.  I took the one freebie postponement and ended up with a date in August.  Then our state licensing got scheduled for two days after that.  Dude who mans the phone told me to show up and say I can’t concentrate, and get a pass for a year.  I asked him to just give me another date.  He gave me the date of this past Monday.

I didn’t expect my group to get called in, and it did.  I didn’t expect to end up on a jury, and I did.  They didn’t ask me much, and I answered honestly, and through the whole thing I just had a feeling of unreality, like this isn’t happening to me.

Of course I know that I need to support the jury system.  Of course I judge all the special snowflakes who are too important to the regular world to take time out to do this.  Ahem.

It stresses me most because as an introvert, I do not like to deal all day with people I do not know.  It also challenges my severe dislike of change and things that are different.  I have to travel to the downtown part of the city.  I have to park and hike and carry with me all I need for that day.  I have to dehydrate myself because although they say they will stop for a break if needed, I really don’t want to be the one who stops the trial because I have to pee.  And I have to be away from work, and not for a fun reason.

My trial is to finish tomorrow, I so hope.  The passing judgement thing won’t be much fun either.  I’m upset with myself that I’ve let this upset me so much.  I’m grateful for my boring predictable life and my impending return to it.  I’m grateful for the system but yikes, I hope my gratitude doesn’t have to express itself in service again any time soon.

No Other Kind of Bankruptcy (Step One continued)

No other kind of bankruptcy is like this one.  Alcohol, now become the rapacious creditor, bleeds us of all self-sufficiency and all will to resist its demands.  Once this stark fact is accepted, our bankruptcy as going human concerns is complete. 
It came to my attention, when I was discussing this paragraph with a well-educated, very experienced AA oldtimer (Carole), that some people might not know what it means!  Maybe this is a place where the language of our books is too old to be comprehensible. 
I’m not an authority or expert, but I think I can explain this.  The paragraph that precedes this one says that we have been defeated by alcohol.  That is the essence of the first step.  This paragraph expands on that by using a business analogy.
First, it uses bankruptcy.  A business that is bankrupt cannot pay its bills.  There’s not enough money coming in compared to the money going out.  Debts are due, and there are not funds to pay them.  It can mean that all the assets of the business will be sold to pay all the debts possible.  Basically, there is nothing left, and people who are owed money may not get it.
But it says this alcoholic bankruptcy is not like others.  It says that alcohol has become a rapacious creditor.  “Rapacious” means that it is aggressive, ravenous, taking things by force.  So in the business metaphor, this creditor is not just taking us to court, this creditor is aggressively and forcefully taking all we have.
Alcohol bleeds us of all self-sufficiency and all will to resist its demands.  So we become unable to help ourselves, and as alcohol takes more away, at some point we don’t even try to object or save ourselves. 
“Our bankruptcy as going human concerns” may be the hardest part of this to understand.  A “going concern” is a business that can sustain itself, that looks like it will be able to continue for some time into the future.  It’s making a profit or at least breaking even.  There are reasons to be optimistic and think that it will continue to do well or better for some time to come.  To call someone a “going human concern” would mean that this person is able to function in whatever way is expected or desired.  Not to split hairs, but some people are not completely independent, but they have the supports they need to continue on.   In that case it would look like this situation will continue, and a “going human concern” would be a person who is expected to continue to make it some time into the future.
And so we are powerless over alcohol.  Alcohol has taken things from us and continues to do so.  At some point we become disheartened and sick enough to not even try to protest or stop it.  At that point we do not have what we need to make it into the future at all without extensive support in the form of an institution like a hospital or detox or something else that prevents us from drinking, like jail.  We are alcoholic, and our prognosis is poor.  We need some kind of external control.  We need recovery.

August 31, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0193I’m just back from a meeting where the topic was something like “what do you have in your life now that you didn’t have when you were drinking?”  Something along the lines of gratitude and what you are grateful for, choosing one especially striking thing.  I think.  Topics tend to take on a life of their own.

As they went around the room I decided to listen to see if there was anything anyone mentioned that I don’t have.  I’ve been sober for 29 years, and it would be really really tough to choose something among the obvious.

I have all of things people mentioned.  I have sobriety babies, my adult children who have never seen me drunk.  I have ok relationships with them because they’ve never seen me drunk.  I’ve gone back to school and I did much better with it than when I was drinking.  An understatement.  I’m trusted at work and I have a key to the building.  My relationship with my mother is much better than when I was drinking.  I’m much more able to appreciate and enjoy every day than when I was drinking.  I’m serene some of the time.  I never was when drinking.  I have lots of wonderful people in my life, and many good relationships.

The one thing people mentioned that I don’t have is grandchildren.  But like I said at the meeting, since my kids don’t want kids, it’s best that they don’t have them.  And the ability to accept that is something wonderful that the program has given me.

I was reading a blog post by someone who has decided to stop going to AA, though he is dedicated to not drinking.  He thinks that he will grow better outside of AA, because AA gets to be repetitive and centered on early sobriety.  That can be a drawback, but I just can’t imagine that on my own I would think of these things, not all of them, nor would I be reminded of early sobriety and I need to be reminded of that.

He was saying that the people in AA will use fear as a tactic to keep people from leaving.  I need to be afraid of drinking.  Honestly, it was the most frightening thing I did.  I’m grateful that I still have that fear, kept alive by meetings.  Plus it helped me get sober when nothing else would.  I’d support it for the rest of my life for that reason alone, though there are many more reasons.  The never-ending gratitude list is one of them.