October 26, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0227It’s chilly but most of the leaves haven’t turned yet.  I think it’s a great time of year.  Not too hot, and not too cold.  No snow except for a flurry.

I don’t have much going on.  I use a magnetic calendar at work and on Fridays I switch up the weeks.  I have no days off planned for the next four weeks.  That’s a little daunting.

Then.  My daughter will most likely graduate with a Master’s in environmental chemistry on December 6.  An excellent stop along the wonderful road of being a mother to a daughter.  A daughter is probably what I wanted most in life.  And I could not have dreamed her up if I had tried.  She is so much more than I can understand.  The view of my desire would have been much much less than what I got.

Then later in December Carole and I will cross the border into one of fourteen of states of the United States where it is legal and we will get legally married.  Because our state will have to recognize it in some legal, financial ways, we won’t wait for it to be legal here.

I chanced (believe me, I didn’t plan) to see some men from the Heritage Foundation ask questions of a judge on TV today.  The resources and energy people put into fighting this boggles my mind.  And after it boggles, me being a good AA I must turn my mind from that to the amazing fact that is will be partially legal for me soon.

The church where we have our meeting is having their annual rummage sale.  We get squeezed into a small room because their stuff is everywhere.  The neighbor I wrote about, Phyllis, who came to AA and experienced some sobriety in the last years of her life, then died, used to buy the meeting goodies from the church’s bake sale and now her husband does it.  There are so many active members of the group now that Carole and I rarely chair anymore.  That is really nice.  We’ll go out after the meeting with lots of the people there (everyone is invited) and that’s really nice as well.

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Can a group ask a person to leave a meeting and not come back?

Dana asks

With principles before personalitys and our tradition nine can a group ask a person to leave a meeting and not come back?

As with all of this blog, these are my opinions only.  I do not represent or speak for AA.

It’s my understanding that a group can do whatever a group wants to do.

In my experience, this is happily an extremely rare occurrence.  Most disruptive people in AA settle down or leave, or move around to other groups.  I’ve written before that AA is not a safe place.  Though I’ve always felt safe there, crimes can and do happen around meetings and between the people of AA.  Again, I’d say, they are rare.

Our literature warns us that if we ask a person to leave AA, we may be sentencing that person to death.  No one deserves that, no matter what.  We’re not asking people to leave AA, though, just usually our particular group.  If a person his being continually disruptive, frightening, or dangerous, I do think that’s OK for the group to ask that person to leave and not come back.

Dana brings Tradition Nine into it, but the leaders of the group would have no special authority here, and the groups I’ve known would use a “group conscience” or vote about things like this.  I’m sure something so serious would only happen after many other things have been tried and have failed.  I also think a person should be asked not to come back until he or she has changed the troubling behavior, not never.

I’m sorry for any group that is going through this kind of terrible situation.  I’m sorry for any person who might be asked to leave AA.  The only thing I’m sure about here is that we should all keep trying.  Behavior that makes groups consider asking someone to leave is probably not sober behavior, or behavior that is compatible with sobriety.  Someone who can’t get along with people in AA will probably have a very difficult time elsewhere and probably needs serious treatment for mental illness.

How Do I Spot My Character Defects?

Someone asked this question on my Character Defects page.

Michael R

I recently completed my 5th step with my sponsor.As I look at step six “We were entirely ready to have God remove these defect of character.” I hit a roadblock.What is a defect of character? ,and how do I identify mine? Every one of those list I have.Can you suggest anything that I can do to help me spot my own D of C ? I don’t feel I should use others hard work and I don’t want to cheat myself of the opportunity to grow in this valuable step.Thank you. Mike R.

If you’ve done a 5th Step then you’ve done a 4th Step.  You can take any list of character defects (like my list) and see which defects were active in which situations that caused you trouble.  Most defects on any list relate back to fear and selfish self-centeredness.  The reason I made my list and why I like it is that it defines self-centeredness in many ways and helps me recognize it in its many forms.

If you have every defect on the list (and I think we all do have every one to some degree) I suggest you take them one at a time and pay special attention to that one for a day or a week or so.  That’s what I intend to do though I frequently slack.

When I experience an excess of negative emotion (page 88 in the 12 and 12) I know that my character defects are operating.  If I possibly can, I stop and think about what’s going on with me.  Is my pride hurting?  Did I not get something I want?  Am I afraid of something?  In this way I come to spot my character defects quickly and try to deal with them constructively.

Back to the original question.  I believe that the essence of Step Six is an acknowledgement that I am willing to work to change myself.  What’s wrong with me was spelled out in the 4th Step and shared in the 5th Step.  Those things were in the past though of course the character defects still operate now.  To me, to say I’m “entirely ready” is to say that I won’t ignore my shortcomings any more.  I won’t justify them and I won’t feed them.  I’m ready to have God remove them, and God will give me tools to do it and people and situations to practice on.

I like to relate things back to my “oldtimer” condition.  It’s been a very long time since I did my first 4th Step, and since then I’ve done it two more times.  When I did it again, I did the entire thing, not just focusing on one area of my life like some people do when they do subsequent inventories.  Of course the times I chose to do them were times of turmoil for me.  I’m really glad I did them and I imagine that if I live long enough I’ll do yet another.

Daily, for myself, I aim to keep an eye on character defects and diminish them further when I can.  The way I spot them is by taking things that upset me and applying the list.  This is the ongoing Step 10 daily inventory.

Also, I’m lucky enough to have several people in my life who don’t mind pointing them out to me.  But that’s another post.

The Bottom is Where You Stop Digging (you hit bottom when you stop digging)

IMG_0824It’s good to have a dog to help you clean the floor if ever you should drop a turkey.  Just sayin.’

This wisdom of the bottom makes me think of chronic relapsers like me.  It implies that I may have some control, and that something I am doing or not doing is preventing me from maintaining sobriety.  That’s true, to a point.  I surely didn’t follow the program thoroughly, but I don’t know if I was capable of doing that or not.  The “stop digging” I’d like to point out to the repeat offenders I know is to stop disregarding parts of the program, stop lying to yourself and face the reality of your situation.  If only.

As an oldtimer it’s interesting to me to try to apply these principles to my life as it is today, when drinking isn’t a consideration.  I’ll never be free from the label of alcoholic.  I don’t want to be free from it.  But many days go by that alcohol doesn’t cross my mind in any way, and certainly very long periods of time go by when I don’t think of actually drinking it myself.

But there are other problems of daily living and other kinds of dysfunctional and harmful behavior that I engage in.  These behaviors get more entrenched as the years go by, and still I choose to keep doing them.  And I can’t completely make the mental jump from drinking to other behaviors, I guess because the consequences aren’t so dire and so immediate.

October 3, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0819A year ago I was investigating an incident that took place in a McDonald’s parking lot.  When things go wrong, I’m one of the people who try to figure it out for my agency.  I work with adults who have intellectual disabilities.  Today I went to a school to visit a young lady who will graduate and be part of my program when she’s done with school.  The difference in the funding is incredibly sickening.  The schools have such vast resources, and the adults get so very little.  It always makes me sad to visit those schools and see the difference between their wealth and our poverty.  Still I know that compared to most of the world, even our adults have many many services and resources.  I’m glad I don’t visit schools often and I don’t think about these things often.  I just keep going to work.

Not much is happening in my little corner.  My mother’s birthday is this month, and getting her presents has been a trial for me since I can remember.  She demands presents, hates almost everything, and has really screwed me up for gift giving and gift receiving for my entire life.  And of course her birthday is closely followed by Christmas and then there’s Mother’s Day.  I sent her Five Days at Memorial and I don’t care if she likes it.  So there.

My daughter will hopefully defend her master’s thesis on Halloween.  Halloween is her “favorite” holiday, and the scene of many of her mental breakdowns when she used to have mental breakdowns.  She didn’t pick the day but her committee did.  And I don’t know exactly how these things work but I guess it’s not completely certain that she’ll do it that day.  She’s looking for a job.  I’ve paid her health insurance for a year.  It’s a wonderful transition for her and I’m trying to be brave.

Because of the timing of the defense, Carole and I won’t be visiting her this month.  Carole has been sick with one thing and another for weeks.  The federal recognition of same-sex marriages is making us figure out how to go do this legally, not in our state.  I’m beyond grateful for this but also very disappointed that it’s happening this way.  I want my state to recognize it now.

So, my AA blog.  I’m an only child, and one of the nicknames my mother’s extended family had for me when I was a youngster was “I want I want.”  Perhaps this has something to do with my eventual alcoholism?  Perhaps not.

I know the ideal.  I practice gratitude all day every day, except for when I don’t.  At the end of the day, hey, someone wants to marry me!  And someone, somewhere, is going to even say it’s legal.