November 29, 2013 (this day)

IMG_1262My daughter is visiting with her two cats, and my resident cats are not happy.

My mother is here.  She doesn’t have cats anymore.

We had a really nice Thanksgiving.  As I got a few “happy Thanksgiving” messages from people I know in the program, I thought about how each of them, and all the other AA people I know, really, make my life so much richer.

I worked today and lots of the people I work with were upset that our agency took the day after Thanksgiving away as a paid holiday for us.  People on the news are upset that many stores were opening on Thanksgiving.  It was a quiet day and I’m glad I went.  I spent more time trying to move into my spiffy new office while my mother, wife, and daughter went shopping.

The plans for my daughter’s graduation next week go forward.  The plans for us to get “legally” married after that go forward.  I had the honor of witnessing the marriage of two program friends who did the legal deal due to a need for health insurance.  It’s crazy to me, the legal aspects and the spiritual aspects and how the twain don’t meet.

Since this is my AA blog, I’ll write that two slogans come to mind.  “Remember what you would have settled for.”  I would have settled for so much less.  “Beyond your wildest dreams.”  Yes, in just about every way.  Yes.

Can being to honest with a sponsor can cause him to turn me over to the cops?

A reader asks:

By estimating, how long should it take to complete a 4th step, and in the 5th step by being honest with myself, honest with God and another human being. Can being to honest with a sponsor can cause him to turn me over to the cops from my pass behavior? How will I know how for to go when making amends and confessing short commings. Do I really have to pay back that 15,Grand I stole from the bank in order to stay clean and to live a peacfull life?

And I answer:

Well let me see.

How long should it take to complete a 4th and 5th step? Not too long. In my experience, people who agonize over it are postponing the inevitable. You don’t have to write a novel.

Can being honest with a sponsor cause him to turn you over to the cops? Yes, it can. If your story contains terrible crimes, it is my suggestion that you talk to a therapist before you talk to a sponsor. For one thing, it’s a terrible burden to put on an AA sponsor. You put that person in the position of knowing that a potentially dangerous person is going untried. AA is not a haven for criminals. It’s a place for sick people to get better.

How far do you have to go in admitting shortcomings and making amends? All I have is my AA experience. You have to go all the way. If you think you can stay sober having stolen 15 grand, and not giving it back, I don’t know, maybe you can. If you’re like me, and to drink is to die, you may not want to take a chance.

Please read the Big Book and the 12 and 12. There are further guidelines there. I don’t know if this comment is made in jest, but it asks some serious questions. To me it sounds like someone who is not willing to go to any lengths, and hoping that by making fun of a rather drastic program, he can feel superior to it. I wish him luck.

Breaking My Anonymity

I read or heard something interesting about this recently.  I believe it was Bill W saying something about we should not be anonymous at meetings.  I was brought up to say only my first name at meetings, and that was the dominant culture there and then.  It still is, here and now, though I notice some people do give their first and last name.

What I heard or read about back in the day was that people needed to be able to find each other.  I guess AAs were so few and far between, they couldn’t go to a meeting and then survive on their own, alone, in between.  Where I live now there are almost constant meetings.  There is a 24 hour club house in the city, and there are buses to take people there.  There is a 24 hour answering service and a list of people who will call you if you need to talk to someone.  There are legions of people who will give someone a ride to a meeting.  There are online meetings and message boards and blogs.  There are books you can buy without leaving your chair.

No one needs to track me down from a meeting in order to get help staying sober.  I actually have a landline, but I don’t answer it, and I don’t know if it’s attached to my name or Carole’s.  So I’m thinking I don’t need to give my last name at a meeting.

I don’t hide my identify from people at the meetings, and Carole and I always invite everyone over to our house in between Christmas and New Years.  I get the acknowledgment letters from the General Service Office sent to me at my house and I file those letters in my meeting’s general binder.  So the General Service Office knows my identify as well.

My immediate family knows I’m in the program.  Two people I work with right now know.  One I’ve known for a very long time, the other got sent to mandatory treatment for a DUI, so I told her.  Through the years I’ve told other people at work who I’ve gotten close to or who seemed to need help.

At this point I pretty much wish everyone would just know without being told.  I didn’t always feel this way.  I used to hate telling people, because then when I inevitably drank again, they would know I shouldn’t be doing that.

I don’t write my name or show my face here, because I believe that’s in keeping with the Tradition.  I don’t put anything here I wouldn’t want on the local news.  I break my anonymity when I think it would be helpful, or when someone should just get to know me on that level.  It works well for me, and I hope more than anything that I’m a good example and a good ambassador for AA.

November 14, 2013 (this day)

IMG_0826When the maple leaves all fall it makes the yard look amazing for about a day.  This year this scene was quickly covered with snow.  Leaves on the ground and on the trees covered with snow is not a sight we usually see.  Most often by the time it snows, the leaves are down and gone.  It was just a little bit of snow, so it didn’t cause the tree branches to crash down and take out power lines.  But it was slippery and somehow wrong.  I actually fell walking the dog.  And wondered not if I was hurt, but if anyone had seen me.

We are sort of getting ready for the changes, or taking a breather before everything changes.  My daughter will be here with her two cats.  With my three that will be five and five is too many.  Our usually bold and gregarious (I know most cats don’t fit those words at all) Olive will be hard to find that whole time, and we’ll miss her.  There will be much dirty cat litter, and too few scoopers.  The dog will obsess on one of the new cats, and may eventually be swiped but undeterred.
Then my mother is coming and she’ll be here at the same time.  One of them will sleep in “my” room (my daughter’s old room) and so I’ll have to move all my stuff and also my routine into our bedroom.  One of them will sleep I don’t know where, and when Carole snores I won’t sleep at all.  Then my daughter and her cats will leave and we’ll take my mother and my son to my daughter’s graduation, then bring my mother back to send her on her way home.  I don’t know if my daughter will have a job before then.  Until she has a job I’m living with the possibility that she could move anywhere.  That is very unsettling for me.
I’ll go to work a bit resentfully and take some time off a bit guiltily.  I’ll miss some important days at work and that will make it harder for the people who actually show up.  And in the midst off all this, I’m moving my office.  I don’t want to move but it’s making me go through all my stuff.  I’m just moving down the hall, so not a huge change there.  Then, just before Christmas, we’ll leave the state to go get “legally” married. 
This is one of those times when things seem so good I have a little bit of a feeling of unreality about it all. 
My blog has gotten more hits in one day than ever before.  This time of year, I have many people getting here via search for  a gratitude list.  I also see people on Facebook engaging in 30 days of gratitude. 
My AA truth is that there are infinitely more than 30 things to be grateful for.  My ideal is to be grateful for everything, good and bad.  My reality is that years of practice have given me  a wonderful outlook.  And I write that knowing that there is nothing big and bad on my plate right now, and that should something big and bad come, gratitude will be a struggle once again.  And I may fail to attain it once again.  Still I’m grateful that even knowing that, I can let those thoughts pass by, and I can be here, now, and be grateful.

We Know that Little Good Can Come to any Alcoholic (Step One continued)

We know that little good can come to any alcoholic who joins A.A. unless he has first accepted his devastating weakness and all its consequences.  Until he so humbles himself, his sobriety-if any-will be precarious.  Of real happiness he will find none at all.  Proved beyond doubt by an immense experience, this is one of the facts of A.A. life.  The principle that we shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered.

I’m struggling to help someone right now, and this I believe explains her problem.  Accepting the consequences of the weakness, of being alcoholic, is a mammoth, life-changing event.  I still remember, to a certain extent, the cold stark fear of admitting the fact that I couldn’t live with alcohol any longer.  I already knew that I couldn’t live without it.  And so, I thought, I really couldn’t live.

If only . . . If only I could find the words that would ultimately be convincing to someone who struggles.  If only I could somehow give the hope that you can live without alcohol.  I am living without alcohol, and so are so many happy, serene people in the program.  Lots of the people are unhappy, too, but not usually at the soul-crushing level that alcohol makes us happy.

It’s a fact of A.A. life.  Unfortunately, I see it proven again and again by people who can’t accept the weakness and all its consequences.  An alcoholic who continues to drink is just not headed anywhere good.

Complete defeat.  That has brought life to me, and I’m here to say it is worth it.