Our Sponsors Declared (Step One continued)

Our sponsors declared that we were the victims of a mental obsession so subtly powerful that no amount of human willpower could break it.  There was, they said, no such thing as a personal conquest of this compulsion by the unaided will.  Relentlessly  deepening our dilemma, our sponsors pointed out our increasing sensitivity to alcohol–an allergy, they called it.  The tyrant alcohol wielded a double-edged sword over us:  first we were smitten by an insane urge that condemned us to go on drinking, and then by an allergy of the body that insured we would ultimately destroy ourselves in the process.  Few indeed were those who, so assailed, had ever won through in singlehanded combat.  It was a statistical fact that alcoholics almost never recovered on their own resources.  And this had been true, apparently, ever since man had first crushed grapes.

Among the definitions of allergy is hypersensitivity, and the word comes from words meaning “different” and “beyond.”  In this way I can go along with an allergy concept to explain alcoholism, but it isn’t an allergy in the usual way that I use or understand the word.  I did a tiny bit of research and it seems that the official AA has been fuzzy on the concept.  In fact I think AA is fuzzy on both allergy and disease, and that the literature usually refers to alcoholism as a “malady.”  For me, it certainly was a compulsion and an insane urge.  I have no personal need to further examine exactly what alcoholism is or isn’t.  If the fact that alcoholism is a unique kind of allergy or disease drives even one person away who could have been saved, that would be tragic.

I know people and I know of people who have recovered unaided, that is, without AA.  I think they are a tiny percentage of alcoholics, but the quest to be one of them drove me nearly to death.  I wanted to recover from alcoholism by successfully drinking, moderately.  Any time total abstinence has been my goal, I have embraced AA, if not in the moment (of “having” to go to a meeting or some other something involved in participating in AA) then at least in theory.  From the beginning I recognized the ideals of AA as good and I have believed that in pursuing them I selfishly become happier.  One of the miracles for me is that at some point I stopped doing it because I had to and began doing it because I wanted to.  I would not quit now, not voluntarily, even if in the moment I don’t want to participate.

January 19, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0005It looks like my daughter may accept a job that will be at least nine hours away from me by car.

This makes me really really happy, and really really sad.

It’s impossible to be too sad in a situation like this.  She is alive and well and talking to me.  She made it through (in reverse order) grad school, working, regular school, adolescence, childhood.  I remember when I brought her home from the hospital and she screamed hour after hour.  I couldn’t picture having a kindergartener and was sure something would happen to her along the way.  And things did happen, but she aced kindergarten and at least made it through the rest.  She’s a scientist.  And nine hours is in my time zone.  And I can afford a car that can do it.  And it’s in this country and in a nice place and there are cell phones and Facebook and airplanes and texts.

It’s impossible to be sad when I know people on chemo, I know people who care for their grandchildren because their children are incapable.  I know people who are unemployed and people who struggle with alcohol.

I’ve practiced being grateful for 35 years now, and I’ve gotten very good at it.

But . . . nine hours.  I feel a sharp little pain about that.  Say the pain is .1% out of 100%.  I know I can’t feed it and water it and help it grow bigger, the way I helped my little girl.

Bring the Body and the Mind Will Follow

I just stared reading The Social World of Alcoholics Anonymous: How It Works by Annette Smith and I’m very intrigued.  An introduction or Foreword makes the point that AA is rejected by many people who desperately need it.  I care especially about a few of those right now.  I was one of those for years.  AA literature and experience tells us that AA isn’t for everyone.  But experience also tells me that many who continue to reject AA go on to die or worse.

So the advice to “bring the body and the mind will follow,” in other words attend AA meetings and participate in AA activities and eventually (if you’re lucky, I would add) you may find yourself belonging to AA as that greatest dichotomy of my life, a sober alcoholic.

It’s not brainwashing, although I’ll go out on a limb and say that most people who first go to AA could use at least a good brain rinsing.  It’s a hope that if you “act as if” (another AA slogan and suggestion) you might actually “get it.”  If you hang around a barber shop, you’re likely to get a haircut.  If you hang around a bar, you’re likely to drink.  And if you hang around AA, you’re maybe not likely but a little bit more so than if you don’t around AA, likely to get sober.

Now today, in my oldtimerness, the problems I tackle are not so desperate and pressing as my need to stop drinking.  I know that if I -eat right -exercise -cultivate gratitude -overcome fear and a long list of other things, I will eventually become someone who eats right, exercises, is grateful and unafraid.  Those are just examples.  Examples for the most part that I succeed in applying a lot better than I used to but really not well enough at all.

January 5, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0930I have some boring, and some troubling things going on. 

The weather is very dark, and very cold.  I’ve given up looking at weather reports and I’ve asked Carole not to tell me about impending snow.  I spend less time worrying that one.  One day recently it was my worst case scenario.  I was at work, watching the snow fall, wondering if/when I’d get home.  That morning (not before) I found out we were expecting snow.  So I didn’t worry about it until that morning.  Then I made a real effort not to worry.  That morning, Carole and I read from My Utmost for His Highest, which we’ve doing since we learned that they read this book in early AA.  I related whatever the reading was to my snow worry (and that’s not easy to do, to relate those readings to anything, sometimes).  Anyway I did well through the day until the last hour, when the snow was coming down and I worried that if clients didn’t get out, I wouldn’t be able to leave.  My ride home was snowy but uneventful.  Really, as always.

I am so sick of this particular character defect.

Now terrible cold is coming, and that worries me.  In addition to worrying about getting to work, I’m worrying about my daughter.  She has an interview for a job here (dare I hope?  I dare not!) and will be driving in the terrible cold.

The day of her interview I have my first ever colonoscopy (sorry).  That’s scary.  The day before when I can’t eat is scary.  The night before when I have to drink that stuff is scary.  The procedure and the results are scary.

My work partner’s husband, I’ll call him Alek (as I’ve called her Irene), went for his first colonoscopy two weeks ago.  He is 61, and hates the doctor, and didn’t go at the recommended age of 50.  He also had symptoms that something might be wrong.  They found a mass so big they couldn’t continue.  They biopsied it and it is cancer.  They just found this out last week.

This disturbs me in so many ways.  I’m upset for Irene, I hate that she will have to go through this, no matter how it turns out.  I’m worried for me, because I have to be at work when she’s not, so I’m afraid I’ll have to be there a lot.  Even more afraid that she would quit or retire.  And not looking forward to my procedure.

This all sounds like a ton of worry, and it is.  I feel more worried and unsettled than usual.  Not knowing where my daughter will end up living is a big one.  Also Carole and my mother are planning a trip to Alaska (with me).  I don’t want to go, but my mother is at a point where it might be now or never.  Knowing every day that the weather could be challenging is no fun.  And my hip hurts something fierce.  I don’t know why.  My hip and my . . . breasts.  Menopause continued.  Two sometimes members of our meetings have relapsed again, one in a scary way that makes me remember not everyone makes it, and these two may not.

I didn’t drink in 2013, not once.  Irene (on a different topic) asked me about a party we had at the house for AA folks, and the New Year’s Eve AA party we went to.  “You mean, you just get together, and you don’t drink?”  Pretty much.  I did look at the crowd at the party and imagine us drunk.  This scene could only happen in my imagination, because in reality I couldn’t hold it together to attend such an event, or live such a life, if I was drinking.