Today Carole and I went shopping at an outlet mall. I came home with all of my money. This has nothing to do with AA except that it is an infinitesimal part of my feeling “different” like we all did, but I wear a size 5 shoe and they just don’t exist.
Tomorrow I will start my fourth week at work without my partner. And she’ll start her fourth week in life without her husband. I can do it, but I don’t like it. I miss her terribly, there. Because at home, I’m lucky to live near her and to be a friend, so I don’t have to actually miss her in my life, just in my work life. It’s just so sad.
Last night I chaired my meeting and I made cookies for the occasion from a mix. All I had to do was add butter and water and I still messed them up. There were four left over, so you know they were bad. I don’t like to cook and I’m not good at it and I don’t know why, once every decade or so, I try.
So I’m lucky that for just this moment, there’s really nothing else going on with me. And that’s the way I like it.
Saturday night I was asked to lead my meeting with two minutes warning. I think that’s the least amount of warning I’ve ever had when asked to tell my story. I didn’t hesitate to say yes (though I didn’t want to do it). I was told to say “yes” to anything anyone asks me to do in AA (within reason, and having to do with AA, and that I can possibly do) and that was an excellent idea for me to internalize. Left to my own desires, I would never want to tell my story and I probably never would.
For the topic for discussion I chose “carrying this message.” People talked about some of the many ways AA members carry this message. The literature tells us that we must carry this message to stay sober, and that working with alcoholics is the surest way to ensure personal sobriety.
All acts of service are carrying this message as we keep AA going for ourselves and for those yet to come. And even though the concept of carrying this message appears in Step Twelve, the newer newcomer is also doing it when he or she helps someone who is even newer. Also anytime we encourage someone or help someone or share our experience to ease the way of someone we are carrying this message.
Someone mentioned being “out” as far as the people in his life know he is in AA, so they can come to him for help if they want help. It made me think about a few of my favorite active alcoholics, all family members. My mother and my uncle certainly know that I was a big bad problem drinker way back when, but I don’t know if they, especially my uncle, ever thinks about those times or realizes that I am 100% sober. He surely doesn’t know I’m in AA.
I struggle with things like that, and years pass during which I offer no help to anyone outside of AA. Within AA I’m rather poor at reaching out as well.
On to the character defect list I go . . .
It was two weeks yesterday since Alek died. Since then I’ve been to his funeral. I’ve been to my daughter’s new place far far away from here. I’ve been to work without my partner for two weeks. I’ve been to an AA meeting far, far away from here (in my daughter’s new place). I’ve been in freezing fog (coming home from my daughter’s new place). I’ve been in winter and now I hope to be in spring.
In writing all that, I hoped to develop some over-arching truth about something that would make me feel better about it all. I am actually better about it all. Getting back to work last Wednesday without Irene there was easier for me than it had been the week before. Every moment didn’t fill me with terrible sadness, like the moments did before. Maybe it helps that’s I’ve seen my daughter’s new place and can picture her there a little bit. Maybe it helps that she seems happy with her choice so far. That certainly helps. A reprieve from snow and ice is also a wonderful thing. And Alek’s death at 61 makes me and most of us who knew him determined to be less sad about things that are actually happy.
OK, maybe that one is just me. I talked to someone from work the other day about her struggles with her step children. Having lived through one of the roles in that unhappy constellation and having come out the other side with my wife still here and my children still speaking to us, I was so able to see that the things my colleague was stressing over were so minor in the scheme of things. Not worth the negative emotion she was spending on them. I’m hoping to do that for myself in my new situations.
She said my talk with her was “uplifting.” How cool that I, who was once drunk and dying under the table, today can “uplift” someone. That’s all because of AA.
In A.A.’s pioneering time, none but the most desperate cases could swallow and digest this unpalatable truth. Even these “last-gaspers” often had difficulty in realizing how hopeless they actually were. But a few did, and when these laid hold of A.A. principles with all the fervor with which the drowning seize life preservers, they almost invariably got well. That is why the first edition of the book “Alcoholics Anonymous,” published when our membership was small, dealt with low-bottom cases only. Many less desperate alcoholics tried A.A., but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.
They almost invariably got well, I think, because they laid hold of A.A. principles with fervor. More than fervor. The people I see slip and slide and less than fervent.
Not being able to admit hopelessness was a huge stumbling block for me when I first tried to get sober. I’m thankful that I realized, to some extent, right away that I was an alcoholic, though I had not much in common with many of the old men who populated the meetings. But my further drinking, drinking after I had been exposed to AA shows me that I still had hope that I would be able to drink. I actually hoped that I could be a functioning alcoholic. I’m lucky I lived through the experience I needed to prove to me that I could not. I’m equally as lucky that I could not be a functioning alcoholic. That seems like a very sad aspiration now.
I’m planning to be here a little more often.
My work partner Irene’s husband, Alek, died last night. He was 61. He’d been diagnosed with cancer in December, and was going through the treatments, and yesterday he felt so good they were going out to dinner and talking about when to make that Alaska cruise. I don’t know what happened yet. I feel really numb about it.
I’ve made plans to visit my daughter in her new place, far far away from here. I’ve said goodbye a few times to my friend who is moving. The pizza, brownies and cake picture is from one of those goodbyes. I’ve tried to drill it into my thick head a little more deeply that I have to be healthier to live longer and to live well. Carole and I have given up drinking and smoking and those are the big baddies, but there are other things out there that will cut our lives shorter than they need to be, and that time is approaching now, and in the next ten years.
So in my discombobulation I was trying to help one of the repeat relapsers I know and I realized and remembered that at every difficult time in my sobriety, I have turned back to the steps and I have not been disappointed. Either time has passed or the steps have helped or both. I’ve never given up working on the steps since I began this blog a few years ago, but I’m going to step it up and make it more frequent for a while. Step One right now. Thanks to 29 years of sobriety, my life is not unmanageable, and neither are my emotions or my options, nor am I powerless over these things though I remain powerless over alcohol. I have a solution and a plan to work it and infinite help to do so today.