Second, to get sober and to stay sober . . . (Step Two continued)

“…Second, to get sober and to stay sober, you don’t have to swallow all of Step Two right now.  Looking back, I find that I took it piecemeal myself. Third, all you really need is a truly open mind. Just resign from the debating society and quit bothering yourself with such deep questions as whether it was the hen or the egg that came first. Again I say, all you need is the open mind.”
“To get sober and to stay sober.”  What amazing words!
I began attending AA meetings when I was sixteen, almost seventeen years old.  I had consciously turned my back on the God of my upbringing, and I was having nothing to do with the religious aspects of AA.  I held hands, but I didn’t pray.  Things like that.
No one pressured me to accept “God,” and I’m grateful.  I could understand the group as a power greater than myself, it surely was, and I could go from there.  I think I did have some understanding of an open mind.  Most of the time, when people won’t give AA a chance, I think it’s because of a closed mind, a mind that is closed to some concept or “suggestion.”
I would urge beginners not to get stuck here, but to go on.
My oldtimer take on this concept is different.  I’ve come to be at least sort of comfortable not defining the “higher power,” not actually knowing if it is supernatural or not.  I have been restored to sanity, for today, as it relates to me and my relationship to alcohol.  I know today that it’s poison to me and that if I start, I most likely will not be able to stop.  But in other ways?  There are other ways I know I deny reality, just like I kept trying to drink.  There are all kinds of manifestations of powers greater than myself.  I know they can restore my sanity on many issues, but I don’t turn my will and my life over.
To be continued.
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November 20, 2014 (this day)

I’ve been terribly busy, bingeing on Sims.  Neglecting what I should do, which is mostly get ready for Thanksgiving.  My mother gets here Monday night, my daughter some time after that.  I’m working the day before and the day after.  I hate that my daughter, especially, is so far away.  She’ll fly, and her visit will be brief.  And I’m so filled with gratitude that she wants to visit and is able to.  When I started this blog she was in college.  She’s now through her master’s and just doing so well, I never would have hoped for such an outcome.  But I miss her.  And that’s awesome also.

 

I was ready an anti-AA blog or two.  It is just amazing.  AA can ruin your life?  I don’t think so.  It’s bad to be told I am powerless?  No, not over alcohol.  If I was still trying to have power over that, there would be no happy holiday for anyone who cared about me.

 

There are no downsides to abstinence, people, not any downsides at all.  Downsides to drunkenness?  Those, of course, are infinite.

 

It’s interesting to watch the regular people think hard about gratitude.  Those of us in AA are called to live it, every single day.  That’s an excellent way to live.

Advanced Humility

Still, however, God continued with my spiritual growth. He showed me, as F. B.
Meyer suggests, that even while I sang His praises, I was inclined to admire my own
singing. He showed me that, while my face shone with a new light, I was noting that
fact in the mirror. He showed me that, in my most earnest appeals to come to Christ,
I was greatly admiring my own earnestness. He showed me that I was proud even of
my new humility and that I congratulated myself on the knowledge of divine things
which other men might not possess.
Carole and I are reading “I Was a Pagan” by V.C. Kitchen.  This was published in 1934 and it describes well some of the Oxford Group philosophy that helped form AA.  Honestly, there are phrases and concepts that leap off the page at us as being extremely familiar, they are so similar to what we find in the Big Book and the 12 and 12.  This book I do recommend that others read, though I have to say I don’t think I could read it nearly as well alone as I do with someone.  If I didn’t have Carole to read these things with, I would probably look to form some kind of meeting to do it, and I would probably run into problems with “unapproved” literature, but she’s here so I’m not facing that.  But that’s a topic for a different post.
We are almost to the end of the book and yesterday we read the passage quoted above, and it smacked us both in the face for its truth and humor.  The book IS Christian, and AA is NOT Christian, so readers will have to be able to get past the C-word in order to profit from the book.  My personal translation of “come to Christ” would be something like “follow the will of my Higher Power.”  So ” . . . my higher power showed me . . . that, even while I sang the praises of God (my higher power), I was inclined to admire my own singing.  God showed me that, while my face shown in a new light, I was noting that fact in the mirror.  God showed me that, in my most honest appeals to know and follow God’s will for me, I was greatly admiring my own earnestness.  God showed me that I was proud even of my new humility and that I congratulated myself on the knowledge of things which others might not possess.”
I just ran this past Carole and asked her what it meant to her, and she said something like, “It shows me where I still need to grow.”  Something like that.  I read it and know I’m looking right at something vitally important to my continued growth, but I’m left feeling a little bit disheartened that I don’t think I’ll ever advance in this way.  I can’t imagine getting to a place where I don’t note that I’ve made progress, if I have, where I don’t admire my own earnestness.
I work with people who have developmental disabilities, and the needs are endless and profound.  There is a young woman I’m trying to help right now, and while it is my job to help her I’m doing more than my job calls for, because I want to and I can.  I’m regularly getting praise for this and the occasional satisfaction of actually getting something accomplished, plus a measure of hope goes along with the situation that I can really change something by the force of my efforts for this person, and I find the hope reinforcing as well.  That’s all well and good.  What I’m trying to describe and maybe bring to light is the positive emotion it all engenders in me.  I cannot understand, at the base of it, if it’s wrong for me to get pleasure out of the praise, the internal satisfaction, the feeling that I really helped change something for the better.
I’m not suffering in the helping.  It does bring me closer to a bad situation than I want to be, but I’m not made to visit her awful environment. I give up a small amount of time and no amount of money or material goods.  Sure many people in my place wouldn’t do what I’m doing, but I know they probably do other good things.  I’m not better than most of them.  I say most of them because I’ve known some bad people but not many.  I think I need to think about more and come back to it.  There seems to be some kind of root of humility that I don’t understand.

“Well,” says the newcomer . . . (Step Two continued)

“Well,” says the newcomer, “I know you’re telling me the
truth. It’s no doubt a fact that A.A. is full of people who
once believed as I do. But just how, in these circumstances,
does a fellow ‘take it easy’? That’s what I want to know.”
“That,” agrees the sponsor, “is a very good question in-
deed. I think I can tell you exactly how to relax. You won’t
have to work at it very hard, either. Listen, if you will, to
these three statements. First, Alcoholics Anonymous does
not demand that you believe anything. All of its Twelve
Steps are but suggestions.
Those are some of the most important words written in the AA literature about AA, I do believe.  Critics will say that individuals at meetings may disagree, and say that if you don’t believe as they do, you will drink, and die.  And a few individuals may say that, but this (to me) is the official AA line.
I hope newcomers or chronic relapsers (like I was) can take heart there, and continue on just that, if they need to.  I came to AA and I left AA (by drinking) and came back and repeated and repeated and repeated.  They did not demand I believe anything.
The group is surely a higher power.  Any group of people is a power greater than me, because I’m only one.  Any group of AA people was a power greater than me when they were able to stop drinking alcoholically and I was not able to.  People who try to skip parts of the program or skimp and parts will be warned, as they should.  I will warn them, if I can, because skipping and skimping meant I couldn’t achieve sobriety, and drinking meant I risked my life and the life of countless innocent others.
I hear that some people achieve sobriety with groups modeled after AA but minus the higher power concept.  That’s great.  I don’t know any of those people, but then I hang out in AA meetings, so I wouldn’t.  If those groups really are successful, they will flourish, and I’ll be glad.  So far they’re not catching on very well.  I also hear there are psychological therapies and medical interventions that succeed, and again, I’m glad.  Maybe the person next to me at work is the product of such a success, but I don’t think so.  Those things are expensive if nothing else, so not readily available.
AA does not demand you believe anything, or do anything, or say anything, or be anything.  AA’s will tell you what worked for them, and if you’re very fortunate, it will work for you as well.

November 1, 2014 (this day)

IMG_1235Last Monday night at around 7:30 my mother’s friend called.  I’ll call her Daniela.  She had been on the phone with my mother when my mother suddenly couldn’t speak, and then the phone went dead.  Daniela lives several hundred miles away from my mother, and I live several hundred miles away from both of them.  Carole called the police in my mother’s area and they said they would check on her.

Now my version of this story is different from Carole’s, even though it happened less than a week ago and we were both paying attention.  This happens often, and we won’t let the fact that I have a degree in journalism and am an investigator for the state give my version any more credence than hers.  Ahem.

Anyway an hour later Carole called back and found out they had sent her to a hospital.  The hospital said she’d been there for six minutes, and they didn’t know what was what.  Finally Daniela called back and said that my mother’s husband had called Daniela to let her know that my mother was drunk, had passed out and was now in the hospital.

Carole called my mother’s husband.  He said that my mother had been drinking for two days.  He said that earlier that afternoon, my mother had gone outside to get the mail and didn’t come back in.  When he looked for her he found her passed out on the walkway.  He dragged her inside and she said she was fine.  An hour later he heard a crash and found her again passed out, this time hung up between the printer and the fax machine.  When I hear this, I recall one of the few memories I have of my father (he died from alcoholism when I was six and he was 33) when I saw him passed out and hung between the couch and the coffee table.  This time there was a little blood and my mother’s husband called an ambulance.  My mother refused to go to the hospital and signed a waiver that she was going against medical advice.  Three hours later, my mother was talking to Daniela when she passed out again.  This time the ambulance took and, her husband said, kept her.  She got two stitches in her head.

The next day Carole and my son talked to my mother on the phone.  She was home, denying any of it had ever happened and that she actually hadn’t gone to the hospital at all, though she did admit she has two stitches in her head.  She’s not a doctor.  She could not stitch her own head.

I am 52 years old, and she is 75.  When I tell people that it’s never too late to give your child a sober parent, I am not kidding.  It is not too late.