The Sponsor Continues (Step Two continued)

The sponsor continues, “Take, for example, my own
case. I had a scientific schooling. Naturally I respected,
venerated, even worshiped science. As a matter of fact, I
still do—all except the worship part. Time after time, my

instructors held up to me the basic principle of all scientific progress: search and research, again and again, always

with the open mind. When I first looked at A.A. my reaction was just like yours. This A.A. business, I thought,
is totally unscientific. This I can’t swallow. I simply won’t
consider such nonsense.
“Then I woke up. I had to admit that A.A. showed results, prodigious results. I saw that my attitude regarding
these had been anything but scientific. It wasn’t A.A. that
had the closed mind, it was me. The minute I stopped arguing, I could begin to see and feel. Right there, Step Two
gently and very gradually began to infiltrate my life. I can’t
say upon what occasion or upon what day I came to believe
in a Power greater than myself, but I certainly have that
belief now. To acquire it, I had only to stop fighting and
practice the rest of A.A.’s program as enthusiastically as
I could . . . “
I knew I was going to write about this and I wanted to go beyond my own experience a bit.  I was very young when I first went to AA.  I was very anti-higher power, and my experience can be found within the history of this blog.  I Googled around a little and read explanations of how Bill W took the Christianity of the Oxford Group and expanded upon it for us alcoholics.  Magic.
Then I traced the links in my blog’s stats.  This lead me to a blog I didn’t recognize, and it seems I commented about six months ago to someone who was writing about being send to AA by her therapist.  She had found the meeting to be OK and was going to look into agnostic groups in AA.  She lived in one of the biggest cities in the world and had those available to her.  Someone else in the comments had said that she had thought about looking into AA but the higher power concept was keeping her out.  She didn’t believe in a higher anything.  I followed that link to her blog and found that a few days ago, she had written in utter despair.  Life terrible.  Finances terrible, family terrible, mental state terrible.  Really terrible.
I don’t know what it was in me that let me continue in AA despite my antagonism toward the higher power concept.  Immediately the people there told me my higher power did not have to be “God.”  I understood pretty quickly that if I just could not accept that there was anyone or anything higher than me, well, I had problems other than alcohol for sure.  It makes me so sad that people will sink beyond despair and lives terrible, desperate lives rather than just giving the program and the concepts a chance.  Nothing to lose.  Nothing!
I don’t know many people who venerate science but I know quite a few who don’t believe in God.  The active alcoholic has just got to accept direction from somewhere, from someone, from something, or she is sure to get worse.  I know there are exceptions but I generally find AAs to be gentle about this part of the program and welcoming to unbelievers.  I’m sure many such unbelievers try and reject AA but hey, at least they have demonstrated to themselves and to others that they were willing to try.
I hope the blogger I wrote of does try AA and I hope she succeeds at it.  I understand, in the way only an alcoholic can, the feeling of choosing complete misery and failure over making an effort to live life on a spiritual basis.  I really do.

December 24, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0862This year is different, my daughter is far away (in my estimation anyway), but we’re visiting her.  She wants us, we want to do it, and we’re all able to.  The weather and the dog have cooperated.  We all have way too much stuff, and lives we’ll be happy to get back to when the holiday is over.  All this in my life is made possible by my sobriety.  Marry Christmas!

December 20, 2014 (this day)

SAM_2396I’m having extreme business due to the time of year, plus the fact that Carole and I are having our attic finished.  Not finished like heated, but finished like having the ceiling and walls completed.  I love attics.  My love started with my grandparents’ attic where I found relics of my mother’s and her siblings’ past.  I’m also horribly sentimental when it comes to objects and clothing.  I also did not know, until it was way past too late, that I would have only two children.  I always wanted more.


So when my daughter outgrew things I packed them up.  When my son was born I went through them and took out everything a boy could use.  The girls things, the majority of her things, went back into packing.  Then my best friend had three boys, and most of the my son’s things got passed on to her, but the girl things remained and I have moved them across the country and back again.  I’m now finding box after box of pristine girl clothes, more than 25 years old.


I’m also finding relics of my own from before then.  There are many of my papers and tests from college, from 1982 and 1983, the years before I stopped drinking.  Failed tests, terrible papers.  Then a sonogram from May 1, 1985, my first sober anniversary.  I was five months pregnant.


In general it is a terrible idea to get married and pregnant your first year of sobriety, and the marriage was truly a bad idea and didn’t work out.  The kids, or course, I cannot regret.  And a part of me wonders if I didn’t need that life change to finally get sober and stay sober.  At times I used to feel guilty, like I was faking sobriety somehow because I got pregnant, then was a mother, and that’s why I didn’t drink.  At the same time I know that many women got pregnant and became a mother and did continue to drink.


As I’m writing this, my work partner is texting me regarding our combined gift to our staff.  We have 40 people we supervise now, more than ever, and 88 clients, more than ever.  My attic is getting cleaned and my wife and son (and dog) want to go with me to see my daughter, who wants to see us!  Carole and I have been legally married for one year today.  Wonders never cease.


IMG_0314We found, quite by accident, the cemetery of a closed mental institution near where my daughter now lives.  Neglected graves are a problem for closed institutions, and of course as we see here the people were buried without a name, a date, a relationship, or anything besides a number that was given arbitrarily.  I can only wonder about #1253.  Who was it?  How old?  Male or female?  Many people ended up in institutions due to alcoholism and disabilities resulting from alcoholism.  I could have easily been #1253 if I had been born in another time and place.


The speaker at my meeting last night asked the question, “What kind of service are you good at?”  He felt he didn’t give a “good” lead, but that there were other aspects of service he was better at and enjoyed more.


I was thinking recently about other methods of recovery from alcoholism, other than AA, and how most of them don’t ask the recovered person to “pass it on.”  Lots of recovery aim to get the person better, and maybe to maintain that state of health, but usually they don’t then encourage or require the person who has gotten better to go help other people get better.


I often hear people say that aside from a release from alcohol, one of the best, most important things they’ve gained in AA is an unbelievable community.  I also hear that if I don’t participate and work with other alcoholics, I’m in danger of relapse.  I’ve also read that other “temperance” (anti-alcohol) movements may have died out because they didn’t reach out.


AA is not a pyramid scheme and no one recruits or gets credit for bringing people in.  These days new people usually show up on our doorstep and we do our best to help them.  Threats like “if you don’t follow the program you may drink again and if you drink again you may die this time” come from bitter and tragic experience, not an AA manual.


I think it’s safe to say that most of us in AA feel compassion, sympathy toward suffering alcoholics and the desire to share what we’ve found and help them.  The admonition to me that I need to do this in order to stay sober is just the kind of kick in the pants I need.  Not because I don’t want to help.  I do want to help.  But because it would be so much easier for me not to help.  I’ve gotten my recovery.  I’ve got better things to do.  Good luck to you.


So I’m trying to view the concept of compassion in a broader sense, to practice this principle in all of my affairs.  I am a caretaker, to a large extent.  That is natural for me and rewarding for me.  But the people and animals I take care of are a select bunch.  They are mostly the people and animals that I find appealing to help.  I pass by a lot of distress every day that I don’t reach out to touch.  I need to grow in compassion, even when the threat of relapse isn’t involved.

December 8, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0625The sky often on fire like this when I go to work and when I come home at this time of year.  Beautiful.  Sometimes though that sun is blazing in my eyes each way, and that is difficult for me to bear.  It comes through the windshield at just the right angle to blind me, and I can’t get the visor in any position to block it.


This time of year is wonderful and difficult for me.  There are lots of interactions required of me, lots of time spent with people.  Like most of us I also miss people at this time.  I was just looking at pictures of my grandparents first as children, then as my grandparents.  It surprises me every time I see a new person on Facebook I went to school with way back when.  We’ve all gotten so old.


There are things I feel sad and even bitter about, but AA has taught me that I can’t stay in those feelings for very long.  They will eventually cause me to drink.  And I don’t know when eventually is.  More than that, I’ve learned to feel serenity and happiness.  I want those, every time they leave I want them back.  I’ve learned how to cultivate them and I’ll keep doing that as much as I can for as long as I can.


There will be moments coming up in the next few weeks when I find it hard to cope, when maybe  I fail to cope.  But I do not think of drinking any more than I think of breaking my own leg, or poking out my own eye.  Drinking would hurt more.  That’s what my sanity looks like today.



I remember when I heard that George McGovern’s daughter Terry had died from drinking and falling down, frozen in the snow, in 1994.  I had ten years of sobriety then, but before I got sober I had my own could-have-died experience in the snow when I pulled off the road, too drunk to continue, and snow quickly covered my car.  AA friends found me and likely saved my life that time.  They took me to the hospital for detox but when I got out of the hospital, I continued drinking.


Terry’s story is like that but obviously, ultimately, much worse.  She was a life-long journal writer, and her father went through those journals after she died, and he uses many of her own words in the book.  He was not an alcoholic, but he tried hard to understand alcoholism and to explain it to us.  Some of the passages he uses from her early journals show what we would call “alcoholic thinking,” and he does a great job tying them to her inability to maintain sobriety through many, many years of trying.


It is certainly a tragic story.  Terry had, it seems from the outside, just about everything, and her family supported her financially and spiritually and even left her to herself when it seemed best to do that.  Terry had education and brains and two great children.  She went through literally years of daily psychotherapy, and she spent years in AA.  She went to expensive elite rehabs and she got committed to hospitals against her will.  They were just about to commit her again when she chased the drink as far as possible, and she died.


I highly recommend the book.  I feel it is very well done, and it adds insight from the unusual perspective of a father informed by his daughter’s own writings.  When Terry died, I knew that it could have been me.  I knew that it would be me, if I was lucky, if I started drinking again.  It reaffirms for me that I am one of the lucky, lucky, lucky ones, just for today.