November 16, 2022 (this day)

I can’t believe I haven’t updated since August. A lot has happened. My work place is closing. I’ve worked there for almost 25 years, and it was my second job ever. I’ve known some of those people for 25 years. I left supervising there last February but I’ve stayed on helping out two days a week since then. Lots of the people, clients and staff, are already gone. Many, many goodbyes I didn’t want to say. In a way that I didn’t want to say them.

My mother’s husband passed away. It was a hideous experience listening to my mother suffer through arranging and giving his care, but that part is over. She’s alone now, thousands of miles away, but looking to move close to me and my children. We haven’t all lived near each other in almost 25 years.

My across the street neighbor of 20 years moved away, and we are looking to move to somewhere without the god-forasken STAIRS. But, loss.

I turned 60 in May and as it may be evident from my longevity at work and in this house, I don’t like change. Though everything is constantly changing.

Somewhere in the literature (I’m bad at this) it says something like no one can build a house without first imagining it. Time for me to turn positivity toward the unknown future and be constantly grateful for the good things I know about, the good things I don’t yet know about, and the fact that I’ve arrived here at this day a bonus day, as every day has been in sobriety.

Pride Heads the Procession (Step Four continued)

To avoid falling into confusion over the names these defects should be called, let’s take a universally recognized list of major human failings — The Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. It is not by accident that pride heads the procession. For pride, leading to self-justification, and always spurred by conscious or unconscious fears, is the basic breeder of most human difficulties, the chief block to true progress. Pride lures us into making demands upon ourselves or upon others which cannot be met without perverting or misusing our God-given instincts. When the satisfaction of our instincts for sex, security, and society becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses.

Pride as a character defect interests me, and I (humbly) consider myself to be humble, as opposed to proud. I’m not inclined to think I do anything right, or well, and I’m much more comfortable in my pride in reverse character defect. To me pride has been twisted by backlash against discrimination, and many people seem to say we should be proud of our race or ethnicity, size or other characteristics we may or may not have had anything to do with creating. Then, too, say I do something well like grow a tomato plant. Should I be proud? I’m possibly lucky or skillful but really, so what? Any true accomplishments of mine, I feel like always need to be couched in my privilege. With my resources can’t anyone grow a wonderful tomato plant?

It’s beyond doubt to me that I should absolutely not be proud of my long sobriety. The credit does not go to me, and I feel that is does, I risk losing it.

I was at a meeting recently where we looked up the word “perverse” in relation to something in the Big Book. We found that it means persisting the wrong way. Here is the word again, in the fourth step.

Taking this paragraph, it seems to me that my fear (which I might like to label anxiety, but is fear) that I won’t have enough or be able to handle my existence (my house, my car, my medical bills) is coming from pride. I don’t feel self-justified, the way the text reads to me, though, since I know that I’m secure beyond what any person has any right to want or require, and I know that my fear is wrong, and that it’s perverse to persist in it.

And, believing in the program, I can’t help but hope that all this listing and confession will make it possible for God to remove it.

August 30, 2022 (this day)

They say if you want to know what your character defects are, fall in love. I will add to that, have your mother’s husband need lots of care, be far away.

Here’s a character defect I don’t talk a lot about, because who would I talk to? Being an only child has made me fearful, envious, lonely. No one shared my growing up experience, and no one understands the way this feels now.

Step 9 (made direct amends)

My father died when he was 33 and I was 6, and so my relationship with his family was on and off. I visited and wrote and called through the years. When I was 18, my grandfather, his father, was dying. My aunt called to let me know and still I don’t have clear memories of what when on or what I did or what I said. I know I was in the depths of my drinking, which was constant.

My grandfather died. I got sober. I got engaged, and married, and pregnant. At one of these showers, some of my cousins refused to come because of the way I had acted. Being finally sober and a good AA, I sought out my aunts and I apologized, though not completely sure what I had done, I was completely sure it was bad.

Aunts and cousins forgave me, hurray, for things I had said when completely sober. I don’t know. Some stupid remark that insulted them. I apologized for what I said when drunk, and was forgiven for what I said when sober. AA works, even when I don’t know what I’m doing.

July 31, 2022 (this day)

When I first began to understand the steps, and especially Step 6, I thought I would never, ever be able to “take” it because I would never, ever, speak to my mother’s husband again. I understood that this was symptomatic of a character defect of mine, but I also understood that I would never, ever, ask God to remove it. It was honestly my first thought about the matter.

My father died from alcoholism when he was 33 and I was 6. I’m an only child possibly because he was too sick to have more. My mother remarried when I was 9, and I stopped speaking to her husband when I was 10. He was 45, but that is beside the point.

We could analyze and quibble and I’m sure there’s a very lengthly story there, but just to be accurate here I will say there was no abuse of me, physical or psychological, thought he did psychologically abuse his son who lived with us, and that was hard to grow up around. Mostly he was a loud, obnoxious, vexatious person and one night while I was in the hospital with a dislocated knee, and he was complaining about being there in the middle of the night, I told him he didn’t have to come and he said he was done talking to me. This was 50 years and he’s kept his word.

Now I’m 60 and he’s 95 and he’s failing and in some crazy twist of fate I’m looking at assisted living places for him to live in. Near me. In a city very far from where he’s ever lived and where I’m sure he never wanted to go (see John 21). He also has lots of money, much more than I have, and two adult children who have much more than I have, one of them living near him. Twist of fate.

It’s of course because my mother is still very much in the picture. She didn’t expect him to live this long and had thought she’d be able to move to be near me some time ago.

I can’t imagine how he and I will maintain our not talking through this next little while.

But looking back on my distress about this situation – I was worried it would prevent my sobriety over 40 years ago. I’ve gotten and stayed sober and maintained my silence. I still feel like a fraud over it, because it wouldn’t take a deep dive into AA to know I shouldn’t have gone on like this for all this time. But it did not prevent my sobriety. Maybe it falls into the category of “maybe some day” like the 12 and 12 describes, but those days are dwindling.

Other character defects are being triggered by the situation, including resentment toward his children who aren’t helping and the fact that they will inherit his wealth although not only am I doing this now, but I also had to suffer growing up with him and they did not. The part about him being 45 while I was 10 and of course my mother’s role in all of this.

My AA given objective is to lessen those resentments and meanwhile not to let them know I’m feeling resentful. To be continued.

Let’s Ponder the Need for a List (Step Four continued)

Now let’s ponder the need for a list of the more glaring personality defects all of us have in varying degrees. To those having religious training, such a list would set forth serious violations of moral principles. Some others will think of this list as defects of character. Still others will call it an index of maladjustments. Some will become quite annoyed if there is talk about immorality, let alone sin. But all who are in the least reasonable will agree upon one point: that there is plenty wrong with us alcoholics about which plenty will have to be done if we are to expect sobriety, progress, and any real ability to cope with life.

Two things. First, I was at a meeting this very morning where the topic was resentment, and someone complained about the term “character defect.” She said, “We’re not defective!” And, by the way, I’m glad that “character defects” caught on rather than index of maladjustments.

Second, I belong to small group of close AA friends who frequently, when someone shares a manifestation of a character defect, remark, “That’s OK! You’re only human! We have to be easy on ourselves!”

This paragraph says that anyone who is in the least reasonable will agree that there’s plenty wrong with us, and that plenty will have to done about it.

So, by degrees. The woman who made the first comment about not being defective has two years of sobriety. The women who say we’re only human have considerably more. I always think about, and I started writing because to me, there is no much different in later sobriety than in beginning sobriety. Sure, as an active alcoholic I had plenty wrong with me. I was actually a menace. It was, to my understanding, a major defect that tried to kill me and risked innocent bystanders too. Now, after decades of sobriety, I’ve lived in many ways a “good” life and have helped some people along the way.

I feel like I still need this list, and like it isn’t all taken care of in Step 10. I believe the 12 and 12, and it says that we all have all these defects in varying degrees. I believe that. At this point I believe that I can still have sobriety, make progress, and increase (or at least slow the decline) of my real ability to cope with life. These are things I want. Here’s the way, the map, the directions.

June 15, 2022 (this day)

Today is a day for the infirmities of old age. I turned 60 a few weeks ago. That is a major accomplishment, in my mind, as my father died when he was 33, from alcoholism, and from what I can tell he didn’t drink as badly as I did. My grandmother, his mother, died at 56 after suffering from depression severe enough to get her shock treatments back in the 1960s. My uncle, my mother’s brother, was 60 when he died a few years ago. I left him a message offering to share my experience after he was already dead.

So here I am, undeserved. And I do realize that I’m fairly healthy and extremely privileged. I went to the periodontist to have my teeth cleaned this morning. All my teeth, except for one, are original. I’m going to the physical therapist this afternoon for help with knees which began getting help when I was nine years old. Privileged.

So I’m trying and failing to stop focusing on what is wrong with me. The main symptom that intrudes into my thoughts and my day is dizziness. I’ve had an MRI, an EKG, an XYZ and PDQ it is not diagnosable! I think it may be sinuses.

I need to have my defect of fear removed, and quite a bit of self centeredness. I think I’m good on gratitude, which shows me that since I think I’m good, I also need humility. And more gratitude. Just for today.

humbly ASKED (Step 7)

We mastered riding the bus in Chicago!

Humility is a key concept in AA. Step Seven is “Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” I’m stopping to think for a minute about the very word STEP. A step is one of a series of actions you take in order to achieve something. The something is a spiritual awakening. All very vague! I would also argue that the something is sobriety, though I know at least one group of people who would disagree. There were steps that my wife and I took in order to learn how to use the bus in Chicago. (side note: asking a Chicago bus rider how to do it actually resulted in misinformation and a near failure, right at the beginning)

So as one of the 12 steps to a spiritual awakening (and a lasting sobriety) I need to approach the higher power humbly – with a low or moderate estimation of myself – and ask that my character defects be removed.

I’ve been at this for a very long time, so I wonder just how humbly (and how sincerely, and how often) I have asked, because for sure the character defects are still here and still strong. Not, of course, anywhere near what they were when I was drinking, but here enough and strong enough to cause me distress and ill health.

I wonder if my half-heartedness (as confirmed by my half-hearted results) has its home in my lack of humility. That can go either way, making me think I’m too wonderful to really need to change much, or that I’m so bad and lost there’s really no use in trying.

April 17, 2022 (this day)

I was all ready (sort of) to try to force my way through another paragraph of Step Four, but is seems like it’s time to report on the day instead. Today is Easter, and it is going to be the first time in a long time that I have both children with me. My daughter has moved back “home,” the home we came to 25 years ago. She and her wonderful husband bought a (problematic) house 15-25 minutes from me, depending on traffic. And agreed to come over on this religious holiday! It’s really wonderful. My son is coming also, solo, which is a good thing. He’s out of a serious relationship with a somewhat scary woman, and it’s been difficult but no doubt a very good thing.

So I am very happy about all of this, and also rejoicing that my two cats are good. My mother is far away and having some difficulties that are to be expected at her age and the age of her husband. I have an elderly uncle who is also facing health problems. But for today all are OK.

My mind keeps going back to what worries me and also at times to what I don’t have, but it’s very easy for me today to refocus on what is wonderful and here and undeservedly mine.

And, since I gave up my job, I’ve been cooking a bit and made an excellent red cabbage. Then I made it again with less sugar and it’s excellence grew in my eyes, diminished in the eyes of my wife……

Having Found the Shoes that Fit (Step 4 continued)

Of course the depressive and the power-driver are personality extremes, types with which A.A. and the whole world abound. Often these personalities are just as sharply defined as the examples given. But just as often some of us will fit more or less into both classifications. Human beings are never quite alike, so each of us, when making an inventory, will need to determine what his individual character defects are. Having found the shoes that fit, he ought to step into them and walk with new confidence that he is at last on the right track.

Confidence- feeling certain about the truth.

The right track. That track is to stay sober and to diminish and lessen the strength of and take the sharp edges off and give up my character defects. Abandon, don’t go back. Ask to have them removed.

I can spend so very many cumulative hours in fear. Big fear and little fear and a constant undercurrent of worry that sometimes comes to surface and floods.