September 17, 2019 (this day)

I haven’t been right since June.  In June, I went to the dentist and found out I have high blood pressure.  I started on my first-ever permanent medication.  My daughter and her husband visited for the 4th of July, and my son brought his girlfriend over, letting them all meet for the first time.  I went on a cruise with my wife, my mother, and my aunt, and that was very nice.  As we were getting home, my wife came down with a horrific cold.  While we were away, my work partner retired and another clinician left.  We hired three new clinicians, but since they were all new, I was the only one at work who knew how to do any of the paper work, and it was much harder to teach them than it would have been to do it myself.  I had to be there for every click of the mouse and for every meeting.  As that was going on, I got the horrific cold.  My work got a state licensing date of Sept 13, and again I was the only one who knew how to check anything and I felt I had to check everything, so that went on for weeks.  Finally I got a sharp and terrible pain in my lower left ribcage, so bad that I went to the doctor and got x-rays.  Like most of my ailments, it was nebulous and undiagnosable and just strange.  Clear lungs, no broken ribs, organs OK.  It still hurts!  We’ve also had visitors and Carole has traveled.  My son has told us that he’s going to get married to his girlfriend.  My wife is turning 60 this month, my mother is turning 80 next month.  My work is shorter-staffed than it has ever ever been.  At licensing, we got 100% and heaps of praise.  Oh, an on my mother’s birthday, I have to call in to see if I’ll have jury duty.  I went years ago, and while I only know one other person who has ever gotten a notice and then didn’t have to appear, I’m being called for the second time.  We had our porched screened-in due to the tree damage it suffered in the storm last February that scared the heck out of me.  And a plumber told us that our 92-year-old house has 92-year-old terra cotta pipes.

All of these things, good and bad, have been brought to my life by AA.

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Sponsorship

I’ll just leave this here.  I haven’t been successful in having a sponsor or in being a sponsor.  From all I’ve experienced and all I’ve seen, it means “special aa friend.”  Which is fine.  Everyone should have one.  But gone are the days when a sponsor pays for your hospital stay and puts you up.

“I have a sponsor, and my sponsor has a sponsor.”  And?  This must end somewhere, no? I hear that as a self-righteous boast.  It is not (in my experience) needed for a good long sobriety.

That is all.

August 2, 2019 (this day)

I failed to post in July!  I do believe that’s the first whole entire month I’ve missed.

There’s been a bunch of stuff, but all is well.  I went on a cruise with my wife, my mother, and my aunt.  We attended one AA meeting on the boat, which was fun, but also awkward.

While I was gone, my work partner of almost 20 years retired.  At the same time, another clinician at my work changed jobs, and so I’m now trying to teach the job to two brand new people, by myself.

My daughter and her husband visited for the 4th of July.  My son and his girlfriend came over, and everyone liked everyone.  We had the porch the got damaged back in February by the scary scary storm replaced with a screened in porch that so far the cats are not impressed with.

So I’m on my own at work, and I’m going to withhold my judgement of this job for one year, to see if I can stand it.

In These Ways We Are Set in Conflict (Step Four continued)

But that is not all of the danger.  Every time a person imposes his instincts unreasonably upon others, unhappiness follows.  If the pursuit of wealth tramples upon people who happen to be in the way, then anger, jealousy, and revenge are likely to be aroused.  If sex runs riot, there is a similar uproar.  Demands made upon other people for too much attention, protection, and love can only invite domination or revulsion in the protectors themselves — two emotions quite as unhealthy as the demands which evoked them.  When an individual’s desire for prestige becomes uncontrollable, whether in the sewing circle or at the international conference table, other people suffer and often revolt.  This collision of instincts can produce anything from a cold snub to a blazing revolution.  In these ways we are set in conflict not only with ourselves, but with other people who have instincts, too.

Timely!  As always, any part of the program I set my attention on corresponds with what is happening and with what I need to consider to grow.

I’ve been at my same job for twenty one years, supervising a human services program with a partner whose job is the same as mine.  We have worked for over ten years with someone else who has an important role in the program, let’s call him Maurice.  Maurice  has taken another job in the agency in the same building, and my work partner is retiring in one month, and I will supervise the program alone, along with an assistant yet to be named.

Many many of my character defects are blowing full force with these changes.  Number one is fear, the fear of doing this without my partner, on my own.  I have always taken great comfort in the fact that there are two of us.

There is also fear of conflict with my soon-to-be-ex partner and Maurice as I make changes that I feel are needed.  I’ll make these changes in conjunction with the next boss above us, but he gives us a fairly free hand.

My “words to live by” up until today have been,”Scaring yourself through what-if scenarios has traditionally been called worry.”  I kept that one for two weeks, it fit so well.  Well I turned the card today and now will be considering Bruce Springsteen – You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart.”

And all this will mean I have increased contact with all the other supervisors of other programs, and that, I do not want.  I don’t want to impose my will on them, I want to hide from them.

Meanwhile continuing to deal with others who demand too much attention, protection, and love, without dominating or feeling revulsion.

In these ways I am set in conflict.

May 31, 2019 (this day)

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This month I am 35 years sober, 57 years old.  I’ve been at my same place of employment for 21 years, and my work partner of 20 years has told me she’ll retire in July.  I had asked my supervisor what his plans were for me after that happens, and he told me he plans that I should supervise alone.

Could I tell the clients and their loved-ones that I’ve done this for 30 years just to chicken out at the end?

Most likely I’ll try it, and give it a year or six months to see if I can handle it.  It feels terribly frightening to think of doing it without the support of my partnership.  So many discussions I have with people around this issue center one what I want, what I like, what I enjoy.  And I know I need a certain amount of happiness to do a decent job.  But I think AA has taught me to enjoy being useful.  To always be grateful.  To do what God would have me do, not what I want, like, or enjoy.  Didn’t doing what I wanted to do get me to the threshold of 35 years of sobriety?

 

Spirituality in AA

I’ve been thinking and writing about the “spirit” topics of AA since last October.  As a quick synopsis of  my own spiritual experiences, I was raised as a half-hearted liberal Lutheran, and confirmed in that church against my will.  By the time I was 13 I had given up on any idea of God, and when I tried to bail on confirmation my mother told me that my grandfather would be heartbroken, and my pastor told me that I had to write an essay of lies about why I wanted to be confirmed.  I did, and I went through the ceremony, and I promised myself I wouldn’t come back.

That was around the time I started drinking and going to AA, and I was as dismayed as anyone to find God mentioned and prayers said.  I went along for a while doing things like holding hands but not saying the prayers.  As my drinking got worse, I sometimes resorted to drunken desperate prayers to whatever is out there.  I took heart when I heard some of the comforting things in AA, like “do you believe, or are you willing to believe?” and that the organization and groups of AA were a power greater than me sufficient to build a recovery on.

I felt willing to believe, and I still do.  I still do not know about a spiritual supernatural entity that is God, but today when I hold hands I say the words of the prayer.  I don’t know about our “father” or his “heaven,” and I don’t need to know in order to be sober and happy.

That’s my experience, and the Big Book tells us that there are as many experiences in AA as there are people.

I’m still baffled by the concept of spirit.  Alcoholism is, I can see, mental and physical.  I was at times physically a wreck.  I gained weight and got bloated and taxed my liver beyond its ability to cope.  Mentally, I denied reality every time I drank and thought that this time it would be different, this time I would be able to control it.  I also was not able to attend school and do good enough work there while drinking.

The “no, never” attitude I had about a higher power was, I think, evidence of being spiritually sick.  My spirit, my emotions, were depressed and intolerable to me.  I couldn’t stand life when I was sober.  I needed something beyond myself to take the edge off.  My solution, alcohol, ended up depressing me further, and throwing me into the pit I was trying to avoid and escape.

I don’t know if my spirit is healthy these days, but I do know that it looks for the light.  I try to find sensible, kind, loving ways out of difficulties that I encounter in my life and in the world.  The spiritual prescription of AA, deciding to live right, help others, abandon myself and my self-seeking, selfish will give me, day by day, a nice way to live.  The tools I’ve learned to use “take the edge off” that don’t use drugs and don’t endanger me or anyone else are mostly second nature, though I still work to sharpen them and to find new ones.  I can even, sometimes, once in while, see a lesson and welcome adversity as a way to a better life, and usually, my spirit is willing.

April 14, 2019 (this day)

My children are on their way to South Africa.  Yesterday would have been my father’s birthday.  He would have been 85 or 86.  I’m not sure.  He died when he was 33, from alcoholism.  He didn’t know me and he didn’t know them and he sure didn’t go to South Africa.

I don’t like to travel and I actually fear it.  I like being in interesting places, but getting to and from frightens me beyond what it should.  I have traveled and I’ll continue to, but I won’t like it.  Not until I’m entirely ready to give up that fear.  So thinking of my kids so far away is hard for me to accept.  That’s the best way I can explain this particular anxiety.  I feel like I can’t bear it, and yet, I do.

Good AA that I am I do not need it to be explained to me.  I’m grateful beyond explanation that I have these children, that they are sobriety babies, that they have the means and the desire and the ability to take such a trip, that they love each other enough to do it.  These are things that are truly, truly, way beyond my expectations or imaginings.

And yet….

I work with adults who have multiple, severe disabilities.  Two of them died in the past week and a half, two who had been with us for almost 20 years.  The parents of individuals like this inspire me endlessly.  Some of these parents devote their entire lives to their children, only to lose them, and I can’t imagine the pain.

Minute by minute, I’ll get through my kids’ trip.  Soon it will be a memory (like my daughter’s solo trip to Greece a few years ago).  My kids will not tell the story years from now, “Then we went to South Africa, and our mother was so freaked out, she drank.”  Of course they won’t.