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.

June 26, 2018 (this day)

My daughter’s wedding was lovely, and as I predicted, no one worried about my drinking.  I worried, though, about everyone else’s drinking.  Every family wedding is ruined at least a bit by a family drunk.  They are related to me by blood, by marriage, and by adoption.  They are the ones who are clearly alcoholic and drink too much each and every time and they are the ones who usually drink with no problem and they are the ones who never drink.  I was determined to do what I could to prevent this from happening this time.  I was honestly grim, and tense, but I successfully cut one off and maybe cut another down.  The drunk this time was one who never drinks.  This time he did.  He was drunk before I knew what was happening, but he laid down in his car and didn’t cause a catastrophe.

Ug.  I came out of the whole thing telling Carole I LOVE my sober AA friends and my sober AA gatherings.  We didn’t have alcohol at our wedding and if anyone was shocked and dismayed, they didn’t tell me so.  It’s not ideal that I was very tense for my daughter’s wedding but maybe it gave me a focus other than that I was losing my “next of kin” status with her.

It was a great success, and she is great success, and I am a great success, at least as far as alcohol is concerned, for the past 34 years and for today.  I “have recovered from a seemingly hopeless condition of mind and body.”  I thought more than once about the people who were not present that day because alcohol took them out of her life – her father, my uncle, my father.  I hope it’s obvious, but to put it bluntly I do not regret my sobriety.  It has no down side.

What These Liabilities (Step Four continued)

Step Four is our vigorous and painstaking effort to discover what these liabilities in each of us have been, and are.

Trying to paste that sentence into this space I kept getting a message I had copied to friend about calling our state representatives, giving them a hard time about blocking fair districts.  So before I even begin I can identify laziness in myself (I used to transcribe the text of the twelve and twelve, figuring I’d learn it better) and resentment and self righteous anger (since when did unfairness get to be part of the Republican platform?).

My liabilities are the same as everyone else’s, I think we only vary in degree.  Circumstances and chance and the way I was brought up all play a part.  For example, I am short.  I have no doubt that if I had been tall, my personality would have been at least slightly different based on the way my world views tallness and treats tall people, and the physical difference I can’t know about that involves taking up more vertical space and being able to reach things without help.

I think it was alcoholism, though, that made me reach for alcohol when I couldn’t accept life on life’s terms.  So in order to be sober I have to work to minimize pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth (to borrow a list from the twelve and twelve).  I have to feel progress and I have to reap a reward for trying in order to keep me going.

I’m grateful to live this way, where I am asked to think again about what’s wrong with me and how to make it right, or at least less wrong.

I’m 56 years old, I’m 34 years sober.  I’m going to my daughter’s wedding, and no is worried about my drinking.

 

 

October 2, 2017 (this day)

IMG_0716Or else!

There’s a lot going through my head.  I’m just back from a weekend trip to buy my daughter’s wedding dress.  We’ll call it a dress.  It is not a traditional wedding gown, but very lovely and rather expensive.  There was a time when the main thrust of my being was to ensure, to the best of my ability, my daughter’s health and safety.  There was a time when her true and actual situation of today would have seemed like an impossible dream.

The weekend was 98% good.  The bad parts had to do with my character defects, chief among them my fear of flying.  I flew there and back.  It was a short flight, what would have been a long drive, but I was certain I was going to die.  That put a damper on things for me and those around me.  I also indulge in the thoughts of “unfair!”  Most people, I reckon, with this degree of fear do not fly, and are not facing this.  The rest take drugs to cope, and are not facing this.  In the airport, on the way out, I looked at every drinker around me (and there were many, and I wasn’t in a bar) and commented to  Carole that I could drink to cope with this.  But then I’d be disinvited from the occasion.  More than that, at this point in time I would surely ruin the occasion.  My alcoholism has not yet done that to my children or my wife.  I’m sure it’s ruined things in the distant past for my mother.  But here I go, and I’m dwelling, and it’s all linked in my psyche.

The gratitude list around this situation would fill many books.  I’m profoundly aware of all I’ve received and all I have not earned and all I don’t deserve.  Planes have not been dangerous to me or to my loved ones, not now and not in the past.  Alcohol is dangerous, and alcohol has killed my ancestors early and in ugly ugly ways.  And ruined much of what came before their deaths.  My father could be something like 81 years old now.  He never knew my daughter, and he didn’t know me after the age of 6.

The program is always relevant, and the part I need to think about next is Step 4.  Inventory.  I need one.  I’m grateful that the program that saved my life demands one.

September 4, 2017 (this day)

IMG_1186Just back from my daughter’s, and I miss her terribly and I hate how far away she lives and so I will attack that feeling with a gratitude list.

She’s happy; she’s healthy; it’s 5.5 hours by car without stops; I have a car that can drive 5.5 hours with no issues; I can pay for gas, take time off from work, leave my wife to tend the critters, drive safely with no fear that if I do encounter trouble, I won’t be safe – I mean I can make the drive with no fear; my body and mind are up to the task; she wants me to visit and so does her fiancé (enough to deal with it pleasantly, at least); if I called her right now, she’d answer the phone and talk to me; she has a nice house, with room for visitors –

and most of all – when I was at her house, and about 15 feet away from a deer, I didn’t embarrass any of us by freaking out, I didn’t scare the deer, and I kept myself calm enough to come home and write about it.

May 27, 2017 (this day)

IMG_0488.JPGThis time last year Carole and I were looking for a stained glass window to buy for our house to commemorate our 19th anniversary of meeting each other.  We found some great ones but don’t know how to have any installed.  So we are still without.  In another week we will mark 20 years since our first meeting in person.  Twenty years is courtesy of AA in so many ways.  I wouldn’t be alive to meet anyone without AA.  And it is the most important thing we have in common.  We met online and are so different in so many ways it might not have worked out if we had met in person, even in AA.  So I don’t golf but I do go to meetings.  I share her religion but not her religious details, but I do live by the same twelve steps.

Last week while she was away I went on my own to a meeting for someone who will challenge my terrible, terrible congressman in 2018.  My congressman is a 97% match for Voldemort (aka current POTUS who I do not want to reference directly) but my district………

Then my daughter called.  She is going to China for work in one week, for one week.  Then she’s coming back and going to a house with us and our extended family.  Then she’s going to South Korea for work.  Then she’s planning a trip with two of her friends, me, my mother and Carole to go wedding dress shopping for her wedding which may occur sometime next year.  My daughter is not aware that later tonight I’ll celebrate 33 years of sobriety, sobriety that began before she was born and that has protected her from so much misery every day of her life.  If nothing else, I’m 100% sure my sobriety is the only reason she talks to me.  My sobriety has all this, and it has produced another Democrat.

April 23, 2017 (this day)

IMG_0432We have to soak the dog’s glucosamine and dissolve it because if she senses any kind of chunk, she spits it out.  Someone fished the pill out of the water.  I’m pretty sure it was one specific cat.  I’m worried now that this cat is ill.  She is the best cat I’ve ever had.  She’s six years old, so hopefully if she is ill it’s easily taken care of.  I’m writing on Sunday, and on Wednesday both my work partner and my home partner will leave on trips far far away.  I’ll have the work place and the home place on my own, and that always causes me some anxiety.  A sick cat would just not be good.

I was protesting yesterday and I was protesting last week.  I’ve protested five times, I think, since that first one in DC in January.

Carole marked 21 years sober the other day.  Yesterday at our meeting I told a bit of a story I’ll tell here.  My daughter sometimes goes for work to the place where I grew up, drank and got sober.  The other days she passed by my university and sent me a picture from traffic of a main walkway of the place.  A walkway I used many, many times.  It made me think that the worst years of my life were spent there.  The years I was most drunk and that I’m only lucky I survived.  If you had told me then that …..34?  35? years later my scientist daughter would pass by for work, that she’s care enough about me to take a picture and send it, that she’d by OK and I’d be OK and I’d be approaching 33 years sober…… Beyond my wildest dreams, for absolutely sure.

My co-worker’s step son died from and overdose the other night.  My next door neighbor died from one two weeks ago.  Two young people in their 20s.

All really is well with me right now.  I’m still trying to adjust to the political “new normal,” the one where I’m engaged no matter what the outside conditions.  I’m heartened by all the people who think like I do and who join me in these endeavors.  I’m saddened by what I perceive I lost, knowing that it remains perfect in my imagination because it didn’t happen.  I’m taking a moment to consider what the very old lady I might (probably not, but maybe) turn out to be 30-some years from now might be like.  One thing for sure, if I don’t drink I should be a bit of an AA record holder by then.

April 2, 2016 (this day)

My daughter of the trip-to-Greece-all-alone saga is engaged.  She’s 30 years old, and has never been endangered by my alcoholism.  This month Carole will have 20 years sober.  Next month I will have 32.  All these happy situations are brought to me by AA.  It works!

February 29, 2016 (this day)

IMG_0311

This day my son turns 28 years old.  Born on Leap Day in 1988, when I was three, almost four years sober.  That seems like such a tiny bit of sobriety now, way too little to be bringing another life into the world.  But he will never know what a miracle my sobriety and so his life is.  The way I drank, there’s no way he wouldn’t have been permanently damaged and probably killed by it, if he had even ever started, which he wouldn’t have.  Those sobriety babies are the biggest blessing of my life.

We were talking politics, and mentioning Margaret Thatcher lead him to ask if our cat Thacher was named after her.  Um, no.  He was named after Ebby Thacher, which lead to a short explanation of who that was.  I tried to explain without saying anything that might turn my son off to it, like I didn’t mention a Higher Power.  Just in case he should need this particular solution one day.

When I was 28, he was four, and I was six years sober.  So I can’t compare us at 28.  But I can say that he has succeeded and not messed up anything like I did way before I was his age.  So, a true and astonishing miraculous success story brought to you, like all my successes are, by AA.  A twenty eight year old who has never been endangered by my alcoholism.

January 24, 2016 (this day)

IMG_0291It’s very very very very cold outside, and this kitty has made herself a place where the sun comes in the window, the radiator sends up heat, and the curtain cushions her tush and creates a little heat pocket capturing both the sun and the radiator heat.  I should add that this is an inside kitty.  She has never been colder than probably 50 degrees, at the coldest.

Our weather has been cold for a long time.  Below freezing for days and days, and the walls radiate coldness no matter how high the heat is inside.  I used a heating pad to warm my feet at the work the other day.  Still, I far prefer this to heat.  I don’t like driving in the snow though I’ve done it since I could drive, and I haven’t had to yet this year.  It’s a persistent fear and worry that hasn’t left me.  I think that it may have gotten worse since I’ve gotten older, though I *try* to lessen it, seeing the fear and worry as a character defect I would like to allow God to remove.  I don’t allow it.  I hang on.

Along these lines, my daughter has settled for the time being about 360 miles away from me, as opposed to the 540 miles she used to be.  The ride is much nicer now, much more doable, but still I feel an ache about it even as I know it is well within the realm of possibility that she will one day move much farther away.  She lives near her boyfriend’s family, and even as I’m glad she has them there, I am jealous of them and their proximity.  It’s at the top of my mind because my usual defaults for letting go of feelings like jealousy and longing are not working very well on this one.  My daughter occupies a special place in my psyche that I can sense I don’t understand very well myself.

Carole and I are reading some of the materials early AAs used and we are making our way through The Runner’s Bible.

Self-pity must be strangled the moment it is recognized. It is the worm that dieth not. To indulge in self-pity is to tear down your own strongholds. If you have spiritual understanding even in a small degree, you will know that continued misfortune indicates that something is clouding your consciousness of Ever- Present Help, you are engaged in wrong doing, are holding to the belief that some act of the past has power to harm you, are indulging in some form of hate, or you are not protecting yourself as you should “from the fiery darts of evil.” Self-pity has no place in the divine economy, and should be reckoned with worry and regret as agents of death. No cure can come, nor inharmony be banished while any one of these three has control of the thoughts.

This passage has helped me a lot.  I’ve thought of it (when I successfully can) when the thoughts of longing and jealousy have come, and I truly feel these feelings have lessened in me over the week or so that I’ve applied this.  Self-pity, worry and regret as agents of death may sound at first like melodrama.  But it was this point of view that helped me recover from alcoholism.  As an alcoholic I cannot indulge myself in those emotions.  If I do, I put myself in danger of drinking and yes, if I’m lucky, death.   I say “if I’m lucky” because for me drinking caused a lot more damage than death.  Death will come, but all the alcohol-induced damage doesn’t need to come first.