Turning it Over Again and Some More

I came to write about enjoying life in sobriety, having fun.  But I’m not really having any, and that’s a shame.  I’m very stressed.  My number one stress is my dog.  She’s 14 and has, the vet says, liver failure.  Taking her on vacation in June nearly did her in, but since then she’s been holding steady.  I’m failing to enjoy this precious puppy because I fear the ultimate break with her, the one when she leaves me forever.  That is a darn shame.  An old dog is, for me, a wonderful dog.  She’s so much easier than she was when she was younger.  She’s so much more mine because more time has gone by.  She’s happy and she seems fairly healthy for her age.  She’s enjoying life and I’m so torn up over its end.

Work is also very stressful.  We are very short staffed, and that makes everything much more difficult.  My work partner, who I love working with and depend on heavily, turned 65 last month.  She’s probably staying a bit longer, but every day feels like the possible end with that.  And I could be enjoying her so much more.  We’ve been together a really long time and I’m beyond blessed and lucky to have had this amazing relationship.  But I’m torn up over its end.

I don’t know why my coping reserves feel so low right now.  Nothing major is wrong in my life, and I do so appreciate that fact.  I’m kind of floundering with how to have a real go at this problem, my attitude.

Looking at my alphabetical list of topics, after “enjoying life” comes the “exact nature of our wrongs.”  After Step Three comes Step Four.  Maybe some investigation will yield some clues and some clarity and path.  It always has before.

Step Three finale

How do you turn it over?

My standard answer and understanding is that I turn it over by working the steps.  If I live and abide by them, continuing to do a better job with that as time goes by, I will be turning my will and my life over to a higher power.  This higher power can be, for me, simply a better way of living.  Contributing and not taking.  Making people’s lives better because I’m here.  Being a better wife, mother, worker, citizen.  The way of my past, when I was drinking, was to take, sadden, and endanger people.  I had potential and resources but I rendered myself incapable of even caring for myself by drinking.

I have many tools that AA has given me and taught me how to use.  I can meet situations with gratitude and humility.  I can ask for help.  I can help others.  My mind and body work today because I’m not poisoning them with alcohol.  I have an infinite number of people who are walking this path with me and who will help me walk it when I participate in AA with them.

Drinking isn’t an issue for me today (though I always hold close the possibility that it is lurking there, waiting to kill me still).  Today I’d like to eat fat and sugar, retire early, stay home most of the time and play with Sims.  And smoke cigarettes.

Instead.  I wrote a postcard to my state representative (his turn, I’m sure he’s thrilled).  Took a walk for exercise.  Ate broccoli because I should.  Cared for my pets.  Read a book.  This week I’ll go to work, help with the congressional campaign, get ready to visit my daughter, see my son, pay bills and give some money to the fair district campaign in my state (my congressional district is shaped like John Lennon standing on his head eating an oatmeal cookie), attend my meeting, take the garbage out, answer the phone (cell phone only, not landline).  I’ll turn it over, and we’ll all be better for that.

It is When We Try to Make (Step Three continued)

It is when we try to make our will conform with God’s that we begin to use it rightly. To all of us, this was a most wonderful revelation. Our whole trouble had been the misuse of willpower. We had tried to bombard our problems with it instead of attempting to bring it into agreement with God’s intention for us. To make this increasingly possible is the purpose of A.A.’s Twelve Steps, and Step Three opens the door.

Once we have come into agreement with these ideas, it is really easy to begin the practice of Step Three. In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision, we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done.”

I believe I have used this tool fairly successfully.  Not in the sense that I always or even usually ascertain God’s will and then carry it out.  And I also have never embraced and used the Serenity Prayer in my day to day life the way some people do.  But I have for a long time known in moments of emotional disturbance or indecision to ask for God’s will.  In times of very high stress, like when someone seems to be in mortal danger, I usually default to that thought, something like, “God, show me what to do,” or, “God, use me to do what needs to be done.”

I say I’ve used it successfully because I haven’t had a drink.  I can see from here that it’s taking me myself and I out of the equation and opening my mind to what I hope is a better way.  The rest of the Steps are the instructions for how to continue on in this.

 

He Needs to Develop the Quality of Willingness (Step Three continued)

Then it is explained that other Steps of the A.A. program can be practiced with success only when Step Three is given a determined and persistent trial. This statement may surprise newcomers who have experienced nothing but constant deflation and a growing conviction that human will is of no value whatever. They have become persuaded, and rightly so, that many problems besides alcohol will not yield to a headlong assault powered by the individual alone. But now it appears that there are certain things which only the individual can do. All by himself, and in the light of his own circumstances, he needs to develop the quality of willingness. When he acquires willingness, he is the only one who can make the decision to exert himself. Trying to do this is an act of his own will. All of the Twelve Steps require sustained and personal exertion to conform to their principles and so, we trust, to God’s will.

Exertion!  I was just asking Carole if she thinks that a lot of “failure” in AA is due to plain laziness.  It does take effort to get in the car, drive to a meeting, participate in the meeting, go home again.  I does take effort to read the books, talk to others, write a blog!  I know that I want things to be easier than that.  I want to work electronics and appliances without reading the instructions.  I want AA without doing the work.

Sustained exertion.  Sustained effort.  Over good times and bad, boring times and interesting times.  It’s the absolute best thing about my life that I sustained this effort.  That’s how I “turn it over,” day after day.

So to apply this to today.

I’m still struggling.  I’ve taken lots of, if not constructive action, at least action that’s not destructive.  I’m still reading the New York Times (fake news) and my local paper.  I’m still calling and writing my representatives.  I’m trying to keep other people energized and engaged.  I’m beginning to support someone who will challenge my terrible congressman in 2018.

I guess I believe that applying the program and the way of life and way of thinking I’ve developed as a result of the program will eventually lead me to serenity regardless of outside circumstances.  All I need to do is to live long enough and keep exerting myself.

Much-Desired Result (Step Three continue

When World War II broke out, this spiritual principle had its rst major test. A.A.’s entered the services and were scattered all over the world. Would they be able to take discipline, stand up under re, and endure the monotony and misery of war? Would the kind of dependence they had learned in A.A. carry them through? Well, it did. They had even fewer alcoholic lapses or emotional binges than A.A.’s safe at home did. They were just as capable of en- durance and valor as any other soldiers. Whether in Alas- ka or on the Salerno beachhead, their dependence upon a Higher Power worked. And far from being a weakness, this dependence was their chief source of strength.

 

So how, exactly, can the willing person continue to turn his will and his life over to the Higher Power? He made a beginning, we have seen, when he commenced to rely upon A.A. for the solution of his alcohol problem. By now, though, the chances are that he has become convinced that he has more problems than alcohol, and that some of these refuse to be solved by all the sheer personal determination and courage he can muster. They simply will not budge; they make him desperately unhappy and threaten his newfound sobriety. Our friend is still victimized by remorse and guilt when he thinks of yesterday. Bitterness still overpowers him when he broods upon those he still envies or hates. His financial insecurity worries him sick, and panic takes over when he thinks of all the bridges to safety that alcohol burned behind him. And how shall he ever straighten out that awful jam that cost him the affection of his family and separated him from them? His lone courage and unaided will cannot do it. Surely he must now depend upon Somebody or Something else.
At first that “somebody” is likely to be his closest A.A. friend. He relies upon the assurance that his many troubles, now made more acute because he cannot use alcohol to kill the pain, can be solved, too. Of course the sponsor points out that our friend’s life is still unmanageable even though he is sober, that after all, only a bare start on A.A.’s program has been made. More sobriety brought about by the admission of alcoholism and by attendance at a few meetings is very good indeed, but it is bound to be a far cry from permanent sobriety and a contented, useful life. That is just where the remaining Steps of the A.A. program come in. Nothing short of continuous action upon these as a way of life can bring the much-desired result.

I can’t comment on the WWII aspect and I don’t know if there was any science behind these assertions.  I also seriously doubt my own ability to stay sober in a war and I’m extremely grateful that I haven’t found out how I’d do.

I can summarize my feelings about the rest of this text by saying that it’s my understanding that I turn my will and my life over to the care of a higher power by doing the rest of the steps.  By doing all of the steps continuously.  For me personally, that’s meant formally and that’s what I’m doing here, in this blog.  I started eight (?) years ago with Step Six because in my redoings I have usually stopped after five.  After twelve I went back to one and now I’m partway through three.

It’s no kind of hocus pocus.  It’s how I keep the program active in my life along with meetings and readings.

 

Baleful Results (Step Three continued)

We realize that the word “dependence” is as distasteful to many psychiatrists and psychologists as it is to alcoholics. Like our professional friends, we, too, are aware that there are wrong forms of dependence. We have experienced many of them. No adult man or woman, for example, should be in too much emotional dependence upon a parent. They should have been weaned long before, and if they have not been, they should wake up to the fact. This very form of faulty dependence has caused many a rebellious alcoholic to conclude that dependence of any sort must be intolerably damaging. But dependence upon an A.A. group or upon a Higher Power hasn’t produced any baleful results.

I’m struggling right now to regain emotional and mental equilibrium.  I’ve been protesting against many of my elected officials and I think I’ve found some good ways to do that for the time being.  I’d like to give part of my day, every day, to it, and leave it the rest of the time.  This I am not able to do.  I’m not sure what’s appropriate right now, what’s healthy and good for me and rest of humanity, really.  And how self-centered to think that what I do might result in anything!  I’m trying to be a drop in the bucket, today and every day.

And so, my program applied to this.  I should be dependent upon my higher power.  When things are bad in my life, I should double down on my program.  I’m not doing that.  I believe in some kind of abstract way that the answers are there for me, but right here, right now, it seems like the main benefit of more program would be less mental time spent on politics.  Which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

I don’t feel like this reverie has added anything to anything, but I’m leaving it here if only to look back on and to see how I coped without drinking.  I’m not drinking.

Fortunate Indeed (Step Three continued)

Therefore, we who are alcoholics can consider ourselves fortunate indeed. Each of us has had his own near-fatal encounter with the juggernaut of self-will, and has suffered enough under its weight to be willing to look for something better. So it is by circumstance rather than by any virtue that we have been driven to A.A., have admitted defeat, have acquired the rudiments of faith, and now want to make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to a Higher Power.

Completely true for me.  We all come to AA at different times, having suffered a little or a lot, for a long time or a short time.  Around my meetings these days people like to talk about “the gift of desperation.”  We acknowledge that we had to be faced no other hope of any other solution before we begin to accept AA and recover.  So, not because we are good people or being especially looked over by angels (my own opinion).

Now, can I today admit that I have been defeated by self-will in matters that don’t take on the seriousness and urgency of alcoholic drinking?

November 17, 2016 (this day)

ATTENTION!!  AA has no opinion on outside issues.  I have plenty, and I express them here.  I DO NOT speak for AA, only for myself.  Please do not stay away from AA because of anything I say.

I have an archive here that reaches back into 2008 and the last time Hillary Clinton lost an election, that for the nomination of her party for the presidency.  I looked up what I wrote at that time and it just wasn’t as anguished as I expected.  I was plenty anguished.  There are many, many reasons I’ve wanted Hillary to be president and lots of my time and some of my treasure has gone to the cause, over nine years old for me now.  It’s important in many ways, but for my purpose here I’m a sober alcoholic who has endured a very big disappointment.  The disappointment has aspects of unfairness and PLENTY of self-righteousness and also fear of the future and a disbelief that anyone could want that terrible, disgusting man in our view for any reason.

I’m “working” on the third step, and it tells me that people trying to impose their will on others results in ruin.  It reminds me that my own will in the form of alcoholic drinking nearly brought about my own destruction.  I don’t always know what’s right.  My ego has been bruised because things didn’t go my way.  I don’t want to become ugly in response to the wrongs I perceive.  I’m still responsible to many people, for many things, and my mood and demeanor can affect people for good or for bad.

Eight years ago I came away ultimately grateful for the experience, and that’s the ideal I hold before myself now.  I see lots of good that’s already resulted, and the bad has yet to materialize.  I don’t want my reaction to be part of the bad.  I don’t want to be greedy and demand more than my share of amazing historical events to live through.

So, this was one of the most disappointing things I can remember going through, because I’ve had and have a really good life.  As a major disappointment that wrecked my mood in a major way for a solid week, alcohol did not enter the picture.  I didn’t think of drinking or want to drink and as miraculous as the experience was of being a Hillary supporter, being a sober alcoholic is even more spectacular.

Should His Own Image Be Too Awful (Step Three continued)

Should his own image in the mirror be too awful to contemplate (and it usually is), he might first take a look at the results normal people are getting from self-suffciency. Everywhere he sees people filled with anger and fear, society breaking up into warring fragments. Each fragment says to the others, “We are right and you are wrong.” Every such pressure group, if it is strong enough, self-righteously imposes its will upon the rest. And everywhere the same thing is being done on an individual basis. The sum of all this mighty effort is less peace and less brotherhood than before. The philosophy of self-sufficiency is not paying off. Plainly enough, it is a bone-crushing juggernaut whose final achievement is ruin.

Last night I was at a meeting where we discussed, among other things, miracles.  While recovery is a miracle, we said, there is work involved, so are the results miraculous?

I think so.  Even though I’ve known this for a very long time, I’m still amazed that the program of AA packages the wisdom of the ages into a form I can USE IN MY LIFE to stay sober.  I’m a sober alcoholic, and that is a miracle.  It is so rare, I am so blessed.

Part of the reason I stay sober over decades is that I can take just about any part of the program and apply it to my life to help me live better.  Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  I’ve written about this American election of 2016 and how it distresses me.  This happened eight years ago, and, to a lesser extent, four years ago.  It happens to me every time, whether my candidate wins or loses.  I’m distressed that there are people on the “other” side, the side I see as clearly wrong.  I wish I was one of the people who don’t care much about politics.  I harbor bad feelings about people on the other side.  Even if they are in AA.

AA is my closest family in that if I don’t keep it intact, I won’t have any other family by blood or choice or anything.  I have got to interact with other alcoholics in recovery so that we can both live, and politics does not play into it.  Yet once I know the political feelings of a person, AA or not, it changes my mind about that person, for the good or for the bad.

And then there, in the program, is my answer.  For me, today, with less than a week to go before this awful election, it states an ideal that I am so far from achieving I think it would take a miracle to change my mind that much.

How persistently we claim the right to decide (Step Three continued)

But the moment our mental or emotional independence is in question, how differently we behave. How persistently we claim the right to decide all by ourselves just what we shall think and just how we shall act. Oh yes, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of every problem. We’ll listen politely to those who would advise us, but all the decisions are to be ours alone. Nobody is going to meddle with our personal independence in such matters. Besides, we think, there is no one we can surely trust. We are certain that our intelligence, backed by willpower, can rightly control our inner lives and guarantee us success in the world we live in. This brave philosophy, wherein each man plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to meet the acid test: how well does it actually work? One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic.

I vaguely remember wrestling with the God problem, because when I came to AA I was very anti-God.  I would hold hands but not say the prayers.  Things like that.  I was such a mess, and I wasn’t at AA because my intelligence and will power put together could do anything. My intelligence and will power up against alcoholism were powerless to keep my alive.

It’s an amazing experience to watch new people get it.  The degree to which they can go along is so often the degree to which they will be happy.  I struggle with that now, today.  I’m sure my intelligence and willpower still seek to control me in ways that are much less deadly than active alcoholism, but deadly none the less.  What kind of old-timer am I?  How much have I given over, and how much do I still withhold?