July 12, 2020 (this day)

Photo on 7-12-20 at 6.29 PM

Waiting for another Zoom meeting to begin.

The virus us surging in my area.  I’m still not back to work physically, though the constant trying to reopen our program is so stressful.  I have been to an outdoor meeting several times.  The weather is good, and I think it’s safe.  Of course I could be tragically mistaken.

Confession:  I love the Zoom meetings!  Except for a very few others I’ve attended my wife’s meeting every night at 7.  Pretty much every night!  It’s a small group, that’s probably what suits me the most.  But the lack of virus germs is a major plus.

I still don’t know anyone with the virus, and I haven’t heard of anyone in local AA getting it.  I can’t help thinking though that an indoor AA meeting would be a very likely place to spread it.  I’m extremely grateful that this has happened at a time when there is technology to meet without spreading germs, and that I have the resources to use the technology.

The small group has made it obvious to me how we so desperately need newcomers.  It’s mostly people with lots of sobriety.  These are the people we’ve known over time.  But when one or two new people are there it just focuses us on why we do what we do, what we owe, what we escaped.

Grateful I can go this mile.

May 9, 2020 (this day)

Photo on 5-9-20 at 10.34 AM

My desk chair I took from work to work at home and my work buddy for the past – six weeks?  I went into my workplace yesterday.  It was frightening and cheering both.  Through a government program the people I work with are being put back on the payroll even though we have no clients to serve yet.  It’s the present task to find things for them to do while keeping them safe, which means keeping them at home.

My wife has a zoom room and we’ve been meeting there nightly inviting any and everyone but not publishing it, so there are usually six or seven of us.  We usually spend one hour talking about some aspect of AA in relation to this present circumstance.

I’ll admit that zoom AA is something I will miss very much.  I attend in my pajamas, having had taken a bath before the meeting, after work.  Getting dressed and crossing the street for that weekly meeting now seems like a terrible chore.  Also, because our group is so small, I talk a lot, which I really don’t like to do in person, but on zoom the silence feels worse to me.

For the record, I still don’t know anyone who has gotten the virus.  It’s my experience, being in this strange bubble, and I’m grateful.  I fear the virus, and I see fear as a defect I should work to eliminate.  Not take crazy chances, but act responsibly and well and not out of fear.  Going to work was a much better experience than thinking about going to work.

I’ve been working at home on my father’s desk from around 1960.  He died when he was 33, in 1968, from alcoholism.  I’m sitting at the desk writing this now.  Had he lived, he’s be approaching 90.  I feel (though of course I can’t know – alcoholism made sure I can’t know) that he wouldn’t have imagined me here at his desk doing this in this day and this age.  He missed so much.

April 11, 2020 (this day)

My job is online and my meetings are online.  My wife and I have been carrying on a private Zoom meeting every night at 7.  It’s private in that it isn’t published anywhere, but we have asked everyone who comes to spread the word and invite anyone with a desire to stop drinking.  There are usually four, five or six of us.  It makes for some deep conversation, I think, deeper than happens at face to face meetings.  Although I guess in this current situation, face to face meetings would be pretty intense.

I have noticed, and the group has remarked, how these circumstances make for lots of judgements on my part.  We have heard of face to face meetings that are still meeting and we judge them.  Someone works in Target and we judge the people shopping there for non-essentials.  I judge someone who comes to the meeting but doesn’t use their camera and mutes their microphone.  Are they observing?  Having us go on in the background?

But those are the buzzes of lesser character defects and they do not dominate my current AA experience.  The larger character defects of fear, anxiety, worry, gluttony – those give me more trouble and still I have a plan to work on them, a plan I’m familiar with that has enabled me to lessen them to an outstanding degree.

 

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March 22, 202 (this day)

This year?  My, how much has changed!

My personal situation is good.  My wife works for the state university system, and they are going online.  It’s actually more work for her until the end of the semester with very little risk.

I work with people who developmental disabilities in a day program.  We closed to clients last Friday, and Wednesday was the last day for staff.  I’m promised work through this Friday but after that I don’t know.  I’ve struggled over Thursday and Friday to get set up with technology at home, but it’s nothing any of us are good at, and we struggled with technology in the office in the best of times.  I could possibly go to work in residential houses.  My clients are so fragile, they will be impacted severely if they get sick.  They need workers and others coming in and out of their lives and in close physical contact.  Many of them struggle at home not understanding the situation.

My meeting didn’t meet last night for the first time since we started it.  Other meetings I believe missed for the first time in 75 years.  I’ve been going nightly to an online chat meeting with several people that I know.  I understand that we are blessed to have so many online options, but for me the value of having people I actually know there is immense.

I imagine that back in the old days of AA people would have been writing letters.  I’m well familiar with the passages that tell us that during WWII soldiers in combat stayed sober, but honestly, I’m skeptical.

No matter.  I don’t have free floating anxiety, I have character defects and a plan to deal with them.

For anyone who is struggling with staying sober, please reach other.  There is abundant help and your sober self is needed here now by all of us.  Truly, it is.

January 1, 2020 (this day)

Happy New Year!  I did not drink any alcohol in 2019.  I was almost killed by my compulsion to drink alcohol in 1984 (1983, 1982, 1981, 1980, 1979, and 1978).  I am lucky beyond measure.

After the tragic election of 2016, I subscribed to the (failing, as Voldemort likes to call it) New York Times.  I read with interest the other day (in the car, on the way home from an AA meeting with two other women as miraculously alcohol-free as I am) this article.  A few points:

They aren’t drinking themselves numb because they are awash in oh-so-much power, or because of some pathological inability to follow rules or humble themselves, or because their outsize egos are running the show, as A.A.’s messaging would suggest. Quite the opposite: They’re drinking because they have so little power, because all they’ve ever done is follow the rules and humble themselves, because their egos have been crushed under a system that reduces their value to subservience, likability and silence.

This was not true for me.  I drank because I was an alcoholic, and I believe for myself that had I evolved in a place where women ruled, I still would have drank unto death.

There are many other evidence-based options available now — from medically assisted treatments to cognitive behavioral therapy to the emerging use of psychedelics including psilocybin.

AA officially welcomes all forms of recovery in the world.  The methods listed here, however, take time, money, insurance, stability, commitment.  To be sure, AA takes time and commitment, but for me, the daily availability of meetings and other alcoholics to talk to helped me recover where no doctor or therapist could.

I did notice, when I first got to AA, and I still notice that it is a program designed by men for men.  It does emphasize character defects I don’t identify with as stated, for example, that resentment is the number one offender.  It does always mention the other side of the character defect coin, though, listing depression and fear and self-pity along with an inflated ego.

This program, which was designed to break down white male privilege, made sense for the original members: It reminded them that they were not God and encouraged them to humble themselves, to admit their weaknesses, to shut up and listen.

That may be true.  However, in my female drunken existence I also needed to humble myself (my way wasn’t working and was actually killing me), so admit my weaknesses (like not being able to handle basically anything without chemical courage), to shut up (I wasn’t a big talker then, I’m still not, but all I had to add at the beginning was to remind sober people how unhappy and sick a drinking alcoholic is), and listen.  Yes, listen to how to get out and be in the world sober.

It does make me unhappy that it was by and about men.  My favorite AA symbol, the man on the bed, shows three men.  I’m unhappy that God is the “father” and that all the presidents have been men.  The main thing I can add to this canon is my witness.  I am a woman, sober 35 years.  I have two children who were born in my sobriety and raised by a sober mother.  I have a career history or contributing, showing up with integrity and trying to serve people.

Women are the fastest-growing demographic becoming dependent on alcohol, which means we’re on our way to being a majority of participants of recovery programs. There’s no question that we need help. But we don’t need to give up our power.

I had no power when I was drunk and under the table.  All the power I have today is a direct result of repeated engagement with that oh-so-male program, Alcoholics Anonymous.

November 21, 2019 (this day)

We celebrated Thanksgiving for our clients at my work today for my first time in a very long time without my work partner.  I’ve been through a lot of change and loss there recently, but I somehow feel like I always say that.

For actual Thanksgiving, my mother will fly to my house as usual.  We’ll then drive her to my daughter’s, where we’ll stay for a few days.  My daughter’s mother-in-law (God bless her) will have all of over including my son and his fiancé.  It’s different.

I have what I like to refer to as nostalgia as a character defect.  The definition includes longing.  When I think of what I long for, it isn’t necessarily Thanksgiving at my great aunt’s or at my aunt’s, I long for some tradition that doesn’t change except that some people die and others are born.  That’s never been real.  But I long for it.

For me, there is fear and loneliness and sadness is still being an only child.

Every aspect of the holiday coming up is a call for gratitude for me.  My mother, wife, children, are all doing well.  They all want to see me, and I want to see them all.  I have (mostly) passed through that season of loss at work, and things look promising.  I am able to stand it, day after day, and of course to find lots of joy in it.

I need to remember the Thanksgivings when I drank to stand being around people.  I may have even skipped one, drunk or hung over badly.  Alcohol tried to take everything away from me, and nearly did, yet today I have everything, and alcohol isn’t a factor.

Grateful.

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.

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.

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?

 

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.