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.
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.
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……
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.
I’ve left my job of 25 years and I’m helping out there part time getting things in order. Among the things I’m grateful for is that they found something for me to do so I haven’t had to have a big, final goodbye. I’ve given up my desk and so I’m snacking from a corner of a table in mail room. This is a huge life change for me and I have no idea where it’s going. I worked in a day program for adults who have developmental disabilities for 25 years, and before that I worked at another. My mother started in the field when I was 5, and really I started then. Big change.
So far I have gone to many more AA meetings. Still mostly zoom, and one in person. I always figured I would go to more meetings in retirement as sort of a leisure activity, but I never imagined it would be possible from my home in my pajamas. I’m amazed and grateful, and mindful that a world-wide tragedy brought on this innovation.
Nothing else much is up with my day, though that’s enough! I have physical stuff from aging and from the character defect of gluttony (over-eating), and the challenge of fitting that into a new life style. I’d like to work (but never supervising people again) but am I physically up to it?
By the way, the stingy snack pictured was courtesy of my wife, who seems here to be aiding my determination not to over eat.
I glanced at a popular book about Step 6, not AA literature. The part I opened to said that we feel stress in physical symptoms.
I’m falling apart, or getting old, or getting old and falling apart. After a life time of decent health, this is hard.
When I was new to sobriety, I figured I would never successfully work the AA program because there was no way I was going to, for example, speak to my mother’s husband. I realized even then that not speaking to him was a character defect. Now my thinking is different, and I wonder in despair, will I ever be entirely ready to give up the character defect of gluttony, otherwise known as over-eating?
Self-centered fear, as the activator of my character defects, seems to me to be getting worse as I have more days behind me then ahead, as the effects of aging take their toll and I’m less able to do ordinary things. As I wonder, still and again, do I have enough?
One of my oldest AA relationships is over. One of my sponsors (I had a few), someone who knew me when I was 16 and first in the rooms, died. Sober. There are many lessons but today I’ll use this one. Her mother had terrible dementia, and she worried for many years that she would also. She didn’t, it was cancer, but the worry.
I’m grateful today that I understand I have to look inward to fix what’s wrong with me. I’m grateful that I have a plan, internalized at this point, that tells me I have to be ready to GIVE IT UP.
A quick update on “my” meetings in this place at this time.
Before covid, I went regularly to two meetings, one on Saturday night and one on Sunday night. Both shut down when everything shut down. The Saturday night meeting met outside during that first summer, then opened with restrictions put on by the church. Eventually the church lifted all the restrictions.
The Sunday night meeting went online and picked up people from several different countries, all by word of mouth. That meeting generated some strong feelings among participants, and some of the people who had been in person and then online left. It is now trying to go back in person, though the online version survives. The in person group is very slow to start up, and I’m afraid it might not make it.
The Saturday meeting is doing well with good attendance. The group is refusing to ask for masks or distance. The covid risk where we are is “extremely high.” The room where the group meets in extremely big. No reason to be on top of each other, but they are.
I remember when things first closed down, some of my non AA friends said maybe it’s not a good thing for AA meetings to close. I know that many never did close, and I hear, I guess, that there are meetings out there distancing and masking.
“To see how erratic emotions victimized us often took a long time. We could perceive them quickly in others, but only slowly in ourselves. First of all, we had to admit that we had many of these defects, even though such disclosures were painful and humiliating. Where other people were concerned, we had to drop the word “blame” from our speech and thought. This required great willingness even to begin. But once over the first two or three high hurdles, the course ahead began to look easier. For we had started to get perspective on ourselves, which is another way of saying that we were gaining in humility.“
Perspective on myself. I fairly automatically think these days about what’s wrong with me when I’m upset, even though pop psychology would have me ask rather what happened to me. Whatever it was the happened to me, it created plenty wrong in me. I’m sticking by that.
Thinking about leaving my job. This is no small thing. I’ve been there for 25 years. What keeps me there is probably fear, and fear is my number one defect. So I can be humble and say that I’m plenty wrong and very fearful. It is not what others do to me that makes me this way.
Erratic emotions. Unpredictable emotions? How do they victimize me? My answer in this moment is that they take too much mental space, keep me from serenity, reduce my effectiveness. Possibly even make me sick!
I need to think about humility and where to go next.
Generally what’s up with me. My mother visited for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years. I usually see her twice a year, once at Thanksgiving and once in the summer, but covid made us pause. My son is temporarily living with us as he’s having a bad break up. My daughter, who lives about six hours away, came with her husband and they stayed, looking for a house where I live in order to move back. So there were for a few days six of us in my house, plus two cats.
Some of my previous FB Thanksgiving posts note that everyone got along! They still do. I am so incredibly grateful that there is no alcohol in my house and no one drank at the house. No alcohol induced drama or sickness, no apologies necessary from anyone to anyone. The kids do drink, and I’m sure they did at their friends’ houses over this time, but no one got into a kerfuffle bad enough to get my attention as a result.
In my drinking days I would have been the one under the table throwing up. I took secret alcohol to family gatherings and drank all that was offered, which was a lot. Right before covid, my daughter visited my mother and said she would never go back to stay with her because my mother got so sloppy drunk. When I return from family functions that are held away from my house where there is alcohol, I’m always struck with gratitude at my next AA meeting where everyone is sober. Theoretically.
I heard a lead last night by a man who had many similarities to my own story. His father died from alcoholism when he was 7 (I was 6 when mine died). There were other things, but the difference is what caught my attention. I got sober at almost 22, he got sober three years ago in his 50s (guessing). So I was identifying with his story strongly, which is such a cool aspect of AA and meetings, then our stories departed ways in our early twenties, to come together again in our 50s, being together at that meeting, sober.
“To those who find no faith within themselves, I say no seed is so dry that it does not hold the code of life within it.” ~ John Updike
I (convinced my wife to ask) at a meeting about the “exact nature” of my wrongs, and was told that, come on, you know what you did. You know what’s wrong with you.
So I say I know I am frightened, lazy, a liar. I don’t take care of my body or my house or my job to the best of my ability. I waste time and money. I neglect things and people.
The gift of Step 5 that is uppermost in my mind is it’s insistence that I turn inward to find what’s wrong. What I’m wondering at this late date is how to use this anew to 1, make me more useful to others and 2, make me happier.