Oh what a year what a year what a mighty fine year!
I’m full of gratitude, and also a certain kind of sadness. My mother left this morning, the last of my Thanksgiving visitors to leave. My daughter and her boyfriend left early because my 1970s furnace came to the end if its long long life, flooding the basement floor where they were staying. Insurance will pay for the floor, our emergency house fund will pay for the new furnace. We didn’t freeze for the few days we were without heat, although I was terribly afraid of being uncomfortable. Grateful, and sad.
As I write, Colleen is on a Skype call with the campaign we’re working on. A fool’s errand this is, our district is impossibly gerrymandered against us so that we can’t count. We can’t count, but we can make big noise when we go down.
November, AA’s month of gratitude. My list is infinite and it all begins and ends with my miraculous sobriety.
Two aspects of this saying – expectation, and miracles.
I believe I remember hearing it when I first came to the program. I liked the mystical implications as much as I did not believe in things unseen. I don’t know what I expected, miracle-wise, but I can articulate my understanding of it today.
A room of sober alcoholics is a miracle. I understand alcoholism to be fatal for many, and terrible for the rest who go through life drinking and drugging and trying to stop, or not trying to stop. As I sit and write this I know that around there world there are gathered groups of sober alcoholics following the twelve steps and staying sober. That is a miracle.
My personal miracle, aside from the one about being nearly dead and coming back to life through sobriety, is that at some point during my journey I started wanting it. There was a day, and I didn’t know it at the time, when I changed my attitude to one where I wouldn’t take the pill, shot, gene therapy, or anything else that would take away my alcoholism because my sobriety, through Alcoholics Anonymous, is the best in my life. It makes every other good thing possible.
Expecting this miracle? I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I hope that this kind of expectation makes us ready, somehow, to receive it.
I don’t like to think about one year ago. This image of a woman, standing with these men, was too much to ask for. We were cheated out of it. There’s a little girl inside of me that can’t bear the unfairness and the fear of what will happen now. Meanwhile, I realize, the image of that woman stays ideal. Barbra Streisand (who I love ) wrote about us yearning for what should have been. Yearning is a good word for this occasion. It all still hurts so much.
But I, the sober alcoholic, have not drank over it. Thirty three years into sobriety I have a mighty tool chest, and I use it liberally because, well, I don’t like to suffer. I try to avoid it. Living well is the best revenge. Plus I still, almost one year after that terrible election day, spend some time each day fighting the machine. I’m volunteering for a man who is running against my awful trump puppet congressman, and I’m still letting my elected officials know what I think about what they are doing or failing to do.
The rest of life is good right now. My dog and my work partner are both still with me, today. My work is hard, mostly because we pay people $10 and hour to take care of other people, and it’s just not enough. We can’t find people to hire, even people who wouldn’t be good for the job. I’m not sure what will happen with that. I’ve been extremely blessed to never, besides a short period of time, have to support myself or my kids. So I can stay with the low pay but most people cannot.
I’ve started reading a short fourth step guide with Carole in the mornings and it asks a ton of questions about childhood. I don’t think that’s necessarily a good way to go about doing a fourth step, but it did uncover, for me, the glaring defect of self pity. While I know with all my heart and soul and intelligence that I have been extremely fortunate in having everything I need every day of my life, I did feel there were things I was lacking when I was a child. I’m lacking them now as well. And I feel that I’m not as fortunate as people who have these things. I know that I’m not.
But more about that when I get to doing the actual step. Soon.
I started this blog nine and half years ago to write about my experience being an old-timer in AA. I’m older now, and have more time. I started transcribing the steps from the 12 and 12. I started with step six because that was often where I stalled when doing or redoing the steps. Now I’ve written my way through steps six through twelve, then started at the top and did one, two and three.
Through the years I’ve done a few fourth steps. I don’t think it’s helpful for me to do the fourth step over and over, nor do I like to “do a fourth step” on certain issues that continue to plague me. I guess it helps some people, and that’s fine. I’ve done, I think, two formal fourth steps later in sobriety. I’m thinking now, wrong or right, I’ll do another. Couldn’t hurt?
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.
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.
Just 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.