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.

 

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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.

Emotional Hangover (from step 10)

When a drunk has a terrific hangover because he drank heavily yesterday, he cannot live well today. But there is another kind of hangover which we all experience whether we are drinking or not. That is the emotional hangover, the direct result of yesterday’s and sometimes today’s excesses of negative emotion—anger, fear, jealousy, and the like. If we would live serenely today and tomorrow, we certainly need to eliminate these hangovers.

My emotional life is ruled by politics right now, and I’m just going to go with it.

I know I’m not doing it well when I dream about congress, or when thoughts of politics and politicians are the first thoughts I have waking up, or the things that run through my head when I’m trying to sleep.  I don’t feel that the negative emotions are excessive.  I think  anger, fear, and the like (disgust, dismay, despair) are appropriate and called for.  If you’re not terrified you’re not paying attention!  And I don’t live serenely.

I mean, I do live serenely, this just takes up too much negative space in my head and in my day.  I haven’t reached my goal of spending ten quality minutes with it.  I’ve seen people around me lessen their zeal.  I think I have lessened my newspaper reading, but only a little.  I’m not sure what an appropriate amount would be.

Other things.  I marked 33 years sober last week.  This number is beyond my comprehension.  I feel in this way blessed among all the alcoholics who ever lived.  Emotional hangovers, unpleasant as they are, are the only kind of hangovers I’ve had in all that time.  I remember cotton mouth, dry heaves, vague and fearful regrets.  I’ll take the emotional hangover because this hangover comes with hope and a plan to suffer less next time.

And viva la resistance!!

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.

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.

March 27, 2017 (this day)

IMG_0866Politics still looms large for me, all day, every day.  I haven’t been successful in making it a small, important, comfortable part of my life yet.  I’ve struggled with it before from time to time, but this time the change in me is permanent, so it’s important that I right size it.

I still struggle with a sense of unreality but I think that makes me severely normal.  The other day C SPAN had three lines for viewers to call; one if you believe the president, one if you don’t, and one if you’re not sure.  And they don’t mean the regular “has the guy spun this so thoroughly we can’t recognize it?”  They mean “is he stating something that is just not in any way true?”  It happens.  Weekly if not daily.  I still fine this very disturbing as well as being disturbed by the people who fail to be disturbed.

I have a sort of ideal I’m aiming for, though.  Most days I mean to move my time and attention away from this disaster quickly, giving it a bit of my attention and moving on.  Sometimes I’ll give it more time, like when I go to a rally or help in a campaign.  Monthly, at least, I’ll give it my money.  And daily I’ll read the New York Times at least a little bit, starting in a random section and not concentrating on politics, though he who shall not be named makes his evil way into most sections these days.  I aim to get a little bit more informed and educated about everything.

My program as applied to my problem.  It tells me in no uncertain terms not to hate, though honestly I often feel hatred for people I’ve never met who, to my understanding, want to hurt vulnerable people.  I hate that.  And really I think that the ones who don’t want to hurt vulnerable people are too stupid to understand that’s what the agenda is.  And yeah, the program has things to say about that attitude, and they aren’t good!  I’m grateful it’s there to show me the way.  I will use it to give myself a good quality of life in this strange and terrible time.

Emotional Balance (from Step 10)

Then comes the acid test: can we stay sober, keep in emotional balance, and live to good purpose under all conditions?

To this I have to say no, I cannot.  Not immediately anyway.

I can stay sober, yes, so far.  I’ve been through quite a few things in 32 years, both good and bad, and I haven’t had any alcohol.

A lot of that time I’ve been in emotional balance and lived to good purpose.  I have to say that if I spend any prolonged time out of balance and life of good purpose, I think I would drink.  In past times of difficulty I have looked to the steps, and I’m grateful.

Now.  This is really quite a different test of my emotional balance than I’ve experienced so far.  Daily, things in politics disturb me greatly.  I believe it is right to be disturbed.  Can I be disturbed and still be in emotional balance?  Can my life’s good purpose expand to include my tiny, tiny role in shaping the politics of this, my country?

It’s been four months since that terrible election.  I spend part of each day reading the news and contacting my legislators.  It’s my blessing and my trial to have both Republicans and Democrats representing me in state and federal government.  I’ve made a donation each month to a different cause that I find worthy.  It’s a struggle to limit that and my list grows often.  My biggest glimpse of personal peace comes when I see this as the way I’ve become, the new me who will continue to do these things as long as I am able, regardless of politics and politicians.

I still have a giant hurt spot where I keep what I feel I’ve lost.  I understand that because the first woman president didn’t happen, it remains ideal.  The reality of what might have happened won’t come into being.  It might have been awful and terrible in ways I couldn’t imagine.

Good may come from the present situation.  In ways I can’t imagine, but also in ways I can.  Maybe this extreme situation will change some hearts and minds to be kinder in the ways I think kindness should be expressed.  Maybe.

How can I sit here with over three decades of sobriety and fail the acid test?  It’s an ideal, I understand, and I am far from ideal.  I’ll keep my faith in the program and believe that one day I will see my emotional balance restored and my good purpose enlarged.