August 28, 2016 (this day)

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Vacations are over and Carole, as a teacher, will go back to work tomorrow.  Always and adjustment.  We’re still living with a little fear inspired by very minor vandalism inspired by our very big Hillary sign.  I always try to take these things as a lesson to be more compassionate toward people who have real problems, and to do something to help them.

We went to a church gathering yesterday and took a quiz about our spiritual gifts.  My top gift was MERCY.  Hm.  That was followed by writing and administration, then exhortation and service.  I can say that all these gifts have been given to me by sobriety and AA.  And, AA style, I looked immediately to where I scored the lowest and these would be music-vocal (not much I can do about that), then hospitality.  The people at the gathering said I am hospitable enough to their eyes but there are people I’ve known for many years.  I question how much I should push myself and how much is my inborn personality that will not be altered.  I NEVER enjoy meeting new people.  I know my objective is to not let them know this, to not make others uncomfortable because I’m uncomfortable.  How much should I seek to meet new people?

At meetings, of course, this is my context.  I being greeted by an uncomfortable but trying to hide it me better than not being greeted by me?  Can I let the extroverts socialize until over time people become familiar to me?  What is best for the blessed newcomer?

 

June 25, 2016 (this day)

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Back from vacation which presents challenges physical, mental, emotional and spiritual!  No more time to watch turtles cross the road unless I take time away from my doggie and travel a bit from my home.  Leaving the pets, especially the dog, is a huge stress for me and as soon as I’m back I’m worried about the next time I have to leave her.  The worrying is a character defect, for sure, and as she and I get older, I am more in its grip.  I also worry about the effect my worry has on my relationship, as my wife is much much more keen to travel and to leave the dog than I am.  And all the while I realize I am so blessed to have this special old girl with me still to worry about, as well as people to care for her while I’m gone.

I came home with many bad bug bites, and one swollen lymph node, which may or may not be related to the bug bites.  The doctor said to come back with the node if it’s not gone in a month.  Three weeks and one day to go on that.  It’s smaller but still there.  And the tops of my feet have been sore, which Dr. Google is very unhelpful in diagnosing.  The doctor checked my feet out and said they’re not broken, etc etc, but would do an x-ray.  I said I’d look into that next month if, when the lymph node fails to unswell, the feet still hurt.  I don’t do well with doctors.

I had to say goodbye to mother and I had to go back to work.  I have to deal with hot weather, and the responsibilities of my home group which is mostly a joy but can feel like a burden.

AA away on vacation made me grateful for my own little corner of AA again.  It always does.  We went to three meetings and saw mostly the same people who had to travel distances we do not have to travel to get there.  I’ve been spoiled in AA my whole life and I doubt I’d be able to gracefully put up with the same small cast of characters at every meeting.  Or, more likely, I’d have had to grow in tolerance in ways I haven’t had to, given the plentiful AA community I’ve always been a part of in all the places I’ve lived.

While we were gone, a member of our local AA community died unexpectedly at the age of 61.  He had only a few years sober, I’m not sure how many.  He was sober, a certain victory.  This always makes me conscious again of the miracle of my long, long sobriety and entire adult life spent sober.  It also makes me think that it’s never too late to get sober.  Going to the funeral parlor, I’m sure that his last years with his family were much better than they would have been had he kept drinking.

I have so much to be grateful for.  This post lists just a fraction of the things.  Vacation, home, pets, wife, mother, job, AA, meetings, health, health care, weather, computer, internet, blog.

Don’t Drink and Go to Meetings

Basic advice sometimes given to flustered newcomers who don’t know what to do.  To not drink is the first, necessary part of recovery.  My mind, under the influence, could not absorb anything or advance in any way.  “The disease that tells you you don’t have a disease” comes to mind.  It’s like a part of me wanted desperately to keep drinking, and it would not stop for any kind of reason.  With alcohol in me, it didn’t matter what I believed or didn’t believe.  I was bound to go for more.

Going to meetings begins to put in place all the other changes and learning that are needed for recovery.  At meetings we hear instructions.  We hear what people have tried and experienced.  We hear from other alcoholics.  That has always been an essential part of the program. Sometimes people who cannot recover given treatments and medicines and therapy can recover when given the experience of someone just like them.  Meetings are where the people are.  The people who can help me and the people who need my help.

Search Terms that Brought you Here

My mind is very scattered with thoughts of what to write about.  Looking at the search terms that brought people here is often hilarious, sometimes mystifying, and always humbling.  I hope that the search that ended here helped at least one person maintain or achieve sobriety.

  • What is an alcoholic’s gratitude list?  In AA we are often encouraged to formally write down things we’re grateful for, or to consciously bring them to mind in tough times.  Drinking, I took for granted pretty much everything good in my life, starting with the fact that I was alive and encompassing a home, people who cared about me, good health if I would stop drinking, opportunities, pets, democracy and good weather, and on and on.  Sometimes in sobriety, if I feel like drinking or just forget, a gratitude list can bring me back to the joy that is here, today.  Because without being happy and joyous on a long term basis, I will drink.  My formal gratitude list is here, but in truth it could stretch on forever.
  • AA 12 and 12 the spiritual axiom.  This is the idea, found in Step 10, that anytime I am disturbed it is because there is something wrong with me.  This points me in the direction of changing what I actually can change, which is my own attitude and my mind.  My post is here.
  • Disruptive behavior in AA meetings.  I wish I had an answer for that one, but I don’t.  I will say AA isn’t and shouldn’t be seen as a “safe” place.  When someone threatens the safety of others, we have to call the police to protect ourselves.  Short of that, it is a heart-breaking dilemma, and I’m sure groups disband because disruptive people.  In my own little AA world, I have seen the attendance of groups suffer greatly because of disruptive behavior, and that by long timers who think they’re being funny.  It’s a sad thing.
  • AA Yets.  These are things that haven’t happened to me “yet.”  When I arrived at AA at the age of 16, I hadn’t “yet” been to the hospital because of alcohol, but since I didn’t stop drinking, I did eventually make it there.  Anything I hear someone say has happened to them can and will happen to me if I drink.  It just hasn’t happened “yet.”
  • Don’t drink today.  Just don’t.  In this way, you will become a old-timer, like me.  It can be daunting to think about going the rest of my life without alcohol.  I can give up now because I’m an alcoholic and just cannot imagine living sober forever and ever.  AA taught me while I surely can’t remain sober forever, and I can remain sober today.  And since I’ve done that for so many days, I had the privilege to know people who died sober, in sobriety.  It can be done, I can do it if I don’t drink today.
  • Alcohol I don’t want to die.  I’m trying to imagine the person who entered that into a search engine.  It’s easy for me to imagine him or her because that was me and that was countless other people I’ve met and come to know, at least through their AA stories.  When we mean it, really mean it, and when we get to AA and when we click with AA, we are among the very very few fortunate people who have the chance to escape the alcoholic death.  Alcohol is powerful and AA is hard.  It has to be, to beat that formidable foe.  But for me, once AA gave me the ability to actually live, it also gave me a life so worth living that if there was a cure for alcoholism, I would not take it.  I want to keep it today, because it became the best thing in my life, the thing that enabled every other good thing.

Dependence

One of my favorite, inexact quotes from the literature, I know not which literature, says something like, “no baleful consequences have resulted from dependence upon a higher power or an AA group.”  No consequences full of bale here!  I pictured a bale of hay but no, bale also means “something bad.”

I’m reading Five Days at Memorial about a hospital in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.  There, patients were dependent upon machinery to keep them alive.  Without electricity, they could and did die.

Am I dependent upon AA?  Yes, and I don’t know.  I couldn’t stop drinking without it and I could keep drinking and live.  But now, is it so much a part of me that I don’t need it anymore?

People comment here from time to time that for various reasons they don’t go to meetings.  There are places in the world where there are no meetings.  Would I drink if I lived there?  I don’t think so, but I don’t know.  Part of the function of AA meetings in my life is to remind me where I came from and where I would return if I drank.  No meetings won’t likely be an issue for me as long as I live unless something drastic happens to AA.  Also, I see the elderly and people who can’t drive being taken to meetings, and I hope someone will take me if I’m ever in that position.  I know that when people go into long-term care, like a nursing home, the meetings effectively stop.  At that point I probably wouldn’t be able to get alcohol, if that ever happens to me.

Drinking, I was dependent on my mother.  Granted, I was young, but I could not support myself and drink also.  That dependence wasn’t good.  I depended on alcohol to let me live even as it was killing me.  This is why I sought out AA and a solution.

When I finally stopped relapsing, I was so afraid of drinking and dying that I gladly depended on AA and it didn’t let me down.  Not everyone in AA is a good person, and depending on an individual in AA is not a good thing.  But the group will eventually steer newcomers away from harmful people. I hope it will.

So now, what do I depend on, what do I fall back on?  It is the things I’ve learned in AA over the years that keep me sober and so, alive.  I depend on the program to have the answers I need and I depend on the people and the literature to reveal those answers to me.  I don’t know if I still need them to live, but I believe I need them to live well today.  I’m lucky to be dependent on something to dependable.

Why go to AA meetings?

At first, I went to stop drinking.  Next, I went to stay stopped.  At a certain point I was terrified of drinking again.  This was a healthy, realistic fear.  Drinking was killing me. It was to be feared.

At my meeting last week, a woman came for her first time to that particular meeting.  She has been sober for a long time, but somewhere through the years she stopped going to meetings.  She was back because she was dissatisfied with the quality of her life.

The topic was the Serenity Prayer.  I honestly said that I don’t say the Serenity Prayer except at AA meetings, so I probably say it once or twice a week.  That’s one reason I keep going to meetings.  At first I used the prayers and the rituals to stay away from alcohol because alcohol was killing me.  Now that I’m not afraid I’ll drink I don’t run away from fear, anger, dishonesty and other things that at first I knew I had to run from.  The Serenity Prayer, repeated once or twice a week over the course of more than three decades, has worn a Serenity-Prayer-shaped rut in my soul.  I’ve incorporated it into my very psyche.  It has changed my mind, literally, my mind has been changed and continues to change.  In the good direction of better living because, and only because, I continue to go to meetings.

I know that plenty of non-alcoholics and alcoholics also, I suppose, change and get better by other means as they get older and learn more.  I do, too, but the main agent of change for the better in my life continues to be AA.

I was thinking about the people I socialize with.  They are mostly people I work with, and people in my family.  After those two groups AA would have to come third.  My mother is retired, and she moved away from where she lived all of her life until retirement.  I think she mostly socializes with family on the phone and on visits, then with people she used to work with, mostly by talking on the phone.  After that it’s probably neighbors for her, and it’s only one or two because she hasn’t lived where she does for a very long time.  Her mother, my grandmother, didn’t work outside of her home.  She socialized with family, first, watching some of her grandchildren up until the time she died.  My uncle ran his business out of her house, and he saw her every day.  After family would have come neighbors for her.  She lived in the same house for something like 60 years and died there.

If I’m ever fortunate enough to retire, I picture AA as a major activity of my life in retirement.  I know I’ll go to more meetings, yes, to keep getting better, blah blah, but also to participate more in the defining activity of my life.  It’s a place where I can always contribute by showing up, by helping out, for as long as I’m able to show up and help out.

Those are some of the reasons I keep going to meetings.  I don’t, right now, LOVE meetings.  I wasn’t a bar drinker and I don’t seek out company after a day of interacting with people, or even after a day alone.  But it saved my life and I’m pretty sure I won’t ever forget that it is a lifeline.  It is my lifeline.  As long as I want to live, I need to keep that lifeline strong.

August 29, 2015 (this day)

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Trying to send PDFs to my Kindle to read somewhat comfortably.  I feel like I’m always trying to do the next thing with technology.  If I could go back ten years I could work it all perfectly.  Instead I know the technology exists to allow me to read PDFs on the Kindle, so I try.  With so-so results.

My life is mostly back to normal, though soon I have to (get to) travel again to see my daughter for her 30th birthday.  Her life has been one of the most complete miracles of mine, and, for the purpose of this blog, an extreme gift and miracle of sobriety.  I won’t take tons of credit.  I deserve none, in a way, because on my own I was incapable of sustaining my own life, forget about creating and nurturing another (and another – not forgetting my son but he’s not turning 30!).

Our meeting will have its birthday while we’re gone and Carole and I cannot remember if it will be 10 or 11 years old.  This is abominable, given the history buffs we can be.  We kept no record and just don’t know.  I wonder if I can go back in my checking to see when we first paid the church and the local AA office.

There are a few people from that time who still attend, but not many.  Some attenders and members of the group have died, some because of alcohol.  The church itself is in danger of closing and that would be a shame.  I’m not sure what would happen to the meeting then.  We started it on Saturdays because there were no early Saturday meetings in our area, and because we needed something to do Saturday nights.  Many people have shared since then that in early sobriety it became a safe place for them, because Saturday night can be a danger zone for alcoholics.  I can’t relate because I drank every day (and night), but I understand, and I’m glad.  And sorry to miss the anniversary.  And glad the meeting is healthy enough for the celebration to go on without us.  And grateful beyond measure for what we’ll be celebrating at the same time.