Alcoholics Especially (Step Four continued)

Alcoholics especially should be able to see that instinct run wild in themselves is the underlying cause of their destructive drinking.  We have drunk to drown feelings of fear, frustration, and depression.  We have drunk to escape the guilt of passions, and then have drunk  again to make more passions possible.  We have drunk for vainglory–that we might more enjoy foolish dreams of pomp and power.  This perverse soul-sickness is not pleasant to look upon.  Instincts on rampage balk at investigation.  The minute we make a serious attempt to probe them, we are liable to suffer severe reactions.

 

Thinking for the past month or so about instincts on rampage when I feel an excess of negative emotion.  Alcohol did briefly and for a blessed second relieve me of negative feelings.  It was that numb spot that I was always aiming for, and because I’m an alcoholic, I was never able to achieve it.  By the time I was there, I had drank too much and it was about to kick in an throw me over into confusion and sickness and wooziness and despair.

It happens quickly for me these days when I feel something negative to identify it as a character defect, no really an instinct, but I can see how they are the same.  I can take joy in the cat who is sitting right here having been coaxed off of my shoulder and into the cat bed.  I can immediately feel the fear of her care and well-being in my hands, that I won’t succeed in caring for her, and that even if I do, the pain of separation will be ours one day when one of us doesn’t come home any longer.

Now investigating and probing, as the paragraph suggests.  Life is a series of separations and failures.  Still, the cat was an orphan at a shelter and in distress.  I was someone who would take joy and comfort in a cat in the years to come.  Here we are, both of us lucky, and blessed by the other.

It chokes me up.  My instinct to shield myself from the coming worry and heartsickness are feelings I have to investigate and probe and, ultimately, ask to have them removed.  Although today I have decided not to drink over them (and really, only because drinking over them did not work), they lessen the quality of my life and they lessen my usefulness.  And the cat wonders what’s wrong.

This fourth step hard, deep look at what’s wrong in me can’t go on at length.  It’s purpose is to free me from myself, from my self-centeredness, so I can’t stay here for long thinking about how bad I am, or how good.  Unaided by alcohol my instincts still try to overwhelm me and take over and protect themselves and run my life.  Even though, for a long time now, I’ve known the answer is to turn away, and even though it’s become semi-automatic to do so, I am still learning.  Now there’s a reason to keep going to meetings after 35 years of sobriety.

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.

Sponsorship

I’ll just leave this here.  I haven’t been successful in having a sponsor or in being a sponsor.  From all I’ve experienced and all I’ve seen, it means “special aa friend.”  Which is fine.  Everyone should have one.  But gone are the days when a sponsor pays for your hospital stay and puts you up.

“I have a sponsor, and my sponsor has a sponsor.”  And?  This must end somewhere, no? I hear that as a self-righteous boast.  It is not (in my experience) needed for a good long sobriety.

That is all.

In These Ways We Are Set in Conflict (Step Four continued)

But that is not all of the danger.  Every time a person imposes his instincts unreasonably upon others, unhappiness follows.  If the pursuit of wealth tramples upon people who happen to be in the way, then anger, jealousy, and revenge are likely to be aroused.  If sex runs riot, there is a similar uproar.  Demands made upon other people for too much attention, protection, and love can only invite domination or revulsion in the protectors themselves — two emotions quite as unhealthy as the demands which evoked them.  When an individual’s desire for prestige becomes uncontrollable, whether in the sewing circle or at the international conference table, other people suffer and often revolt.  This collision of instincts can produce anything from a cold snub to a blazing revolution.  In these ways we are set in conflict not only with ourselves, but with other people who have instincts, too.

Timely!  As always, any part of the program I set my attention on corresponds with what is happening and with what I need to consider to grow.

I’ve been at my same job for twenty one years, supervising a human services program with a partner whose job is the same as mine.  We have worked for over ten years with someone else who has an important role in the program, let’s call him Maurice.  Maurice  has taken another job in the agency in the same building, and my work partner is retiring in one month, and I will supervise the program alone, along with an assistant yet to be named.

Many many of my character defects are blowing full force with these changes.  Number one is fear, the fear of doing this without my partner, on my own.  I have always taken great comfort in the fact that there are two of us.

There is also fear of conflict with my soon-to-be-ex partner and Maurice as I make changes that I feel are needed.  I’ll make these changes in conjunction with the next boss above us, but he gives us a fairly free hand.

My “words to live by” up until today have been,”Scaring yourself through what-if scenarios has traditionally been called worry.”  I kept that one for two weeks, it fit so well.  Well I turned the card today and now will be considering Bruce Springsteen – You can’t start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart.”

And all this will mean I have increased contact with all the other supervisors of other programs, and that, I do not want.  I don’t want to impose my will on them, I want to hide from them.

Meanwhile continuing to deal with others who demand too much attention, protection, and love, without dominating or feeling revulsion.

In these ways I am set in conflict.

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.

No Peace (Step Four continued)

Nor is the quest for security always expressed in terms of money.  How frequently we see a frightened human being determined to depend completely upon a stronger person for guidance and protection.  This weak one, failing to meet life’s responsibilities with his own resources, never grows up.  Disillusionment and helplessness are his lot.  In time all his protectors either flee or die, and he is once more left alone and afraid.

We have also seen men and women who go power-mad, who devote themselves to attempting to rule their fellows.  These people often throw in the winds every chance for legitimate security and a happy family life.  Whenever a human being becomes a battleground for the instincts, there can be no peace.

Again, I hope I am someone who has escaped these extremes, but at a lower level all these character defects are alive in me.  I am frequently frightened, and I love to depend on someone else when that person will let me!  I did, however (and with lots and lots of help) live on my own with two young children.  I kept them alive and fairly well, and I held down a job I did reasonably well at.

And while I like to think of myself as this passive, peaceful, easy-going person, I know that I am very strong-willed and quite opinionated.  So while in general I may fit the label “quiet,” that by no means translates to “no attempt to rule their fellows.”  I attempt it frequently, and I have no plans to stop!

To elaborate, I don’t really want to rule my fellows, but I want to influence them heavily in terms of, for example, gun control, election reform, the right to choose, health care for everyone, and clean water.  To name a few.  My desire to influence these things has, I hope, taken on more meaning and more actual work, in a healthy way, these past 2.5 years.  I’ll also get triggered at work when people do things like use their phones when they shouldn’t or suggest that we wear ID badges.

So the battle of the instincts goes on.  However, these days, and for a long time now, drugging myself does not appear as a viable nor an ideal solution.