Step Four – Made a searching and fearless morale inventory of ourselves.

Creation gave us instincts for a purpose.  Without them we wouldn’t be complete human beings.  If men and women didn’t exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival.  If they didn’t reproduce, the earth wouldn’t be populated.  If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society.  So these desires–for the sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship–are perfectly necessary and right, and sure God-given.

Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions.  Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives.  Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us.  When thus our of joint, man’s natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is.  No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles.  Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct.  When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities.

I have always understood my insane drinking, my alcoholism, to be a misguided attempt to make myself happy.  An insane attempt to make myself happy.  One of my starkest memories from my drinking days was when an AA friend remarked, to my drunken self, “It doesn’t even make you happy.”

No, it didn’t.  But is used to!  And to it might again, if I could only get it right.

I know now that I was wanted and cared for and celebrated and protected as a child.  But the world is a dangerous place, even for children born into circumstances like I was.  My father died when I was six, and I’m sure it gave me a fear about losing my mother that most of the other children in my life didn’t have.

And there are other things.  My point at this moment is that I saw the world as dangerous, and the world was dangerous, even though I had every advantage and after all I did come through all right.  The fearfulness of that child, the normal misunderstandings of my child’s mind, and the dormant seed of alcoholism laid the ground work for my drinking nearly to death.

And isn’t aging, as I’ve been blessed beyond measure to experience, a creeping back toward that time when I may not be independent and I may not understand all that goes on around me?

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December 31, 2017 (this day)

This year!

I am circling, circling that fourth step and I will leap upon it soon.

With several hours left to go, and no easy access to alcohol, I think it’s safe to assume that I won’t have had any alcohol in 2017.  The thirty-third year?  Nineteen eighty four was the last year I drank.

2017 was terrible in some ways.  Politically I have been more disturbed and devastated than is healthy.  I had a great year with my precious dog, up until the last two weeks.  After a few difficult hours she left me for the final time.  And I’m much more crushed than is called for.

I’m grateful to be alive, grateful to be here and go this mile.  But anchoress, glueless, my compass is gone.

Not really.  AA has showed me the way since 1984.  The dog was never endangered by my alcoholism.  Since she’s gone, I can say “never.”  I don’t like facing a new year without that anchor and that glue, but really today is just another day, and tomorrow is just another day, and a “new year” is an arbitrary marker.  It’s another chance to be even better.

December 25, 2017 (this day)

This should be my beginning of Step Four, but that will wait.  This is my report of Christmas, 2017.

My dog passed away last Sunday.  It was as good as it could possibly be without her living forever, or for the rest of my life.  I’m broken hearted.  Truly.

My daughter lives about 400 miles away, and I wasn’t going to see her because the dog was too old to take and too old to leave.  My wife and son were going to go see my daughter the day after Christmas.  But the dog died, and my daughter asked me to visit.  Because both she and we live in potentially snowy areas, we left home on Friday after work and left her house this morning, Monday morning, Christmas morning.  We – me and my wife and my son – are in a Holiday Inn about 150 miles from home, stuck in blinding snow.  We were very grateful to find a room here, but are fairly depressed, each in our own way, to be here.  On Christmas.

Dear readers I am sober.  The loss of the dog is huge.  She has been my constant companion for 11 years.  She was always glad to see me.  She was a very good dog and constantly on my mind if not in my presence.  I can’t believe she’s gone and I can’t believe I’ll ever be happy again.

I’ve had other dogs and I still have cats.  I have human children.  I’ve lost relationships in many ways but this one hurts like hell.

I don’t need to peruse my gratitude list.  My gratitude is infinite, and my experience with my dog was as perfect as it could be.  Even her death was as good as it could be.  I’m grateful, and I miss her, and I’ll never be the same.  I’ll go into 2018 without her and just now, like I said, I can’t imagine ever being happy again.

November 29, 2017 (this day)

IMG_0846Oh 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.

Expect A Miracle

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.

October 30, 2017 (this day)

IMG_0788I 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.

Step Four

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?