December 20, 2014 (this day)

SAM_2396I’m having extreme business due to the time of year, plus the fact that Carole and I are having our attic finished.  Not finished like heated, but finished like having the ceiling and walls completed.  I love attics.  My love started with my grandparents’ attic where I found relics of my mother’s and her siblings’ past.  I’m also horribly sentimental when it comes to objects and clothing.  I also did not know, until it was way past too late, that I would have only two children.  I always wanted more.


So when my daughter outgrew things I packed them up.  When my son was born I went through them and took out everything a boy could use.  The girls things, the majority of her things, went back into packing.  Then my best friend had three boys, and most of the my son’s things got passed on to her, but the girl things remained and I have moved them across the country and back again.  I’m now finding box after box of pristine girl clothes, more than 25 years old.


I’m also finding relics of my own from before then.  There are many of my papers and tests from college, from 1982 and 1983, the years before I stopped drinking.  Failed tests, terrible papers.  Then a sonogram from May 1, 1985, my first sober anniversary.  I was five months pregnant.


In general it is a terrible idea to get married and pregnant your first year of sobriety, and the marriage was truly a bad idea and didn’t work out.  The kids, or course, I cannot regret.  And a part of me wonders if I didn’t need that life change to finally get sober and stay sober.  At times I used to feel guilty, like I was faking sobriety somehow because I got pregnant, then was a mother, and that’s why I didn’t drink.  At the same time I know that many women got pregnant and became a mother and did continue to drink.


As I’m writing this, my work partner is texting me regarding our combined gift to our staff.  We have 40 people we supervise now, more than ever, and 88 clients, more than ever.  My attic is getting cleaned and my wife and son (and dog) want to go with me to see my daughter, who wants to see us!  Carole and I have been legally married for one year today.  Wonders never cease.

September 21, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0546I recently had a reason to really think about how much time I devote to AA and AA activities.  It’s licensing time at my work, and that means, for me, a lot of extra work as we get ready then live through it.  It happens every year, for sure, and I should be better about it after all these years.  I am better about it, but still not great.  We’ve had lots of new clients, which is a good thing and a blessing, but new clients bring more work.  My work partner’s husband got seriously ill and then died this year.  We lost some key staff and we have been disappointed by other staff.  But I digress.


AA has asked a little bit more of me recently.  Through most of the last fifteen years of my sobriety, I’ve coasted along very nicely at a pace I enjoy.  I got to one or two meetings a week, including the group I helped found, and I do little extra jobs there most of the time.  I read AA-related literature with Carole most workday mornings and on my own at a slower pace.  I write here and read AA blogs and I help when I’m asked.


I guess that’s what’s increased.  Without being too specific, just because real people are involved, I will say more people have asked me for more and different help than usual.


It has always, always, been a profound blessing to me to be asked for help in AA.  My own story would have ended when I was not yet 22, and actually way before that had not the good people of AA helped me and helped me and helped me.  I honestly see any help I can give today as a way to pay those people back.  It’s also a way to keep AA going into the future.  And, oh yeah, the program tells me I have to give it away to keep it.  I am seriously invested in keeping it.  Helping others gives me life.  And it is a joy.


Then there’s the introverted me who needs time to do nothing, and to do it alone or in the small context of my small family.  At thirty years sober I don’t need a meeting every day.  If I ever do need that, I will joyfully attend and be grateful they exist.  But two is good for me right now.  When my kids were younger, it was often one meeting a week.  I put my personal minimum at that and kept it religiously.  Also, for my sanity, working five days a week works great for me.  Again, in past times when I had to work six days a week I did so gratefully, but that’s not now.


Anyway I had these increasing works demands, and suddenly these increasing AA demands, and I really thought, “How much time should I give AA?”  How much time, in order to live the best possible life I can live?  Because it is, of course, all about me.


And I thought about it and I decided.  I have to give AA all the time there is, if that’s what’s asked.  All my time, since May 1, 1984, belongs to AA.  The other things that ask for my time, including my job, exist for me because first there was AA.  AA didn’t put a limit on the time it gave me.  It gave me as much time as I needed, and it still does.  I’ll never be able to repay it.


IMG_0554I recently heard that if you have a close associate who has lost weight, or quit smoking, your chances of also doing so are greatly enhanced.  I believe it.  I was unable to quit smoking while Carole still smoked.  When I quit drinking, I was in a (terrible) relationship with someone who was not an alcoholic and who would refrain from drinking around me to help me.  I then got involved with my ex, who was also sober in AA.


So now Carole and I (also my work partner and I) struggle with eating right, and so often we drag each other down.


But in just about every other way, I do believe we are good for each other and bolster each other and support each other and succeed together.  I know it is that way for our long-term sobriety in AA, at least for today.  Without looking up the meaning, I’m taking “codependent” to mean “too dependent,” and there probably isn’t a way to live in a marriage with at least some of that.


As well there is unfortunate truth to the notion that a wife and mother will have a hard time being happy if everyone else isn’t happy, especially with young children.  We should be peaceful, knowing we’ve done our best, but if our best isn’t good enough, there won’t be peace.


AA helped me through the years with all of that.  It gave me endless resources of sober people to guide me and make sure I didn’t go off the rails with anything, relationship-wise and with my children.


And now, Carole and my work partner make me more friendly, and I make them more the thoughtful.  And the three of us need to lose weight.

June 13, 2014 (this day)

I’m the manager on duty at work, and so that is always hectic – lots to do followed by waiting for something to do.  I don’t get periods of uninterrupted time when I can do the paperwork that is constant.
We’re settling into summer at work, and it is my work partner’s first summer without her husband.  Her refusal and inability to plan bumps up against my need to plan.  We work it out, but it stretches me in ways I’d rather stay rigid.
My lipoma developed a hematoma.  I wanted to try and kayak with Carole today but can’t because of work partner.  So we’ll try again for Monday, which may be better.  We both need desperately to get into better shape and our lack of shape is hindering what we want to do an can’t.  We’ll be going north for vacation.  Some of our friends – I won’t say lots, but some – bicycle.  While it’s a nice idea, these friends also often (once a year?) hurt themselves in serious ways.  And they are starting out in much better shape than we are.  We should have stayed active and didn’t.  We quit smoking but gained weight.  I’m afraid of speed and of falling.  Falling out of a kayak will be safer for me than falling off a bicycle, though I know both can kill me.
So there’s that trip, and my mother comes and stays with the dog.  The dog is afraid of thunder, and this seriously degrades my quality of life.  I’m open to suggestion but won’t consider a thunder shirt.  Herbs don’t work, and neither does Benadryl, not when the dog believes it’s the end of the world.  We can’t drug her beyond Benadryl because she’s too big for us to manage physically if she can’t move under her own power.  Anyway I’ll have to visit with my mother around the vacation.  Then I want to see my daughter before school starts in August, and that will be sad, and far, and HOT.  And August is full of dates that will be extra sad for my work partner, due to her husband’s death.  It strikes me to notice that I don’t actually know when Father’s Day is this year.  It’s been so long since I’ve had a father figure or since my kids have had one, it’s not part of my psyche. 
Program-wise, not much is going on with me.  There’s two “rules” that have come to my attention, that may not be universally know or adhered to, but that I follow and believe are good.  One is to always get someone to go with you on a “12th step” call.  I put that in quotes because I don’t mean tracking down some unfortunate stranger, which I never do (but should), but rather responding when someone I know is drunk or drugged and asking for help.  I was taught to never go alone because, I guess, you don’t know what you’re getting into.  I did go alone once, and long time ago, and I can’t remember why I was alone, but it did work out OK, except that I missed “back to school” night for my kids and left them at their grandparents’ over night with no pajamas.  Which leads nicely to the second rule, which is to always say “yes” when someone in the program asks me to do something for the program which I can reasonably do.  Which is why I’ll be leaving my doggie alone in the potential thunder tomorrow night and showing another person how to make coffee for an AA meeting.  Which, if you’re me, is rather weakly, because I drink it black and don’t like it too strong.
Grateful I can go this mile.

March 30, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0343Today Carole and I went shopping at an outlet mall.  I came home with all of my money.  This has nothing to do with AA except that it is an infinitesimal part of my feeling “different” like we all did, but I wear a size 5 shoe and they just don’t exist.


Tomorrow I will start my fourth week at work without my partner.  And she’ll start her fourth week in life without her husband.  I can do it, but I don’t like it.  I miss her terribly, there.  Because at home, I’m lucky to live near her and to be a friend, so I don’t have to actually miss her in my life, just in my work life.  It’s just so sad.


Last night I chaired my meeting and I made cookies for the occasion from a mix.  All I had to do was add butter and water and I still messed them up.  There were four left over, so you know they were bad.  I don’t like to cook and I’m not good at it and I don’t know why, once every decade or so, I try.


So I’m lucky that for just this moment, there’s really nothing else going on with me.  And that’s the way I like it.

March 22, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0351It was two weeks yesterday since Alek died.  Since then I’ve been to his funeral.  I’ve been to my daughter’s new place far far away from here.   I’ve been to work without my partner for two weeks.  I’ve been to an AA meeting far, far away from here (in my daughter’s new place).  I’ve been in freezing fog (coming home from my daughter’s new place).  I’ve been in winter and now I hope to be in spring.

In writing all that, I hoped to develop some over-arching truth about something that would make me feel better about it all.  I am actually better about it all.  Getting back to work last Wednesday without Irene there was easier for me than it had been the week before.  Every moment didn’t fill me with terrible sadness, like the moments did before.  Maybe it helps that’s I’ve seen my daughter’s new place and can picture her there a little bit.  Maybe it helps that she seems happy with her choice so far.  That certainly helps.  A reprieve from snow and ice is also a wonderful thing.  And Alek’s death at 61 makes me and most of us who knew him determined to be less sad about things that are actually happy.

OK, maybe that one is just me.  I talked to someone from work the other day about her struggles with her step children.  Having lived through one of the roles in that unhappy constellation and having come out the other side with my wife still here and my children still speaking to us, I was so able to see that the things my colleague was stressing over were so minor in the scheme of things.  Not worth the negative emotion she was spending on them.  I’m hoping to do that for myself in my new situations.

She said my talk with her was “uplifting.”  How cool that I, who was once drunk and dying under the table, today can “uplift” someone.  That’s all because of AA.

February 23, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0953The day after I wrote about my daughter and her move for her dream job, a favorite client of mine died.  He died on his 72nd birthday, and it is quite a miracle that he lived that long.  He had multiple, severe disabilities, and he was fairly healthy until the very end.  I remember him from my interview, sixteen years ago.  I’ve seen him just about every day that I’ve gone to work since then.  He was special.  They’re all special.  He was extra special.  And he’s not there anymore.


Shortly after that, a friend announced she is moving far, far away (whereas my daughter is only moving far away).  I don’t think this is her dream job, but it’s her dream location to live.  So that’s good.  I really hope losses come in threes and that I’m done for a while now.


As I build up to these goodbyes I am also dealing with my work partner’s husband’s cancer.  If he makes it through fine I’ll still have to face the fact that she’s ten years older than I am, and our working relationship won’t last forever.  It will end one way or another.  She stopped working with me one other time since we began and it was horribly difficult for me.  At least for tomorrow, I expect she’ll still be there.


And yesterday I went out on a 12 step call off sorts.  The sponsee of a sponsee was in bad shape, and I spent a good part of the day trying to help her.  I’ll just say a beautiful, nice, smart, sweet young lady with a wicked story.  Why does she want to add to it?  I wish she could see herself the way we on the outside can see her.  I talked to her after the meeting last night and even after the close call and awful time she’d had, I still heard resistance in her voice and I remember to be grateful, beyond measure, that I achieved some sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous.


As I think of saying goodbye to these people (not the ones who are moving, I know it’s “see ya later,” just not as often and not as easily as before) I remember (sort of) when one of my grandfathers died, when I was drinking.  The feelings and interactions got drowned in such a horrible sickness.  These people dying and moving away hurts, but as long as I stay sober I know there will be a way out of the hurt, and new people to pay attention to here, now.

January 5, 2014 (this day)

IMG_0930I have some boring, and some troubling things going on. 

The weather is very dark, and very cold.  I’ve given up looking at weather reports and I’ve asked Carole not to tell me about impending snow.  I spend less time worrying that one.  One day recently it was my worst case scenario.  I was at work, watching the snow fall, wondering if/when I’d get home.  That morning (not before) I found out we were expecting snow.  So I didn’t worry about it until that morning.  Then I made a real effort not to worry.  That morning, Carole and I read from My Utmost for His Highest, which we’ve doing since we learned that they read this book in early AA.  I related whatever the reading was to my snow worry (and that’s not easy to do, to relate those readings to anything, sometimes).  Anyway I did well through the day until the last hour, when the snow was coming down and I worried that if clients didn’t get out, I wouldn’t be able to leave.  My ride home was snowy but uneventful.  Really, as always.

I am so sick of this particular character defect.

Now terrible cold is coming, and that worries me.  In addition to worrying about getting to work, I’m worrying about my daughter.  She has an interview for a job here (dare I hope?  I dare not!) and will be driving in the terrible cold.

The day of her interview I have my first ever colonoscopy (sorry).  That’s scary.  The day before when I can’t eat is scary.  The night before when I have to drink that stuff is scary.  The procedure and the results are scary.

My work partner’s husband, I’ll call him Alek (as I’ve called her Irene), went for his first colonoscopy two weeks ago.  He is 61, and hates the doctor, and didn’t go at the recommended age of 50.  He also had symptoms that something might be wrong.  They found a mass so big they couldn’t continue.  They biopsied it and it is cancer.  They just found this out last week.

This disturbs me in so many ways.  I’m upset for Irene, I hate that she will have to go through this, no matter how it turns out.  I’m worried for me, because I have to be at work when she’s not, so I’m afraid I’ll have to be there a lot.  Even more afraid that she would quit or retire.  And not looking forward to my procedure.

This all sounds like a ton of worry, and it is.  I feel more worried and unsettled than usual.  Not knowing where my daughter will end up living is a big one.  Also Carole and my mother are planning a trip to Alaska (with me).  I don’t want to go, but my mother is at a point where it might be now or never.  Knowing every day that the weather could be challenging is no fun.  And my hip hurts something fierce.  I don’t know why.  My hip and my . . . breasts.  Menopause continued.  Two sometimes members of our meetings have relapsed again, one in a scary way that makes me remember not everyone makes it, and these two may not.

I didn’t drink in 2013, not once.  Irene (on a different topic) asked me about a party we had at the house for AA folks, and the New Year’s Eve AA party we went to.  “You mean, you just get together, and you don’t drink?”  Pretty much.  I did look at the crowd at the party and imagine us drunk.  This scene could only happen in my imagination, because in reality I couldn’t hold it together to attend such an event, or live such a life, if I was drinking.

December 5, 2013 (this day)

IMG_1242There is a momentary peace in my house since my daughter left and took her two cats with her.  It’s only momentary, since today we will travel a bit of a distance to attend my daughter’s graduation.  I have terrible separation anxiety leaving the pets, and especially the dog.  Even though we pay lots of money to the most excellent pet sitters ever born.

I need to get back to writing about the first step.  Really need to, because it’s been the most persistent thing, through the years, that I’ve seen people struggle with as they try to achieve sobriety.  As a problem child myself, I understand but I’d really like to be more helpful to the people who struggle, beyond sharing my experience and offering the hope of my experience.

I’m missing an important event at work to go to the graduation.  I’m spending hours in the car with my wife, son, and mother.  All relationships are good enough to make me not worry about the hours in the car, beyond missing work.

Ah, worry.  My favorite most persistently annoying character defect.  In an effort to stamp it down and disable it, I have not consulted weather predictions for my journey.  My worry surely never melted one flake of snow.  Or comforted an abandoned dog.  Abandoned to wonderful, loving, reliable pet sitters for a brief period of time.  And to the company of cats.

November 29, 2013 (this day)

IMG_1262My daughter is visiting with her two cats, and my resident cats are not happy.

My mother is here.  She doesn’t have cats anymore.

We had a really nice Thanksgiving.  As I got a few “happy Thanksgiving” messages from people I know in the program, I thought about how each of them, and all the other AA people I know, really, make my life so much richer.

I worked today and lots of the people I work with were upset that our agency took the day after Thanksgiving away as a paid holiday for us.  People on the news are upset that many stores were opening on Thanksgiving.  It was a quiet day and I’m glad I went.  I spent more time trying to move into my spiffy new office while my mother, wife, and daughter went shopping.

The plans for my daughter’s graduation next week go forward.  The plans for us to get “legally” married after that go forward.  I had the honor of witnessing the marriage of two program friends who did the legal deal due to a need for health insurance.  It’s crazy to me, the legal aspects and the spiritual aspects and how the twain don’t meet.

Since this is my AA blog, I’ll write that two slogans come to mind.  “Remember what you would have settled for.”  I would have settled for so much less.  “Beyond your wildest dreams.”  Yes, in just about every way.  Yes.