29 November 2007

Atheists come to believe (or not)

Monday night was my home group's monthly speaker meeting. It was the first time ever in my 15 years that I've seen (or should I say heard?) a group sung to by a speaker. He sang the opening lines of a couple of corny tunes that I didn't know and certainly don't remember. His singing voice wasn't even very good.

Much more impressive was the story of how he, as a one-time atheist, found God. I always find such stories very moving. Just last Saturday night, at the Came To Believe meeting I attended, I heard another such story from an atheist, which moved me nearly to tears. At that same meeting, still another person said he had been brought up an atheist and had been angry at all the same things his parents had been angry at, whatever they were, which of course made us all laugh. These sharings reminded of what the Big Book says about the purpose of including selected people's stories: "Each individual, in the personal stories, describes in his own language and from his own point of view the way he established his relationship with God."

I must say too that I know several people—not many, but a few—who have what appears to be good long-term sobriety without what I would call a God in their lives. I can think of one in particular who continues to use A.A. as her Higher Power, and she's been coming around regularly since several years before I started to. Every now and then I hear people comment on how it seems like everyone who stays in A.A. and works the program eventually comes to believe in a personal God, but I'd say it's certainly not everyone.

27 November 2007


OK, it's Tuesday afternoon and I finally added the pictures to my Thanksgiving post.

I also saw my primary care provider not long ago and, apropos of my other post yesterday, he was less than enthusiastic about tricyclic antidepressants. I left with a prescription for sertraline, better known by its trade name, Zoloft.

26 November 2007

Still unmedicated

I remain unmedicated for my mental condition. I haven't posted vis-a-vis my lack of fluoxetine (generic Prozac) for over a month now (that post is here). Last Wednesday, I met with Macron Larks to discuss getting back on something. He suggested I try a tricyclic antidepressant, specifically either amitriptyline or nortriptyline, which, if anything, should help me sleep better (one of my big problems with the fluoxetine is that it seriously disturbed my sleep). He thinks they're rarely prescribed these days because (a) they're old and boring rather than being new and hip, and (b) the pharmaceutical companies don't push them since they don't make any money on them any more. This means they're "cheaper than dirt." Despite what the link above says about amitriptyline, some references indicate that using it can result in excessive weight gain1, which I really don't want to have to deal with. So I'm more inclined toward nortriptyline. I have an appointment with my primary care guy tomorrow and I'll discuss it with him.

Again I want to thank Doctor A for warning me about the dangers of going back to any antidepressant without supervision.

Actually the main reason I went to see Macron was to discuss my marital situation and some thoughts I've had about what to do about it. A most interesting discussion it was too, and eventually I'll probably post about it, but to do so now would be premature.

1One of these—undated I should note—reports the interesting fact that tricyclic antidepressants are "the leading cause of death by drug overdose in the United States." Such irony!


[Before I get started on my topic here, I'll just note that I tagged eight more of my fellow bloggers with the recovery meme I posted on Wednesday at the behest of the Junky's Wife.]

I started this post last Friday afternoon. Unfortunately I simply don't have the time to do all the things and be all the people I want to in the limited amount of time available. Sigh.

I spent Thanksgiving day at an mini-alkathon1 in a river town a little over 30km from home in an adjoining Area. There was a nice turkey dinner for anyone who showed up, plus breakfast for those who were there early. It was something like the 10th year for this event, although I don't remember ever hearing about it before (another advantage of attending a new set of meetings—I get to hear about goings-on that I didn't know about before). There was a speaker every hour on the hour from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Most speakers spoke for 30 minutes and allowed discussion to follow. At least one used the whole hour. I was lucky enough to be invited to speak in place of a no-show for the final slot.

Having heard they needed help, I showed up around 9:00 AM. They let me help alright, but not with anything so important as cooking: instead they let me take out trash, make donation cans, run errands and, of course, help clean up afterwards.

I took some photographs2. It was held in a church that I'm told has been very eager to have A.A. folks put on this event. It's a great facility in which to do it.

They hung a sign on the street to let everyone know that this was the place.

It was held in a gymnasium behind the church known as "The Lord's Gym."

Probably a couple hundred people flowed through the facility during the day. A few people I knew showed up, including the man who was Delegate in our Area when I was a DCM. Mostly though I hadn't known the people I met that day. I heard a number of good things throughout the day. The one that has most stuck with me came from one of the cooks who spoke. He said, "If I could drink normally, I'd drink all day long." Is that alcoholic thinking, or what? I heard at least one person say that if it hadn't been for this alkathon, they'd have had no place to go that day. Another admitted that she had planned on getting drunk that day, but a friend had called her and convinced her to come to the alkathon instead.

All in all, I felt very good about the day. I'd never done anything like this for Thanksgiving; I'd always spent it with family and friends. The group that put this alkathon on also has them on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Last Wednesday I bought plane tickets to fly across the country and be with my grandchildren for Christmas, but maybe I'll go back and do it again for New Year's. It sure would beat getting drunk and wearing a lamp shade on my head.

1Anyone have an opinion or knowledge about how to spell this word? Google reports the following number of results for each of the spellings shown:





2I'll upload pictures later this evening, after I get home to my camera.

21 November 2007

Recovery meme

I'm not entirely pleased about being tagged with this. In general, these things remind me of those stupid chain e-mails I get all the time. Or the sickeningly smarmy religious, spiritual, joke or greeting card e-mails I get from people I otherwise think of as friends. Of course, in general, I can be a really self-righteous intellectual asshole concerning just about anything.

If part of the rules said I'd get seven years of bad luck or other bad things would happen to me if I don't comply, I absolutely would not. But they don't, so I'm gonna do it. If for no other reason than because of the tremendous respect I have for the Junky's Wife, who, after all, says she loves me and wants to be my BFF.

Here are the rules:
  1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
  2. Post these rules on your blog.
  3. List seven things you're grateful to have learned in recovery.
  4. Tag seven people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
  5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.
Note that I'm doing this without having read what anyone else has written in reponse to this. That will help me ensure that these are really mine.

Seven things I'm grateful to have learned in recovery

I see it's specifically about the things I've learned in recovery. Well, that narrows it a little bit. The first two are things that I often refer to in telling my story or just sharing in meetings.

  1. I'm grateful to have learned that my Higher Power didn't hold all those awful things I did against me, and therefore I don't have to either. The way I usually say this is that the first great gift I got from A.A. was the ability to look myself in the mirror every morning, and feel good about who I saw looking back. Over the 26 years I drank, the load of guilt, shame and remorse became so heavy that I thought I'd never feel this way again.
  2. I'm grateful to have learned that I'm nothing more than a garden-variety drunk. I'm essentially no different in that respect from anyone else who has ever come in the rooms, or who will eventually come in the rooms, or who is qualified to come in the rooms but will die, be institutionalized or be jailed before they make it. This is a lesson that took four years to learn well enough to pretty much stop having the thought that I'm somehow different.
  3. I'm grateful to have at last learned how to truly serve and worship the God I've always acknowledged in my life: by working the 12 Steps of A.A. in my affairs.
  4. I'm grateful to finally have discovered a grand and real purpose to my life: that of helping still-suffering alcoholics recover from alcoholism.
  5. I'm grateful to have learned that I want to be like so many of the people around me in this Fellowship and particularly in service to this Fellowship. It's like have a second, but much larger and more widespread family. This is truly ironic in that it's these very people I used to scorn and to scoff at when I was sitting on my barstool.
  6. I'm grateful to have learned that I'm not always right, that it's not even important that I be right. I still quite often forget this, but usually—I think—eventually remember it. Even if I don't tell anyone.
  7. I'm grateful to have learned that time is not all that important. What's most important is today's sobriety. The only worthwhile thing about time is the way I may have used it (i.e., to form good habits, to identify who's got what I want (so I can mold my habits around what they do), to make myself ready to have God remove my defects, to make amends and, above all, serve others—this list could be extended ad infinitum).

This last item is particularly poignant to me right now. I've come across an astonishing number of people lately who had lots of time, went out and, now that they're back, are obsessed with the time they had. They say things like, "No one can take away the 20 years I had before I picked up." Saturday morning a small group of friends and I confronted another friend who was in denial about having gone out earlier in the week. She was saying things like this. It was crystal clear to me—heart-breakingly so—that we were arguing with the demon Alcohol, not with the person I love.

OK, I did it. What's still left is to tag some folks. I'm gonna take the seven pretty loosely. One comes immediately to mind: Daily Piglet, you've been tagged. I'll find some more later and post an addendum.

(BTW, I have one final complaint: is this really a meme? Or did someone just pick the word because it sounds all hip and technologically cool?)

Addendum, posted 23 Nov 2007:

I'm also tagging my fellow bloggers at Down from the Mountain; Geisha, Interrupted; Letting go; Recovery Archive; the smussyolay; Stay-at-Home-Mayhem; This can't be it and Thorn In My Flesh (née Stay-At-Home Motherdom). I was also gonna tag Vicarious Rising but Scout beat me to it. Yeah, I know that's nine; I can count. So what?

15 November 2007


Did I mention that Nimue and I are separated? But living in the same house? No? Sorry 'bout that.

It's so. It's been so, for going on 3 over 2 years. It was her decision. Something to do with giving better attention to her children, which I didn't really understand. She asked me to move out. Her request astounded and infuriated me.

When we married, she came with very little in the way of financial assets (but did bring along a history of two recent bankruptcies). I brought significant assets, the biggest of which was the house. It seemed like an ideal place for her children to grow up. So we agreed that we'd live here, even though it's the house I lived in with my first wife and in which Bitter Cookie and I raised our children. I bought out my ex-wife out and re-financed (which, among other things, means that my mortgage lasts until I turn 79). I moved back in shortly before Nimue and I married.

Now she was asking me to move out, to continue paying the mortgage and utilities, and to find a place of my own in which to live. I flat out refused. She wouldn't leave either, because "it's the kids' home and they don't want to leave," so she sleeps in what used to be the family room.

Shortly before she made her decision that we should separate, we had been seeing the therapist, Macron Larks. He'd been therapist to both of us from long before we got together, so he was a natural choice. She mentioned in one of our last sessions with him that she'd had this strong intuition that a separation might be good (for her children). Macron allowed as how it could be important to pay attention to such perceptions, but stressed that if we did separate for the sake of Nimue's children, it was very important for the marriage that she put set a date when the separation would end. When the youngest turned 18, or 21, or when the last one had finished high school, or college, or something like that.

I reminded her of this caveat a year or so into the separation—when we still seemed able to have rational conversations—and told her that one of my big fears was that she'd never set such a deadline, that one thing would always lead to another and there'd be no end of good reasons to continue the separation a little longer. At the time she allowed as how that was probably true. I remember how my heart sunk when she agreed so readily. It was like a punch to the belly.

All this came up tonight when she asked if I had decided about going back to see Macron Larks, something I had agreed to think about. I reminded her about his caveat. Now she has no memory at all of him saying it at all. "Besides," she says, "I have no control over when my children will be ready to leave."

I still can't believe it. As if my heart hadn't sunk low enough already, it has gone into free fall. A veritable body slam to the belly.

13 November 2007

Why stay in a relationship with an addict?

Mary P Jones has written two excellent posts over at A Room of Mama's Own in which she gives her answer this question. The first focuses on what addiction is and what it isn't. The second is more about the actual answer to this question. Good stuff.

Personally, I like to think that I would take my commitments, both to the person and to the institution of marriage itself, seriously enough that I would stay married, even if she turned out to be a full-blown addict of any sort. This is largely due to my upbringing and the very strong emphasis in my religious denomination on the sanctity and permanence of marriage. Nonetheless, they are called vows, and I also want to take any vows I make to be taken seriously. Primarily by myself, but also by others.

Staying married, however, doesn't mean living with or putting up with the crap. Frankly I'm amazed that Bitter Cookie stayed with me for almost 24 years. Things went downhill almost continuously during throughout our time together. There was a brief, inexplicable rekindling of our romance for a few months less than a year before she filed for divorce (I'd been sober 3 years at the time), but other than that, the relationship just continued to worsen. It was so bad, that one of my daughters actually told me she was glad we got divorced. In the end, Bitter Cookie decided that she liked me even less sober than drunk and that was it.

Notice I started off saying, "I like to think..." The fact of the matter is that I've never really had to deal with the kind of behavior like that the spouse of an addict like the Junky's Wife describes in her blog. I look at my life today, at the rudeness and inconsiderateness that I put up with at home and how I react to it, and I see that it probably wouldn't be that simple for me. My friends think I'm nuts to stick around but for whatever reason, I seem to lack "courage to change the things I can." Well, that, in part, is what working the 12 Steps on this relationship is going to be about, I guess. Sigh!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

51 years of continuous sobriety

Saturday night I traveled about 25km to attend a group's 57th anniversary. Another 175 or so had traveled there as well. After the food and fellowship, they had three speakers.

The first was their "90-day" speaker. He actually had 5 months and gave a very coherent, well-thought out talk about the things he didn't accomplish because of alcohol. One of those things he missed out on was a seat in Congress, so it's not too much of a surprise that he was a good speaker.

The second speaker was their "1-year" speaker. She actually had 14 months and did a good job as well. She was somebody I had recently met. I spent a few minutes before the meeting listening to her complain about not getting a program at our Area's annual Convention/Assembly, an event I had a major role in. (We ran out of programs because, despite planning for a 15% increase in attendance, it actually went up more like 30%, to 900 people.) To her credit, she volunteered to be a part of the planning committee for next year's Convention/Assembly. Unfortunately, that committee comprises our current and past Delegates only.

The final speaker, who got 30 minutes where the other two had only 15 minutes, was their "long-term" speaker. He was somebody I had heard several times before and now has 51 years of continuous sobriety. I was in 1st grade when he got sober! He gave the best talk of any of the four or so I've heard him give, even though it was only an abbreviated version. What made it so good was his gratitude and strong emphasis on service. He was a true inspiration!

12 November 2007

Wish I'd written that

A Slob's Guide to Spiritual Growth
  1. It is better to watch the game in your undershirt with a can of cola in your hand than a can of beer.
  2. When you holler at somebody, you always feel lousy afterward--like a hangover.
  3. Life is a steady drizzle of small things--carry an umbrella.
  4. Tomorrow is another day.
  5. Never give up.
  6. Concentrate on what you're doing--it beats thinking.
  7. If you let the other fellow alone and don't get so upset about how he's living his life, you can watch more TV.
  8. It is more fun to be happy than angry.
  9. Don't take anything too seriously, including all of the above.
  10. This, too, shall pass.
Excerpted from the article, "A Slob's Guide to Spiritual Growth," the full version of which can be found in the A.A. Grapevine Digital Archives [subscription required], in the book, Best of the Grapevine [I think the link is to the correct volume—Vol. I], or here [scroll down to the bottom—the full article begins with the words "IT'S A SQUIRMY word"].

Wish I'd said that

My views on AA's singleness of purpose [are] unshakable.... For too long I ran on self-will. I blamed anything for my state of mind and my train-wreck of a life; anything and everything but alcohol and my relationship with booze. Once, I thought I knew best. I realise now I don't. But I had to wreck my life, hurt others and nearly die to dsicover the truth. To acquire self-knowledge.

The literature is very, very clear. AA can only and must only deal with alcohol and alcoholism. I'm not going to change a program which works. I'm not going to re-write the program to suit me. It's all in the Book.
Thanks for saying it, rootsradicaluk.

11 November 2007

A frustrated worshiper

Today I felt like I needed to find a good Sunday morning meeting—one to take the place of what used to be my practice of going to church. I felt the need to commune with my Higher Power and practice some grateful worship and adoration. I haven't been going to church since I long ago in frustration suspended my search for a place of worship that meets my wants. I recalled a "God As I Understand Him" meeting that I spoke at years ago. I was asked to speak on the God of my understanding for about 20-25 minutes. This was in my local clubhouse.

Unfortunately, this is the same clubhouse I despaired of a couple of weeks ago. I went anyway, for the first time since that post. I wish after the meeting got going that I'd tried a new and different meeting.

The speaker was someone who sends drug addicts to A.A. meetings in his professional capacity. He said he was currently working with 33 addicts, had told them all they should be going to A.A. and not a single one was! [His emphasis, not mine.] Did he listen to me read the Singleness of Purpose card (i.e., the Blue Card) he'd handed to me and ask me to read? He made many references to people and things that I didn't understand and left a number of thoughts unfinished, saying, "Well, you know how it is...." I wanted to loudly say, "Actually, I don't; please tell me." But I practiced some restraint instead. Or was it more like cowardice? He talked about getting physically ill and being put on some unnamed medication. He warned us all very strongly that we simply cannot medications that are prescribed for us. Which is total hooey, IMNSHO!

I did share in the second half of the meeting, mostly about how it is possible and sometimes even necessary for us to take medications as prescribed, once the corresponding illnesses have been properly diagnosed by a competent professional. I made reference to the pamphlet, The A.A. Member—Medications and Other Drugs. Someone with 42 days sober who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder really heard me and came up to me after the meeting asking again for the name of the pamphlet. We looked for it in the literature rack, but it wasn't there. She was going to go home and look for it on the aa.org website, so I'm glad to see that it's there.

So perhaps some good came out of my going. I'm glad to have been able to help, and it made me feel good to share what I did without being explicitly critical of our speaker.

10 November 2007

Prayers needed

My dear friend the Junky's Wife and her husband G need all the prayers they can get. What she already knew became undeniable a couple of weeks ago, and I feel awful that I haven't been keeping up with her blog.

Bloggers beware!

Some inconsiderate peabrain has been heinously using a bot to SPAM-comment on my other [real-life] blog. I have received literally thousands of comments, almost 10,000 so far. Fortunately I turned on comment moderation after receiving between 1,000 and 2,000 of these, each of which I now have to delete individually. After turning on comment moderation, I received another 7,500 or so, each of which has to be rejected. This part at least I can do 300 at a time, although several times I accidentally clicked on Publish rather than Reject, giving myself almost 1,000 more that I will have to individually delete. I hope I didn't accidentally reject any real comments while doing so. After a while, the mind turns to mush, looking at all these repeating comments with their links to sex sites and sites hawking Viagra, Cialis and who knows what other crap. And while I'm busy doing this, at least half my mind turns to dreaming up horrible punishments that I'd like to inflict on the kind of person that does this.

So, before this happens to YOU, turn on comment moderation. Do it now! Learn from my misfortune. This particular bot was posting an average of over 100 SPAM comments per hour. It doesn't take long for any particular blog to be overwhelmed. It makes dealing with Mickey seem like a walk in the park.

Updated 4 hours later:

I should have also changed my comments settings to require word verification. Doh! That's the whole point of this setting—to prevent bots from posting comments. I am really getting on in years, at least mentally.

09 November 2007


Yesterday, Sharon over at Fellow Traveler posted three definitions of humility. I was inspired to briefly research the various definitions of humility given in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.

Sharon likes the definition of humility as being right-sized. The 12&12 has that definition: "We found many in A.A, who once thought as we did. They helped us to get down to our right size. By their example they showed us that humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we placed humility first" (p. 30, in the essay on Step 2). The implication seems to be that our intellects easily come into conflict with being humble. That's certainly true for me—I don't have much humility when, as usual, I think I have all (or even some of) the answers.

Interestingly, the essay on Step 1 contains only a single reference to humility, despite the fact the summary for Step 1 in the Table of Contents on p. 5 contains what seems like a major point: "Relation of humility to sobriety." The essay says, "We know that little good can come to any alcoholic who joins A.A. unless he has first accepted his devastating weakness and all its consequences. Until he so humbles himself, his sobriety— if any— will be precarious."

Page 48, on Step 4, says humility consists of getting perspective on ourselves: "For we had started to get perspective on ourselves, which is another way of saying that we were gaining in humility." Or another way of saying right-sized.

My personal favorite is on p. 58 (Step 5): "Another great dividend we may expect from confiding our defects to another human being is humility—a word often misunderstood. To those who have made progress in A.A., it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be. Therefore, our first practical move toward humility must consist of recognizing our deficiencies." It's no coincidence, I'm sure, that the closest feeling to humility I think I ever experienced came immediately after I had completed my 5th Step. I felt—and still feel—that for the first time in my life I had come to see myself in true relationship to my Higher Power. How much more right-sized can one be?

Page 64 (Step 6) makes it clear that humility is necessary for that daily reprieve we all seek: "As they [men and women who pour so much alcohol into themselves that they destroy their lives] are humbled by the terrific beating administered by alcohol, the grace of God can enter them and expel their obsession." This point is reiterated on pages 72-73 (Step 7): "Every newcomer in Alcoholics Anonymous is told, and soon realizes for himself, that his humble admission of powerlessness over alcohol is his first step toward liberation from its paralyzing grip."

Page 72 says the "basic ingredient of all humility" is a "desire to seek and do God's will." This is from the essay on Step 7, which is of course the only step that actually mentions humility. This essay mentions humility more often than any other, though most of these mentions didn't help me in trying to define humility.

Page 98 (Step 11) says that "self-searching... is a step in the development of that kind of humility that makes it possible for us to receive God's help. Yet it is only a step." It seems obvious that conscious contact with a Higher Power through prayer and meditation couldn't help but enhance our humility.

Page 149 (Tradition 4), says that that ability to laugh at oneself is "the very acme of humility." I like this a lot. I think it makes a very important point about humility. We instinctively distrust people who are unable to laugh at themselves.

Pag 187 (Tradition 12) says that "anonymity is real humility at work. It is an all-pervading spiritual quality which today keynotes A.A. life everywhere. Moved by the spirit of anonymity, we try to give up our natural desires for personal distinction as A.A. members both among fellow alcoholics and before the general public." By today, Bill meant in the 1950's. But today (by which I mean today) I don't know that the same could be said. Is the spirit of anonymity truly pervading our A.A. lives? Does it keynote our blogging on this most public and widely read of modern media? Does it bear any relation at all to what the press has to say about celebrity drunks?

The danger of ignoring these lessons, of not making the effort to acheive true humility, whatever our definition, is clear:

Unless each A.A. member follows to the best of his ability our suggested Twelve Steps to recovery, he almost certainly signs his own death warrant. His drunkenness and dissolution are not penalties inflicted by people in authority; they result from his personal disobedience to spiritual principles.

The same stern threat applies to the group itself. Unless there is approximate conformity to A.A.'s Twelve Traditions, the group, too, can deteriorate and die. So we of A.A. do obey spiritual principles, first because we must, and ultimately because we love the kind of life such obedience brings. Great suffering and great love are A.A.'s disciplinarians; we need no others.

08 November 2007

07 November 2007

A spiritual experience

I attended a Came to Believe meeting several nights ago. This meeting's format is for a guest speaker to select one story from the booklet of the same name that we read as a group, to give a short lead, then to open the floor for comments.

After the lead, someone shared about his belief that one of his grandparents had helped him get sober, even though that grandparent was not alive at the time. It brought back a memory from my early sobriety, about which I shared later in the meeting.

It was July 1995. I had just under three years of sobriety. I was seeing my therapist, Macron Larks, and dealing with some sexual issues (among other things). I recalled to Mac that after my grandmother—who had died in 1981, 11 years before I stopped drinking—had gotten a drink or two under her belt at family gatherings, she would sometimes start muttering, half under her breath, about a certain unnamed minister she obviously didn't care for at all. Eventually I got the impression—I forget how or where—that there was some kind of sexual abuse involved.

When Mac heard this, he immediately gave me an assignment: to find out all I could about this incident. So I went to my mother's youngest sister, with whom I have always had a close and open relationship. She immediately and without hestitation told me all she knew.

In high school, my grandmother attended a religious boarding school several hundred kilometers from her home. Shortly before graduation, her mother died (her father was already dead) and she returned home to an older sister who was still living in the house they'd grown up in. One night her sister invited their former pastor, who happened to be passing through town, to stay with them. While there, he entered my grandmother's bedroom and sexually molested her. This was all my aunt could tell me.

It just so happened that my sponsor at the time was a minister of the same religious denomination. One of his assignments at the time was curator of the church archives. I decided to go see what more I could find out in these archives about the man who had abused my grandmother. I made an appointment to meet with my sponsor so he could give me a brief orientation as to what was available and how to find things.

My sponsor had absolutely no idea why I was there or what I was looking for. I don't remember everything he told me, but I vividly remember the moment when he went to a set of filing drawers, very similar to a card catalog in a library1. It was a central index to the information contained in the archives. There were several cabinets of drawers, and several drawers per cabinet, each presumably filled with 3 x 5 index cards. There were thousands of cards, perhaps even tens of thousands. Each contained somebody's name, or a topic, or a description of an event. He picked a drawer at random, opened it and pulled out a single card from the middle of the drawer to show me what a typical card contained.

The card he pulled was the one for my grandmother. Since it was my mother's mother, he didn't even recognize that she was related to me until I told him.

I couldn't believe it. It's still unbelievable. When I shared about this in the meeting last week, I got shivers and a large gasp went up from the group. I got shivers again just now, blogging about it.

Do you suppose my Higher Power thought I was on the right track?

1Remember these? They contained drawers full of 3x5 cards, one per book, organized by subject and/or author.

24 October 2007

Some meetings are better than others

I've been attending a particular Tuesday night meeting at the local clubhouse, primarily because my sponsor likes to go there. Last night was my fourth visit recently. I saw The Rock the first time, but haven't seen him since.

I was reminded last night of why I don't like going there. The speaker, who had a real wise-guy attitude, started off by announcing that he hadn't been to a meeting in a year. Within minutes he was trashing the 5th Tradition, without apology, saying that after picking up a drink, everybody does something else whether it's drugs, gambling or picking up women. He of course noted that he did all of these. He spent all but the last couple of minutes on his drunkalogue (and drugalogue—fortunately he didn't talk at all about the other two).

I kept thinking, "And this is supposed to help us—and especially the newcomer—stay sober how?" Needless to say, I didn't find much to laugh about in his many funny stories. They seemed mostly to be in his story to entertain his audience. I thought about getting up and walking out while he was still speaking, but didn't. I thought about leaving at the break, but didn't. I also kept wondering throughout how much of this was purely my negativity rather than just a bad job by an unsober person. I did express my opinion to Mr Riches-to-Rags, who was there.

It wasn't all bad. I heard a couple of good comments after the break and got to talk for a few minutes to a man who was District Treasurer when I was GSR eight years ago but haven't seen since. I learned that he's been very active in Intergroup since then. He's a good candidate to speak for me sometime.

19 October 2007

Attitudes towards meetings

Last night's speaker identified three phases he went through in his attitude towards A.A. meetings. These all occurred during the first 11 months of his sobriety, while he was in prison. He was in a work release program where, starting with one night a week, they gradually increased the number of nights he was allowed out to attend A.A. meetings, as he continued to not screw up.

At first, he said, he went because he had to. He hated being there and kept thinking, "Is this what my life has come to? To hang out with a bunch of alcoholics?" After a while he entered the second phase, where he realized that he always felt better while at a meeting. He still would have preferred not to go at all, but had to admit that it wasn't so bad. Finally, towards the end of his 11 months, he started looking forward to going to meetings—phase three.

This reminded me of what I was told in early sobriety: there are only two times I needed to go to a meeting: (1) when I wanted to and (2) when I didn't want to. In early sobriety, the number of times I went for the second reason exceeded the number of times I went for the first, but quite a lot. At some point, years ago, that changed. Now I rarely go for the second reason (though it does happen, usually when I'm thinking, "I've got better things to do").

After a number of years of sobriety, I recognized a fourth phase in my attitude toward meetings, namely, to go because I might have something to offer a newcomer, because I might be able to help someone who is struggling. For me, this brings the deepest satisfaction of all.

17 October 2007

Ruminations on Beauty

This was the title of a post by the Junky's Wife two months ago. I've been cogitating on it ever since I read it without knowing why. A couple of days ago it hit me.

Some background. For some time now, I've been trying to walk a couple miles a day, just on the general principle that since I have a pure desk job, it's good for me—physically, mentally and emotionally. Usually these were early in the morning or very late in the afternoon. Lately, I've taken to going on hour-long walks in the middle of the day. Being self-employed and setting my own hours, this is relatively easy for me. And I've been taking my camera.

It takes me twice as long, I probably don't cover as much ground, but it's been very very nice for keeping me somewhat grounded. I don't think about anything but what's around me and what might make a good photograph. And I've gotten some good ones. I'm actually pretty good at it, I think (one from today is above, to the right).

What hit me a couple of days ago is that this has become a form of meditation for me, meditation on beauty. As JW said in her post:
So why is beauty so important? And why is beauty so important to me?

Beauty, I guess, gives me that god-feeling...that moment when you recognize something beautiful, when it kind of catches your breath and pulls at your guts, or points at some emptiness in your guts that feels so essential to living...it makes me feel aware of something bigger than myself.
Thanks, JW, that really hit the spot!

Late for a meeting

I walked into my meeting tonight late, as they were just starting. I hate being late, especially when the only reason is because I didn't plan my time well. Even more so when, like tonight, it's my first time at the group. I got to introduce myself by saying my name and that it was my first time there. They welcomed me and then I remembered to add, "I'm an alcoholic." Somebody replied, "Good, at least you know that." Everyone—including me—laughed.

A. was celebrating five years. Assuming I was a newcomer, she turned to me after announcing it, looked me in the eye and said, "It really does work." I smiled inwardly and managed to keep to myself the fact that I had 15 years, even when I shared. Isn't amazing how the ego can pick up on the smallest things and keep reminding one of them all through the meeting?

15 October 2007

My prize

If you've been paying very close attention, you know I won a prize over at the Daily Piglet. Well, after a missed connection, my prize arrived in the mail the other day. You can see a picture of it to the left. Piglet told me she perused my blog to get an idea of what would be a good gift and, in the end, it was a toss-up between this and a night-light replica of the leg lamp from the movie A Christmas Story. To the right you can see a picture of the prize I didn't win.

My first thought on opening the package was, "Is it that obvious, just from reading my blog?" Who better to ask than Mr. Sarcastic Ball. You can see his answer here in the picture to the left.

In return for her offer that let me win this wonderful prize, I gave her a chance to win something back (if you follow all the links you'll see I challenged to figure out how I knew the answer to her question). She succeeded. So now I get to look over her blog and see what might make an appropriate prize for her. Any and all suggestions from her friends (and enemies) are welcome. Please e-mail them to me privately rather than post them here, so she can have the same delightful sense of surprise that I got to experience.

My old friend Pain

The last 43½ hours have not been good ones for me emotionally. Nimue and I had a big confrontation Saturday night. She insisted on having her way. I refused to give in. She said she was going to stand next to me, hammering away at me verbally, till I "cooperated." I got in my car and went to a meeting, which helped a little. Sure beats what I would have done 16 years ago: gotten in my car and gone to a bar.

Yesterday, I was at the 4th Step workshop I mentioned in my last post for most of the afternoon. I had picked out a meeting to go to Sunday night and then picked out a park to stop in on the way to the meeting from the workshop. I took a bunch of photographs (I'm an avid if amateur photographer). After the meeting, my old friend ChinBeard took me aside and chewed me out. He asked why I would want to continue for two years to stay with someone who didn't want to live with me. He offered to let me live with him and he would abuse me instead of Nimue. He offered to pray for God to send me even more pain, so I would finally do something. He carried on for almost 10 minutes, very brutally, shredding every "but" that I could come up with. Don't you just hate it sometimes when people love you enough to do that? Damn!

What is ANA?

At a 4th Step workshop I attended yesterday, we heard from four speakers. All were good. The two women obviously had very, very solid step-work backgrounds. One man spoke very knowledgeably and intelligently about the 4th step. The other man spoke movingly from the heart. I talked for a while afterwards with H., one of the women who spoke (the other woman who spoke was her sponsor's sponsor).

She first started working the steps after relapsing and then getting involved with something called "ANA." She said it was another Twelve Step fellowship, and made it sound like a sort of Back to Basics movement for any kind of addiction, with no distinction between alcohol and drugs, for example.

When I Googled for ANA, I didn't find anything like what she was describing. The most relevant links returned was to ANA Treatment Centres, a British chain of rehabs. I didn't see any explanation of why they use "ANA" in their name, but from some of the description, I can see that it might be related.

The next most closely related was for "my friend Ana." (Well, at least I learned one new thing today!)

Does anyone know any more about this? That is, about the fellowship H. was talking about, not about my friend Ana.

13 October 2007

Why "pigeons"?

Kathy Lynne wants to know, "Why pigeons?" and adding, "I don't like that."

I don't remember. I do remember seeing something once about where the term came from and, after reading it, feeling that it's not the pejorative term I had previously thought. Where was that article? AAHistoryLovers? Oh yes, here's the post that asked a question similar to Kathy Lynne's and here's the one response it got.

To summarize, the term appears to have originated with Dr. Bob and was in use by 1940. Dr. Bob was heavily into using slang. He called Anne, his wife, "the skirt" or "the little woman" and a kiss "the slobber." When he learned that Benjamin Franklin [follow this link: it has excellent information] had once observed that drunks appeared "pigeon-eyed," it immediately followed that they must be "pigeons". He also referred to sponsees as "cookies." Despite the apocryphal and derogatory explanations one hears from time to time in the rooms of A.A.—that pigeons are called that because they fly around and shit all over everyone, or because if you give them a message they deliver it somewhere but never get the message themselves—the term was originally meant endearingly.

I actually use the term "sponsee" in most of my conversation. But I prefer "pigeon" (and use it more often in writing since I have time to think about it) because it's sort of metaphorical and more colorful rather than technically accurate. When I use it I certainly do not intend it to be derogatory.

If you have a subscription to the A.A Grapevine's Digital Archive, you can find further discussion of this topic in the following articles:
This is a list of references I got from the first of the two AAHistoryLovers posts I noted above. After reading them, I'm still not inclined to change my opinion, though there are some good reasons not to use the term.

P.S. There may be other articles and letters among the 262 that were returned when I searched the archive for the term "pigeon."

12 October 2007

Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you

As predicted, I went to a meeting tonight with my new pigeon, Overseer. That's actually the name of the position of responsibility he has at the rehab he's in—Overseer. I was taken aback when he casually mentioned this to me on the way to the meeting. He's black, and to me this term has strong slavery connotations. I was more than taken aback; I was stunned. I said so, and he agreed, but then used the term again in a completely un-self-conscious way. So that's what his nom de blog is going to be.

We stood in the parking lot for a few minutes talking about where he is in recovery and what's going on. He clearly doesn't know how to be still and likes to talk too much. At least he knows this about himself. And was able to sit in the meeting and just listen, at my mild suggestion.

Somehow in the parking lot we wound up on the subject of prayer. I talked to him about my experience praying for people toward whom I have resentments. I told him how it took over a year of praying to heal my resentments over people like my ex-wife, Bitter Cookie; Idlerich, the boyfriend she left me for and Deadbeat, Nimue's ex-husband (can you tell I'm not 100% over them?). I told him how important it was to continue even when we don't feel like praying at all, that's it important to just mouth the words if that's all we can do. Then we went in to the meeting.

It was a Big Book discussion meeting. And, of all things, we read the story "Bondage of Self." It's amazing that it was a story from beyond the first 164 pages to begin with; around here the stories are only rarely read in meetings. But that is was this story? Wow!

For those of you not familiar with this particular story, here's a excerpt that will show its relevance:
If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don't really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don't mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.
Well, as I always say when we read this story, the author must have been a spiritual giant if she got that kind of result in just two weeks (the particular resentment she had was one of 25 years against her mother). But it can still work for the rest of us; it just takes a little longer.

Good discussion after the reading too. I think maybe I'll go back.

Why I don't drink non-alcoholic drinks

Anybeth—who I keep wanting to call "Amy Beth"—commented on my post Mmmmm, Mexican food saying that "a non-alcoholic margarita would taste great." I want to clarify why I ended my original post by saying, "Naw, I think I'll just stick to their food." This is not to criticize Anybeth in any way; I'm hope she'll be able to find some of those margaritas and enjoy them without consequence. But I can't.

For me it would be too much like, too close to actual drinking. More and more questions like those I started asking at the end of that post would begin to fill my head and get me to thinking. I would start remembering all those wonderful times I had when I was out there—whether they were really there or not. Soon I would be stealing a little of what the Big Book on page 101 calls vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere. And next thing you know, I would say to myself in the most casual way, "It won't burn me this time; so here's how!" And after the third or fourth, I'd be pounding on the bar and saying to myself, "For God's sake, how did I ever get started again?" Only to have that thought supplanted by "Well, I'll stop with the sixth drink." Or "What's the use anyhow?" (p. 24)

For me, this could easily be just how it happens. So, again, and just for me, I really do need to stick to only the food. And a soft drink or glass of water.

An okay day

Other than being late for work, it hasn't been a bad day. Had a little breakthrough on one of the problems I've been working on (professionally). Had a cheap but tasty lunch of Phad Thai. Tonight I will take my new pigeon to a meeting and spend a little time getting to know him and on the way will probably grab a slightly more expensive salad for dinner.

Since I was running late, I decided to shortcut my morning routine and thereby inadvertently forgot my morning prayers. Despite that, the universe, a.k.a. my Higher Power, in the form of today's entry from Daily Reflections, is apparently telling me I'm on the right track:

Curbing Rashness

When we speak or act hastily or rashly, the ability to be fair-minded and tolerant evaporates on the spot.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 91

Being fair-minded and tolerant is a goal toward which I must work daily. I ask God, as I understand Him, to help me to be loving and tolerant to my loved ones, and to those with whom I am in close contact. I ask for guidance to curb my speech when I am agitated, and I take a moment to reflect on the emotional upheaval my words may cause, not only to someone else, but also to myself. Prayer, meditation and inventories are the key to sound thinking and positive action for me.

Sorta sounds like what I was saying yesterday, doesn't it?

11 October 2007

The Riddling Bridge Troll

This is so great, I can't resist sharing it. The Junky's Wife said yesterday of her drug addict husband, "He's a riddling bridge troll I've got to get past before I can move on with my life, and the riddles he keeps coming up with stump me again and again."

This kind of insightful writing makes me very glad I don't have to live with an addict / alcoholic. I suppose it should give me some kind of sympathy for Nimue, but right now I'm only feeling it for JW and all her addict-married friends.

Mmmmm, Mexican food

Last night I ate at a nearby Mexican restaurant that's new to the neighborhood. I noticed going in that they offer "COMPLIMENTARY MARGARITAS!" My waiter offered me one, which I politely turned down. After leaving, I was perusing their take-out menu and noticed it's a BYOB place. What kind of Margaritas would those be? Not the kind I used to drink! I wonder what they taste like? I wonder if they're non-alcoholic? They must be. If so, would it be alright for me to have one?

Naw, I think I'll just stick to their food.

A new pigeon

On Wednesday, I posted that a man had asked me to sponsor him after I spoke at a Friday step meeting. Yesterday, he called. He's 2½ weeks into rehab and not sure how much longer he'll be there. It's at least his second time around. He used to think he was a drug addict, but has since discovered that he's more of an alcoholic; he only picks up the drugs after he's been drinking. He's particularly concerned about his family: a girlfriend he'd left for another woman and their children. He'd been reading the chapter "The Family Afterward" from the Big Book wanted to know if that was a good idea. My answer was that there's nothing wrong with reading that, but I also suggested "A Vision For You". I agreed to be his temporary sponsor. Tomorrow night I hope to be able to pick him, take him to a meeting and spend a little time getting to know him. Maybe after that, I'll know what pseudonym to give him.


I've been thinking it would probably be a good idea to work the steps on my relationship with Nimue. My sponsor, The Rock, agreed. So I guess I don't have any more excuses.

This is not going to be fun. Already I dread the 9th step, where I know I'll be having to make some amends I don't want to. Well, I just have to do what I did my first time through the steps (though then it was the 5th step I feared—is this a form of progress?): do them one at a time.

I know I'm powerless over most of what it is that I think bothers me (I'm probably wrong). I can't control what she says, what she does, what she thinks, what she feels, what her attitude is, or how she's raising her adult children. I can't control the expression on her face. I can't control the sarcastic, self-righteous edge in her voice when she's speaking to me.

What I really, really, really need to do is stop simply reacting to all these things. For Pete's sake, when I've just had an altercation with her, my blood pressure goes up 30 points. I need to insert a pause, to let HP insert a little pause. Give me time to have a little think about what I do or say next. Not to mention give my blood pressure a few moments to recover.

I can't manage this relationship. All I can try to manage, with HP's help, is how I am in this relationship, what I do, what I say. I've been doing the best I can for 8 years, 4 months and 11 days. Not completely on my own, with some occasional requests for assistance. But whatever it is that I've been doing clearly is working. Time for a new approach.

Nothing new here. I've known all this for some time. What's different now is that I've made a decision to change what I'm doing. I'm not exactly sure what yet, but stay tuned and find out.

Yesterday's Daily Reflections:

Fixing Me, Not You

If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 90

What a freedom I felt when this passage was pointed out to me! Suddenly I saw that I could do something about my anger, I could fix me, instead of trying to fix them. I believe that there are no exceptions to the axiom. When I am angry, my anger is always self-centered. I must keep reminding myself that I am human, that I am doing the best I can, even when that best is sometimes poor. So I ask God to remove my anger and truly set me free.

09 October 2007

Two good days, ending with a let-down

I spent Sunday afternoon in a workshop held in the same room I had spoken in Sunday morning. Turnout was disappointing; there were fewer people there for the workshop than for the morning meeting and hardly anyone from the meeting stuck around for the workshop. At least many of the faces were unfamiliar. That's always a good sign. And for those of us who were there, it was good and satisfying workshop.

Last night—Monday—I drove 171 km to attend a District open house followed by a monthly District Committee meeting. Turnout for this was disappointing too: 18 people, including three of us Area officers, who came from out of town: the Delegate, the Alternate Delegate and me, the Chairperson. I spoke for 5 minutes or so about the Area structure: how we're organized for general service at the Area level.

There were two very bright spots in the evening for me. During the open house, which had no program and consisted of us sitting about eating wraps, veggies and dip, pretzels and cookies, I sat and talked for quite a while with a guy I'd never met before. I'll call him Joe.

Early in the conversation Joe asked where I was from, I told him, and then he asked if I'd grown up there. I told him no, and named the town and state I'd grown up. He said, "Oh, I used to live in that state [it's a small state] but I'm not sure where the town is." I explained to him and he responded, "I lived for a while in XYZ, not far from there."

"I don't remember where that is."

"It's right next to the ABC park."

"Oh, that's only a few miles from where I grew up. In fact, when I was a Boy Scout we had an event in that park and I used my first aid training to treat a man who had blown the back of his calf off with a shotgun."

"Well, that's interesting; I was left for dead in that park by some Boy Scouts."

Joe went on to tell me the story, about how he'd been partially crippled by polio and wanted to join to the Boy Scouts as a way of getting some friends just after moving there, how the Boy Scouts—the kids, by themselves, without any adult supervision—had put him through a hazing of having to follow them through the park on his crutches, how they had crossed a old dam with a break in it, which they jumped over, but from which he fell when attempting the jump, landing on his head on the rocks below and knocking himself out, coming to on his back with his face barely out of water, and how the boys had run away and sworn a pact of secrecy among themselves. Needless to say, he never joined the Boy Scouts and none of them became his friend because he eventually named them all and therefore was a snitch.

All this happened the year after I had moved, as a 7-year-old, from across town to 3 or 4 miles from this park, which was practically across the street from where I went to junior high school.

Joe was born in 1945, a few years before I was, and was one of the last people in this country to get polio. He likes to say he got polio from Dr Salk. He and a bunch of others contracted it from a bad batch of polio vaccine as they were rushing the vaccine out to get everyone immunized. Because he had polio, they discovered that he had some other serious problem in his hip and he believes, especially since he regained the use of his legs, that he was better off than he would have been if he hadn't contracted polio.

He's been sober 7 years and married for 30. He married his bartender. They both drank until he got sober. She continued to drink after that and made a lot of disparaging remarks about A.A. and his attendance at meetings. He eventually learned to disengage from this kind of conversation.

Then her best friend, who lived out of state, called and asked his wife to come help her. Her husband was in the hospital dying. Joe's wife went to help out, leaving their two children with him. While away, she watched her best friend's husband turn yellow, swell up and die. A direct result of alcoholism. She stayed an additional two weeks to help her best friend get her feet back on the ground. When she got back home, she asked Joe to take her to a meeting. She's been sober ever since.

Eventually Joe's sponsor told him that it was time for his wife to get a home group.

Joe said, "I'll be happy to help her find a home group."

Joe's sponsor replied, "No, Joe, you don't understand. She's already found a home group and it's yours. Now it's time for you to find a new home group."

So he did.

It turned out that Joe's former home group was one for which I conducted a group inventory a few years ago. It's a Big Book study group and at the time, they were enduring a lot of criticism and were being accused of violating Traditions and being "Big Book Nazis [subscription required to view link]." I like to think that I helped them become confident that there was nothing wrong with their approach to studying the Big Book line by line. It may not be true, but I like to think it anyway.

Interestingly enough, of the 15 local people at the District meeting last night, at least 3 were affiliated with this Big Book study group: their GSR, the District Treasurer and Joe, who was attending as an interested member without any official position. That group must be doing something right!

Unfortunately, at the end of the day I wound up back home. A crowd of teenage boys was in the living room watching Monday Night Football. At 11:45 pm they let out a roar of approval over whatever had just happened and I got up out of bed to go ask them to keep the noise down. Half an hour later, I got up again to go ask a group of them to go somewhere else because their cigarette smoke was blowing in my bedroom window. They agreed to move, but not without a look of disgust and a few murmured words of contempt from my stepson, Thorn. And of course this morning the living room was a mess, with food, clothing and other objects scattered all over and a small ensemble of dining chairs encircling the television. At least no one was asleep on the couch or on the floor. No doubt there were a few more cigarette butts lying around too, since it seems impossible for these boys to do anything else but throw them on the ground. A quick glance about the yard quickly reveals their favorite places to smoke.

Three times in a week

A week ago Sunday afternoon I spoke for my friend Timber Ruse. We already knew we had a lot in common, but discovered that day that we had both been heavily influenced in our early days of service by the same man: J.J. Rangstorm. It was a typical speaking engagement for this area. Ten minutes or so of preliminaries, followed by me speaking for 20 or 25 minutes, followed by 25-30 minutes of sharing from the floor. I find that I can really only tell part of my story in 20 minutes.

Friday night I had been asked to speak on the first half of the 12th Step. It was, obviously, a step meeting, 1 ½ hours long. After the opening readings, we went around the room reading the first 11 pages of the 12th Step from Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. A pretty normal format so far. Then I shared. The chairperson had asked me to leave no less than 45 minutes for general sharing and that left me 10 minutes. I used 9 of them.

All week long I had been wondering (not for the first time) about what constitutes the "first half" of Step Twelve. I see three parts to it:

  1. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps,

  2. we tried to carry this message to alcoholics,

  3. And practice these principles in all our affairs.

The first two of parts of this step were changed from the Big Book draft manuscript. Instead of spritual awakening we had spiritual experience. Instead of these steps we had this course of action. Instead of to alcholics we had to others, especially alcoholics. The first of these changes occurred between the 1st (1939) and 2nd (1941) printings of the 1st edition. Appendix II, "Spritual Experience", was added at the same time. The latter two occurred before the 1st printing.

We read [just over] half the pages Bill W. devoted to the 12th Step in the 12&12. In these 11 pages, he addresses all three parts of the step. He discusses what a spiritual awakening is, then talks briefly about carrying the message and the attendant joys of that, and finally spends almost 5 pages on how we can practice these principles throughout our life. The remain 9+ pages are devoted to this latter subject as well. So in the end, I talked a little about each part of the 12th step.

The remaining 45 minutes were given over to sharing from the floor. The chairperson carefully timed each to ensure they didn't take more than 3 minutes (and only had to cut one off). There were about 50 people in attendance, only two or three of whom I already knew, and almost everyone got a chance to share.

It was good meeting and I felt pretty good about how I used my time. One man came up to me afterwards and asked for my phone number, which I of course gave to him. He lives near where my home group meets and will be moving back after he finishes his course of treatment at the rehab in the part of town in which I spoke. Another man asked me to sponsor him. Due to my service commitments, I have to be careful about taking on new pigeons, so I also gave him my number and asked him to call me, thinking we could discuss what was entailed in a sponsor-sponsee relationship and possibly to offer to be his temporary sponsor. (I haven't heard from either one.)

Sunday morning I drove 112 km to speak for the third time in the week. I was told I could take as much of the hour as I wanted and spoke for about 40 minutes. It's so much more satisfying to me personally to speak for 40 minutes rather than 20. I felt like everything came out really well and this was confirmed by some reactions I got afterwards. Clearly my Higher Power had led me to say some things that were inspirational, at least to a few people there.


Throughout my sobriety, I've had the good fortune to be asked to speak frequently. The first time I spoke was for a former high school teacher of mine who had 8 months of sobriety. The day I was to speak was my 89th day of sobriety and he nearly panicked when he realized that I had less than the required 90 days. The most recent time I spoke was Sunday, for the third time in a week. In between I've probably averaged speaking once a month or so, which makes a total of almost 200 times.

I enjoy speaking. I enjoyed it less in the beginning than I do now. But even early on, for whatever reason, I didn't get particularly nervous. These days I look forward to it with a kind of eager anticipation. There's a certain edge to the feeling, but it's not the same as being nervous. It's more that I want very much to have a positive impact on people's sobriety. Not on everyone, but just on one or two or, if I'm really lucky, a few. Whether they're new to the program and not sure they belong, or have been around longer than I have and are wondering, "Is this all there is?" I always pray that my Higher Power put the right words in my mouth and that someone get something out of whatever words come out of my mouth.

I only planned what I wanted to say once. I felt completely ineffective that time and no one came up afterward to say anything that might have dissuaded me from that opinion. I've seen others plan what they're going to say and make it work, but that's not for me. Not that I don't think about what I'm going to say. I usually—if I have enough advance notice—spend a lot of time thinking about it. Then in the event, some of the things I've thought about come out and others don't. Afterwards, I normally have thoughts like "I should have said this…" and "I wish I'd said that…" but I've learned to just let those thoughts go.

My story always comes out different—different from any thoughts I might have had about how it would go, and different from any time I've told it before. I usually feel pretty good about how things went when I'm done. One or two people will normally approach me who have obviously been affected, in a good way, by what I've said. It's gratifying and I'm grateful that the experience nearly always has a positive effect on me, and usually on one or two others as well.

06 October 2007

R.I.P., Tom F.

I just learned that Tom Florentine passed away in his sleep last night. Over the five years I've known him, he'd had several serious heart operations. He was very lucky not to have died sooner and, no doubt, lucky to have died so peacefully. He was a DCM during my first panel as Area officer. A very friendly guy, quiet, but with a great sense of humor. He had a full head of pure white hair. I remember being surprised to learn that this "older gentleman" (and he was a true gentleman) was a couple of years younger than I am. He was the most supportive DCM I've known and was always making nice comments, sending me e-mails or including notes in his snail-mail about the great job I was doing. Of course, he was saying the same things to the other officers as well, though I didn't know for sure that till today.

Our Delegate said about him, "He was always enthusiastic about service" and pointed out that he had just agreed to serve as moderator to one of our roundtables at this year's annual Convention. Our Area Secretary said, "We have all lost a dedicated member of A.A.; he provided us with a wonderful example that service truly is gratitude in action" and noted that she had just e-mailed him asking him undertake another job at the Convention. No doubt he would have accepted; but I doubt I ever even got the message.

Good-bye, Tom! No doubt he's already asking what service positions are available in heaven.

05 October 2007

Lunch with a close friend

[Please note that I updated yesterday's post, Cunning, Baffling, Powerful and BRUTAL, with a few more details today. Just in case anyone cares, LOL.]

Last time I posted about my on-going struggle to get some prescriptions filled, I had given up and gotten most of them (all but the Prozac) filled at a local pharmacy. Surprise, surprise, I received all the refills from Caremark in the mail the very next day. I refused the package and had them sent back to Caremark. Now I'm planning to pre-emptively write a letter to them explaining why I have returned and telling them not to bill me. But of course, they'll bill me anyway and then we can fight about that. At least the charges will be on my credit card and that gives me an advantage in disputing them.

Today I had lunch with Graven Latte and gave him a quick summary of this saga, as well as my euphoria for the six or seven weeks following my sudden and unexpected cessation of being on Prozac, my feeling "restless, irritable and discontent" for the last 10 days or so and some account of my continuing conflicts with Nimue.

He asked what my plan was. Thank you for asking, Graven. I hadn't really thought completely through what my plan was till you asked. For now, I'm not going back on Prozac. I'm not ready to give up the wonderful sleep I am getting at night, especially since I'm not convinced that much my malcontentedness is due to not being on Prozac. If I do eventually decide to go back onto Prozac, it will be under the supervision of a professional (a shout-out to Doctor A for his advice on this matter).

As for my marriage, I'm not ready to do anything but wait for now. First of all, as Graven so quickly pointed out, now is not the time for me to be making any major decisions. Second, a few months ago I had reached a point where I was ready to take some drastic action. I knew enough to take a few days to sleep on my decision before putting it into effect, and told some people that was what I was doing. Within a week, I had lost my resolve and took that, again at the suggestion of people close to me, as meaning it was not yet time to take irretrievable action. Those I trust most—more than one of them—suggest independently that when the time comes to get drastic, it will be unquestionably the right thing for me to do. I have not regained anything like the resolve I had at that time, despite the horrible treatment I am getting at times. In the meantime, I will continue praying about this relationship. Now that's something that we agree on: me and everyone I listen to. I had actually lost heart in doing so, and was only mouthing the words, but a little bit of my former heart is coming back. I glad, and I'm sad. Glad because my heart coming back means the prayer is working. Sad because I fear that as I start to feel a little bit more for her, I'll let my guard down yet again and once more pay a price for letting her in.

I guess this was one of the things that had such an impact on me in reading The Junky's Wife's blog yesterday: she has put up some boundaries, and has started sticking to them. And overall, her life appears to be getting better, when her junkie husband is or not. I'm jealous.

More on Anonymity

This post started out as a comment inresponse to Kathy Lynne's comment on my post Online Anonymity, but it got so long I decided to post it rather than leave it buried in the comments. So here it is.

Dear Kathy Lynne,

Am I saying that a person can't talk about the fact that he or she is in recovery? No, absolutely not.

Am I saying that a person can't say that he or she is a member of A.A.? Well, it depends. Most obviously it depends on the context within which the person is speaking.

If that person is 12th-stepping another alcoholic one on one, why then, yes, of course it's appropriate to mention that it was through A.A that he or she got sober. However, if that person is being interviewed for publication in a newspaper, on the radio, on television, in a book, in a film, for the BBC Online or—as far as I'm concerned—posting on a personally identifiable blog, then no, it's not appropriate to mention that fact.

Between these two examples there's a lot of territory, much of it gray. I've spoken of my recovery through A.A. to some fairly large groups of non-alcoholics. I thought it was okay because of the circumstances, the nature of the event and the audience. One instance that comes to mind was a testimonial I gave in early recovery before a few dozen like-minded but primarily non-alcoholic fellow travelers at a week-long religious retreat. Incidentally, that testimonial was recorded and today, with my current understanding of the 11th Tradition, I would either insist on it not being recorded or give a testimonial that did not mention A.A. explicitly.

I've avoided speaking of my association with A.A. to other audiences because of the differing circumstances, the differing nature of the event and the differing audience. An example of this would be sharing at the microphone at one of my religious denomination's conventions, whether it were being recorded or not. If it were relevant, I might mention A.A. in general but I would certainly not mention my membership in A.A. Even one on one, when the person I'm talking to obviously has no interest in or need to be getting sober and I know of no one close to them that might be helped indirectly, I'll leave my being in A.A. out of the discussion.

I held a job recently where most people—there were 14 of us in all—knew that I was involved in volunteer work. Only one—my brother—might have known that most of this was A.A. service (when pressed about what I am doing and I don't want to reveal my association with A.A., I usually say I am doing volunteer work in the field of education and prevention of alcoholism). The editor of our company newsletter, which has a very small circulation but is also published on the World Wide Web, asked a couple of us to write about our volunteer work. Instead of writing about what I was then actively engaged in—A.A. service—I wrote about something I had been involved in several years earlier: the establishment of an orphanage for homeless children in Nepal.

Less obviously but perhaps more imporant than the context within which the person is speaking is the motivation behind what he or she is saying.

Whenever I am moved to speak about my involvement in A.A., I try to look honestly at why I am so moved. Is it because it will make me look good? Is it because I want people to know I'm in A.A.? So they'll believe that I practice what I preach? Am I feeling proud of being in A.A.? If so, then these are indications that it's my will I'm thinking of exercising and that it's probably not a good idea to say what I'm thinking of saying.

Is it because I see an opportunity to carry the message to a sick and suffering alcoholic? Is it because I of the tremendous and ever-increasing debt I owe to A.A.? Am I feeling humble? If so, then perhaps it is appropriate to break my anonymity. As I've pointed out before, I'm one of those rare alcoholics—at least in this part of the world—that uses my full name when I introduce myself at meetings and other A.A. events (unless they are being recorded).

Please keep in mind that this is my interpretation of the 11th Tradition, although, to be completely frank, you'd have a very hard time convincing me otherwise. If you do disagree with me, I'd be very interested in hearing about and trying to understand how you reconcile your opinions with the 11th Tradition.

Finally, it's interesting that you should mention Craig Ferguson. I watched that monologue the night it aired. I blogged about it on 9 August. You can see exactly what I think about what he said by reading my post.

Yours in sobriety,

I'm interested in other opinions not only from Kathy Lynne, but from anyone who has something different and intelligent to say about Tradition XI (access to link requires subscription).

04 October 2007

Cunning, baffling, powerful and BRUTAL

I spent a good chunk of time today reading the last couple months' worth of posts from The Junky's Wife. She's a powerful writer with powerful things to say. She's brutally honest about herself. It was an insightful, but not an uplifting experience. I am not a junkie, never have been—not even remotely in the same vicinity—and have never really been close to one. I'm sure I can never understand her world, but I think a big dose of reading her blog gave me some feeling for the life of a junkie's wife.

I think she could write a good book. These blog entries reminded me of A Million Little Pieces which, despite the controversy around it, is an interesting read (so long as you don't worry too much about what's fact and what's fiction).

At my A.A. meeting tonight, I heard a guy I'd never met before. He was introduced by someone I've known since I got sober as someone who was there when she started coming around in 1986. I started off looking forward to hearing a good strong message of long-term sobriety. Somewhere along the way, he took a left turn. Yes, he'd gotten sober in 1986 (shortly before my friend I guess). In 1996 he stopped going to meetings. In 2003 he was prescribed Percocet and starting abusing it. He wound up buying it on the street—$5 a pill—and consuming up to 150 of them a day. He took out three business loans to pay for his addiction, and tried to hide everything from his family. He did this quite successfully, at least until recently. A few months ago, he began not feeling well: he was short of breath and had no energy. It got so bad while on vacation that he finally decided to ask his wife to take him to the hospital. Turns out he'd had a heart attack and didn't even know it. At that point the jig was up. He came partially clean to his wife a while ago at the time and, he says, completely clean to her a few months ago when she started asking questions about certain business practices he had started in order to hide what he was doing from her. At his wife's request, he hasn't said anything to his children. Today he has 92 days clean and sober. This man, like the Junky's Wife, was brutally honest. It was not an uplifting story, though I am glad he made it back and now has a second chance. I was also grateful to be reminded of the kind of thing that's out there waiting for me if I pick up.

The most painful thing I heard was how he clung to his almost 20 years of sobriety. Even though he wasn't able to string them all together, he said, it's a one day at a time program and he still has nearly 20 years' worth of days. How sad! I don't know him well enough to judge accurately, but I can't help wondering how long it will be before he's willing to settle for the 92 days that he really has.

Updated 05 October 2007 15:22:
As a result of a memory lapse, I couldn't remember everything that was relevant at the time I made the original post. Now I've remember something that I meant to include. Changes are shown in this color brown.