29 November 2007
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
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
Again I want to thank Doctor A for warning me about the dangers of going back to any antidepressant without supervision.
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!
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
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:
- Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
- Post these rules on your blog.
- List seven things you're grateful to have learned in recovery.
- Tag seven people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I'm grateful to finally have discovered a grand and real purpose to my life: that of helping still-suffering alcoholics recover from alcoholism.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
It's so. It's been so, for
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
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!
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
A Slob's Guide to Spiritual GrowthExcerpted 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"].
- It is better to watch the game in your undershirt with a can of cola in your hand than a can of beer.
- When you holler at somebody, you always feel lousy afterward--like a hangover.
- Life is a steady drizzle of small things--carry an umbrella.
- Tomorrow is another day.
- Never give up.
- Concentrate on what you're doing--it beats thinking.
- 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.
- It is more fun to be happy than angry.
- Don't take anything too seriously, including all of the above.
- This, too, shall pass.
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.Thanks for saying it, rootsradicaluk.
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.
11 November 2007
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
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
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.
07 November 2007
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.