Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Step 5

We had a meeting last night about the 5th step. I was reminded of my 1st attempt at a 5th step in AA.

I had spent the typical (for me) 7 months + a Sunday morning whining about and finally doing a 4th step. The whole AA community where I went to meetings had gotten together and "scheduled" my 5th step because they were tired of hearing about all my schemes to get done with this seemingly never started 4th step.

As I shared some of my stuff with my then sponsor, he trotted out some of his stuff and we had a great time of sharing...

...some of my stuff...

I had, in fact, some things that I really didn't want to share with my sponsor. While I think he really intended to be a closed-mouth friend, he had his own "issues" and, even today, I think it was a good instinct to not take these particular parts of my past to him.

It was probably also not such a good idea to complete my 5th step with the particular Episcopal priest/friend that I did. As I related to him what I was about (my purpose there) and revealed those things I was so embarrassed about, he took the time to explain how I probably wasn't really an alcoholic. That, in fact, he was pretty sure I drank less than him. And, it seemed I still had some standing in the community and he'd seen "real" alcoholics and proceeded to try to talk me out of my membership in AA.

Of the several 5th steps I've taken over my 25 years in the program, this was the only one where I was offered a drink as I was leaving.

I suppose I was not the least bit surprised when he ran into trouble with his parish a few years later and was asked to leave. Last I heard (several years ago), he was living a somewhat tormented life on the coast of Maine.

I stayed sober and my spiritual walk has improved over time. I've always been amused by this part of my sober walk.

More proof that God, not me, is in charge of this deal...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Heart language...

Today I went to a Spanish speaking meeting/fiesta today. I don't this often because:
  1. I don't speak Spanish (hardly at all - can't even cuss well in Spanish)
  2. Their meetings usually last at least 3 hours - they love to hear themselves talk and talk and talk and then, at their fiestas, they eat and eat and eat and eat...
  3. I hate that they have to work to accommodate me for understanding what we're saying (imagine how they feel at my meeting?)
  4. I always overeat (you have NEVER had tamales like these...)
But today, an important member of my home group who is Hispanic wanted to have a celebration with the people of his culture. It was also important (and "right") for him to be with "his people" since he's currently serving as a DCM of our area's Spanish speaking district.

I usually go to the whole meeting about every couple of years - like at some special occasion like today. My wife speaks some Spanish and so, when we go together, she can translate some of what is said.

If you've never been to a Spanish meeting (here or anywhere), you might try it sometime because:
  1. These folks really understand about doing AA in life's adversity
  2. Even with no Spanish, you eventually get that some of these folks are really passionate about AA and that AA has miraculously restored their lives.
  3. Absent words, the "language of the heart" does speak loud enough to hear
  4. These folks really understand the whole thing about how to do Public Information - at their fiestas, they invite their families and community members to their fiestas and, as they are sharing their stories, they're pitching the others about how AA has healed their lives.
The mother, wife and brother who all cried and wept and thanked us for saving their family; the father who came to the podium and apologized for being there drunk (as they said, "...where else should you be?") but who wept tears of joy for his son who had been saved from what he knew was a certain death; the meeting "elders" (with up to 25 years of sobriety) who talked about the miracle of their sobriety and ; the children who are obviously loved and cherished running around as comfortable as if they were in their own living rooms; the members of Raul's home group who shared how much he's grown in AA in 5 years.

We laughed, we cried, we shared our wonderful program...

It's a wonderful program and a blessed life - no translation necessary...

Heard at a meeting - 090628

After staying quiet through the "keep coming back" chant at the end of the meeting, say "or, better, just don't leave..."

Sponsor to sponsee: "I agree, your situation is completely as you describe - if I were you I would just go home and and pray for death..."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Off the radar...

One of my least favorite things about sponsoring people - especially new people - is when they move from calling every day to dropping out of contact. My experience seems to be like most that I've known in AA in that this is seldom good news. They're either drinking, running and gunning, or have backed away from an AA solution - usually w/out finding another solution instead. Over the years, I've had dozens of these relationships.

I hate this.

I don't have a "standard" response - I pray about each situation with each person and have, variously, let them call if and when they want, gone chasing after them, asked around - on a good day, I just try to ask for guidance and then do what seems to be indicated.

I still hate this...

Philip (also here) has fallen off the radar. I'm supposed to meet him at my home group tonight but he's neglected calling the past 2 days - new behavior for him. I know where he is (locked up in a treatment program) but I don't have a means of calling him. I can imagine the litany of excuses he'll have - and, he's got some good ones.

He does have a life-threatening illness (besides alcoholism). It's inconvenient for him to arrange to call while he's locked up. He's one of the few he's hanging with who are trying to "do" AA. He has legal complications in his life that need attention.

But, for this moment, he's off the radar and I don't get that he has a prayer of getting sober unless he gets a spiritual solution to his alcoholism.

But, then, none of us do...

Friday, June 26, 2009


I spent the past several days doing some "research" on material that is on the web that is negative about AA. I don't think the reason for this is particularly interesting or relevant. I won't do this stuff the favor of mentioning directly here it but there is really a lot out there - probably more that is negative about AA than what is in support of AA if search engines are to be believed.

It left me feeling sad and hurt. I spent some time thinking what I could do in response to my feelings about this research and it finally occurred to me that the best thing to do was nothing. Then, it occurred to me that this blog might be the best forum for me to do nothing on. So, here are a few responses to some of what I've seen:

Allegation: AA is a cult.

Response: While I appreciated the disparaging intention in this accusation, when I look at the dictionary.com definitions of cult, several definitions do fit what I generally consider a part of AA. We do like our different rituals and we do expect some general conformity from members (e.g. not drinking). There are also popular parts of our fellowship where there is guru adoration and the stuff that would be as familiar in Jim Jones' Jonestown as any AA meeting hall.

My own experience is that we "...create the fellowship (we) crave..." (Big Book, p. 164) and that I would be the 1st to criticize some of what is done in the name of AA as not conducive to my recovery from alcoholism. But, increasingly, I've seen where what seems like weird stuff to me can be useful to others. So, my general attitude is "live and let live" and look for what I can contribute in my little AA community.

Allegation: Bill and several of the co-founders were scoundrels, crooks and ill-intentioned opportunists.

Response: In a strange and perverse way, I find a great deal of comfort in hearing of how "bad" some of these folks might have been. That Bill might have been a womanizer or some of our early trustees might have been politically impure gives me a little hope. My own life, before and in recovery, has been less than stellar. I judge my moral behavior probably on a similar scale to what Bill did and the fact that we can both come up short (far short in my own case) gives me hope that I might be useful with the imperfections that I own.

Allegation: The General Service Office, AA World Services Board, AA Grapevine Board, General Services Board, and other parts of the organization are corrupt business entities.

Response: I'm pretty sure that some or all of these organizations are, by nature, self serving and that some of the individuals involved (e.g. Trustees, General Managers, etc.) may have agendas that include accumulation of wealth and fame. Again, I find some perverse satisfaction in this. I believe that, for the most part, our leadership has genuinely had their hearts in the right place - probably few, if any of them, have ever woken up in the morning and planned the demise of my beloved AA organization.

But, misguided or deliberate, I feel there is some justification of criticism where these organizations have made business decisions absent proper respect for our spiritual principles. As I've heard a number of times, what we do in service to our organization is often much less important than the way we make our decisions and do what we do. As someone who's been criticized as violating the spirit of our fellowship in business decisions I've participated in, I can appreciate the sensitivities involved in this.

However, I most fault the corporate mistakes I feel we've made (e.g. - secrecy, lawsuits, licensing, bad investments, bad priorities) with the possibility that the fellowship has never stepped up to the "ownership" of our organization as outlined in Concepts 1 & 2. There are many contemporary examples (from the 2009 General Service Conference) where the upside-down triangle of our organization (with the AA Group at the top) has been inverted in how decisions were made and setting of organizational directions. Allegedly, our organization could be completely changed or reorganized at the initiative of the Groups, given sufficient cause. It might be time to test that authority in at least some areas of interest.

It's also interesting to note that things are today as they ever were. Bill had as many or more issues with the organizations and boards that he created as any of us ever had. There is a balance and tension, by design, between the business interests and spiritual principles by which we wish to do this business. I don't think this tension is "bad" - only that, over time, it must be constantly and diligently monitored. My opinion is that we've failed to do this, as a fellowship recently (perhaps ever...).

Other allegations: There are many stories "out there" about individuals being seduced into immoral or illegal behavior by groups or individuals acting in the name of AA.

Response: I hate each and every one of these examples. I wish we could prosecute perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law and then some beyond.

However, we are a complex fellowship with sick individuals serving sick individuals. For the life of me, I don't know how to "fix" this. Truth is, I don't know that it needs to be fixed.

In my program, God is in charge of my life. From that experience, I've seen even the worst circumstances and my worst mistakes be used for my spiritual growth and betterment.

I believe that the same thing can happen to our fellowship at large. While I hate that anyone would ever be victimized by someone in the name of AA (and I know that it has happened), I don't get to see the whole picture from where I sit. If I observe it happening in my home group or Area, I will do what little I can to make up for it. I hope and pray that other members in other locations will be similarly motivated.

But, in the end, my only hope is that AA will be around as long as it's useful to God's purpose.

...and, I hope that I have the good sense to not be a member one day after AA is no longer useful to God's purposes in my life and the world...

It's the best I've got...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

None my business...

I had a longish chat with my sponsor yesterday. We do this sometimes for the simple facet of sympatico - like minded folks who just need some support.

On the docket yesterday was much about health and wealth. I have 2 sponsees in the hospital today and both my sponsor and I seem to have some health challenges "up" for us now. We hate it, but they're just "up".

Both my sponsor and I are also on the downward slide of our lives with careers where we once found great meaning, importance and financial reward - that seems to be behind us. I get that I may never again make the money that I once did and, frankly, I'm not happy about that one bit.

So, after much musing, he reflected his memory of his sponsor (now dead for a while) who, in the midst of some of his life's challenges, offered that "...my life today is just none of my business..."

I get it...

My job is to live my life. Be responsible (e.g. do those things things that I can do to preserve my health, show up for work, etc.). To love my life.

The results are, well, just the results and, if I'm really on this deal, they are all about God's will and well, maybe it's all really just perfect.

I believe that it is...

So, what I do, what you do, what the world does, what I think of all that, what you think of all that, what anyone thinks of all that is, in fact, none of my business.

I remember when old timers used to talk about "...what your opinion of me just doesn't make any difference..." - I used to think how cold and uncaring. But, in a sense, they were right.

Please understand, I want you to like me. I want lots of people to like me. But, in the over all scheme of things, your opinion of me is none of my business...

Finally, how this thing (life) all turns out is none of my business. I'm here to grow and to learn. That seems to be what I'm uniquely qualified for in God's creation. If I'm supposed to be rich, that will happen. If I'm supposed to be the stellar example of health, that will happen.

But, powers greater than me are in charge of that agenda.

So, in the perfection of all that is perfect, the world today (not when I reach Nirvana) is exactly as it should be.

And now, my job is to be happy with that...

...something else I can work on....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Philip 2 ...

So far (2 weeks today), Philip, the drunk that was delivered to me from detox has been a stellar example of someone who expresses willingness. He's called me every day (sometimes several times to reach me since he can call out and I can't reach him by calling in). He was delivered to and from a coffee shop to start into the steps, delivered to my home group on Saturday - he's doing the deal like his life depends on it.

But, consequences can be a bitch.

He has stomach ulcers and a hole in his stomach (isn't that what stomach ulcers are - holes?) that are going to require surgery soon. There's no question that his health problems are a direct result of his drinking habits.

Yet, he's already seen how major discomfort and life threatening illness is not enough to stop the idea of drinking - even given the most seemingly trivial excuse for drinking (his feelings were hurt...).

I realize that, by comparison, I don't have any problems today.

I am one seriously blessed dude...

Monday, June 22, 2009


I spent a good part of the day doing research into AA's Warranty 5:

"that its actions never be personally punitive nor an incitement to public controversy"

Of course, the only way I could figure out how to do that was to look at all that I could find on the web about where AA had been personally punitive or in the throws of public controversy.

...there is a lot...

One of the things I love most about AA history (distant past and recent) is that, at our core, from the very beginning, we have been and probably always will be a bunch of drunks. We don't deserve this recovery program. From the get-go, we have been eager to either sell it, hide it, or burn it down. From Bill and Bob on (but especially Bill), we have been first, last and always - drunks.

Please don't get me wrong.

I really love this thing (AA) and I an grateful for and honor the suffering and hard work that has gone on through our AA history to preserve our message and our fellowship.

But the only explanation that I can come up with as to why we've survived 74+ years is God's grace.

And, I think based on that we might survive into the future as well - that's my hope...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Heard at a meeting - 090621

(a paraphrase)
"I tried everything to fill that 'god shaped hole' in me: relationships, sex, money, jobs, status, booze, drugs, family, activity, work, food, shopping, children, exercise, status, image, good looks, jewelry, art, distractions - all those things failed to fit that hole...

"In the end, it was only the God I found in AA - through hanging out in the fellowship, working our program of recovery, and being of service - that this hole was filled and I felt complete."

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The funniest call I had last week was a call from Philip.

He called me out of the blue last Thursday from our local detox. A member of my home group had been at a meeting in this detox on Wednesday and given my name and number to him as a "sponsor".

Philip is in a new program that they have at the detox where they try to transition folks from jail back into the community by connecting them up with "real" support such as getting them engaged in the AA community as opposed to just handing them a meeting list.

As Philip was explaining his situation and I was talking some about AA, he seemed willing and interested and sober. I was tied up or out of town Thursday and Friday but asked him if he could get out to go to my home group on Saturday.

He said that he could get a pass as long as I was going to meet with him (his case worker called to verify our plan) and they'd put him in a taxi or give them bus tokens to get there.

I was amazed! Damp drunks delivered right to your door or wherever you wanted and then picked up and returned when you're done with them. What a service! I've always had to go get them and then try to get rid of them when you're done with them.

I've mused on this all week: "...gee, I'm feeling a little low today. Maybe I should just call the detox and see if they can drop off a drunk for an hour?" It seems like maybe God has found a way to truly bless those of us in AA without our having to venture to hospitals or sordid places...

Anyway, Philip and I have met a couple of times and talked on the phone every day. I know more than he does that the odds are definitely against him but I see the miracle of awareness starting to dawn on him.

I just love my life...

Friday, June 19, 2009


I remember a few years ago when I was about 15 years sober, I was traveling on business to New Jersey as I did several times a year. It was an entirely un-remarkable trip. I had an intention that I would check into my hotel and head out to an AA meeting in Red Bank that I got to occasionally. I was feeling sort of down but that was not unfamiliar with that in that I was overwhelmed and feeling inadequate in several areas of my life.

As I unpacked and changed in preparation for heading back out to my meeting, I turned on the TV and what happened to be on was an ad from a hospital chain (Charter?) that talked about "chronic depression".

The impact of that ad on me was profound! At long last, I found that these folks really, truly understood me. It was absolutely clear to me that I was "chronically depressed" and that my life would only make sense if I could cure that malady.

I still remember thinking: I have to call my wife! I have to call my AA sponsor! I need to check into this hospital immediately! This was truly a wake up call and immediate action was demanded!

Then, I had another thought...

I knew that this particular program on the TV was quick to hand out Prozac and other pills - that I'd known folks and sponsored folks who struggled with dealing with balancing medication and a spiritual program of action. I looked at where I was in my life and realized the fears that were causing my depression were selfish and familiar - my sponsor and I had been discussing them for a number of weeks.

So, I went to the meeting and had a good laugh at myself.

I seem to have a stable of sponsees and AA friends now who are enmeshed, to various depths, with depression and despair. I can't think of an area of our program where I feel more inadequate to share my experience or offer advice. I just make it clear to sponsees that:
  1. I'm not a doctor - the only worse medical advice they'll get from what their head offers them is proscription from "Dr. Ed"
  2. There are sometimes real, medical and biological reasons for depression that can and should be treated medically
  3. Regardless of whether they are on medication or not, if they are alcoholic of my variety, they need to plug into AA (or some other solution) to work on the problem of alcoholism.
  4. Life on a spiritual path is not always about feeling wonderful - but that a wonderful life is available, regardless of how you feel
It's been my experience and observation that healing from alcoholism is not necessarily evidenced by absence from depression or emotional (or physical) pain. We have our co-founder Bill's experience to support us on this assertion.

To AA friends (not sponsees), I will often just listen and possibly share my experiences. I try to steer clear of any advice other than "...have you discussed this with your sponsor and, possibly, your doctor?"

I have been advised by lots of folks that are in and out of AA to see a psychiatrist about my depressions (sometimes they get pretty bad). I've gone to therapy a few times in my 25 years. Sometimes, my therapists/doctors have suggested medications. When I discuss my reluctance to take medication at that time (I've never said I'd never take any medications - I think that would be silly...), they've appreciated my concerns and have been willing to try something different.

I think I might always struggle with depression. A few years ago, the cruelest thing a sponsor ever said to me was "...Ed, have you ever considered yourself as someone who doesn't have depression?" It seemed cruel at the time because I had, in fact, taken my depression on as an identity. Today, every day, I have to remind myself that God can heal my depression and that, some day, I might not have depression in my life.

That's not today, but I do have hope...

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I find myself constantly distracted these days. I find that, whatever I'm doing, I'm constantly thinking about something else that I could be or should be doing. I'm not only the distracted by squirrels (go see the movie Up - seriously, stop reading this now and go see it...), I find myself going way out of the way to find squirrels to distract myself with.

If I can focus 3-4 minutes at a time without a distraction, I accept it as God's grace - it does happen, but it seems like I'm getting sicker around this. While, by all external appearances, it seems like I'm living a normal life but no one knows the way my head rolls (bright light! - sorry...) - I just hate that I can't conjure the focus or the discipline to simply do one thing at a time and give myself completely to that one thing.

I am always doing multiple things at the same time (download complete; reboot! - sorry...) - if I could just stop driving and texting or driving and emailing and driving and eating and driving and thinking and driving and talking - well, I'm sure my life would be improved...

From applying the 12 steps and AA principles, I know this is all about character defects and fear. Funny how sometimes it just builds up into my life to a breaking point. It seems we're about to break now.


Chop wood, carry water...

Thank God for grace...

I love this program...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Like many (most?) American males, I spent much of my youth being embarrassed by my parents. They didn't look right. They weren't "cool". They were old. Worst of all, they didn't drink!!!

My parents both had a "past" that exists only in family lore. My mother had a mysterious pregnancy and my father had a whole bunch of drama around life and relationships with his 2 previous marriages that may be explained, in part, by drinking.

But, in the time that I knew them, my parents were teetotalers. I suppose that it's no small irony that the only time I ever saw them drink socially was at my 2nd wedding when it was sort of insisted (lots of pressure from me and several others) that they have some wine.

I learned of the "coolness" of drinking from the movies. I loved to watch hard drinking men accomplish great things, get stupid and, live large through the pain. I was literally in love with the drama of drinking long before I took my first "social" drink. That first drink/drunk was all that I wanted it to be - and was exactly the opposite of what my un-cool parents were about.

Anyway, this article was intended to be about dad - not me...

As a kid, my dad didn't know much about having a kid and being engaged in my life. What my dad did was work. In retrospect, he was a real miracle. With less than a 3rd grade education, what he did was create a successful refrigeration and mechanical contracting business. He had worked himself back from a total physical disability (received as a consequence of some bad medical work while in the army) to build this business in a small town in eastern Colorado.

So, while he occasionally tried to "play ball" with me, he didn't understand any of the rules of the games so he'd just make up something like what he saw others doing and, in the few times we would play together for a little while when I was 5-7, he would be as awkward as I was. He was not at all cool or expert like my other friends' dads. When I signed up for little league, I as not at all at the same level as the other kids and felt embarrassed and ashamed not only of my poor talent, but it seemed like it was just one more place in my life I didn't fit in.

At age 11, he asked me one day if I wanted to work with him that summer. I crawled in the truck and we went on service calls. I learned to hand him tools when he asked for them and ran to the truck whenever he needed something. At the end of a week of this, he handed me a $20 bill and I was hooked - there was nothing else I wanted to do but to work for him and get that cash.

From that time on, most of my childhood relationship with him was dedicated to working for him. However, as my ego and the mental and spiritual aspects of my alcoholism developed, I was unable to work around him or his business without judging him and he bore the brunt of my sickness. I was not reliable or engaged in his work. I stole money from him. I eventually needed to take my act on the road.

While my parting, as I was developing my dance of death, was by all appearances amicable, we were both seriously wounded by stated and unstated expectations and disappointments galore.

Fast forward about 20+ years and I was coming up on 8 years sober and had finally gotten to work a true amends to him. Per directions from my sponsor, we had a long chat about all the perpetrations I'd visited on him and we came to an agreement as to both financial and living amends that I committed to. It still is one of the most powerful 9th step discussions I remember having.

Feeling quite free after our long talk, I asked Dad: "Why is it that you suppose that it's been so hard for us through the years to talk honestly about money?"

His response was that, "If it were too hard for me to make the payments, I should not make them."

...and, I "got it": that my relationship with my father had been healed but that he would never be someone to me that he could never be...

Our relationship after that time flourished. He was willing and available to participate in my life (to the extent that he could) and I showed up in his life as the son he needed and I learned to love him unconditionally. As his health failed, I helped out when and where I could. In April of 1996 I held his hand as he took his last breath. It was an awesome experience I probably need to write about another time.

While I would not wish for him another moment of what his life had been reduced to, I was profoundly grateful for the wonderful program of AA and all that our relationship had been.

I ran into a good friend at a conference that July and she asked how I was doing. I replied that "I was just grateful for the healing of AA amends and the life we'd had". She looked at me with that AA glare (probably more looked through me) and said, "...yeah, it took me about a year to grieve my dad as well."

While that was true (it did take a full year for the oppressive grief to truly lift), there's still not a day that goes by that I don't think of dad. He was not a perfect father but it's amazing that I'll be in the middle of something and think about how I need to let Dad know something or about how pleased he will be when I tell him about...

Thank god for AA...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Excitement - friend or foe?

I crave excitement in my life. I love roller coasters. We went whitewater rafting each year for 8 consecutive years until we realized we could just never get enough of it. I always love being on the ski slope, in an aerobatic plane, anywhere I can get a thrill I will generally move toward the "rush" as an activity given any choice at all.

I also love a loud and happy meal with friends, an enthusiastic meeting with lots of laughter, getting great news in the mail, getting compliments about how great I am, emotional stories of wondrous accomplishments of others.

I see (at least) 2 problems with this:
  • I generally feel I don't get "enough"
  • my life, in general, is not exciting
When I talk about this some with my AA friends, I get a lot of support for amping up the excitement level. Very few suggest that I learn to accept - even seek - a more quiet, contemplative life.

Yet, I'm coming to understand that this is really much of what my life today is about - making deliberate choices to allow for more "quietness".

So, I really don't think excitement, per se, is either friend or foe. I don't think I need to be biologically altered to turn off adrenaline or to not even indulge in the occasional roller coaster.

But, constantly living from one piece of drama to another is a part of my history that I really need to consciously identify drama that is not useful to either my primary purpose or growth and let that go.

Just sayin...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Life's terms...

A former spiritual guide of mine used to bristle when he'd hear some of the jargon we toss around in meetings. One of the terms that he'd sometimes object directly to was when someone talked about "living life on life's terms".

He would point out that, in his opinion and based on his experience, life did not, in fact, create "terms" - that, the circumstances in our life were not as a consequence of some sort of cosmic test where we were on a pass/fail situation.

At the same time, the best way that he could experience his life was to treat each circumstance in his life as an opportunity to learn and to surrender whatever attachments caused his reaction to those circumstances to be negative (or, sometimes, overly positive). I saw him do this in his life in prosperity and poverty, in health and dire sickness, when everyone loved him or when relationships were challenging.

In short, the best of his life was lived in relationship to the circumstances in a state of relative neutrality.

I had a chat with my sponsor this morning and as we related and encouraged each other down this path, I was once again struck by how much I want to figure out what is right and wrong with my life and those people who I am constantly challenged by. I want solutions to the situations that challenge me. I want others to agree with those solutions and give me what I want (time, money, etc.) to make the circumstance more favorable.

Better I realize that the circumstances are just that - circumstances. I can love them or I can hate them but, in the end, I get to deal with them just as they are. I am not "powerless" over circumstances. I am neutral to them. From that position of neutrality, I can truly appreciate how the God of the universe can, and does, allow me to learn and grow. At some level, it doesn't matter whether it is in adversity or prosperity (though I certainly ask for and desire prosperity), I can and do grow from the experience in life.

In my less than humble opinion, it is, in fact, the purpose of my life...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Heard in a meeting 09/06/14...

"I used to hear that I should make a 'gratitude list'. What I'd suggest instead is that you write down what it is that you have (or don't have) that you should be grateful for"

"What a great share of opinion, sickness and despair."

Saturday, June 13, 2009


It is a great day - I woke up (I just remembered how on weekends I used to "come to" instead of "wake up") to follow through on a service commitment, worked around the house, went to a Celestial Seasonings tent sale, went to a Founder's Day picnic, heard a couple of great AA speakers (one spoke in Spanish with translation), connected with several folks (including the guy I met in ICU last week), did some more work around the house, talked to several sponsees, planning to go to dinner and my big home group meeting and our group conscience meeting - it's just about perfect. In fact, I think I'll call it perfect.

Our weather here is unseasonably cool and rainy this spring (it's raining again this afternoon - I think this might be nearly 2 weeks straight of at least every afternoon). In my community, we've almost reached our annual average precipitation amount. I'd be upset except that I remember 2 years ago when we were having 100+ degrees this time of year and scorching drought - I much prefer this. Much as I know it slows some down, I love the cool and don't even mind the rain that much as long as it's sunny for some part of the day (and it generally has been).

Syd had proposed a Sunday meme of "Heard in a meeting..." last week - I think it's a good idea to try. While my meetings may not be as wise as some of the rest of yours, I love to hear the wisdom and the opposite of that when it's said somewhere...

Thanx y'all for this piece of my life...

Friday, June 12, 2009


So, my sister blew into town (I wrote about her before) and I guess what I did was take a vacation.

From work, from blogging, from life, from almost everything (I did get to a few meetings and stayed in contact with sponsees)...

Funny how life works out that way some times....

I've got to admit that this is the 2nd time my intention of remaining faithful to daily blogging has not happened. (In April the same thing happened in a trip to NYC) I've not been beat up for not keeping up the blog habit (or really even noticed?) by anyone other than me but it does represent a concern of mine. I do not want to become one of the many I've heard others refer to over their sharing of their blogging experience where they blog like gangbusters and then abruptly and completely stop.

...unless that is what is supposed to happen...

I guess what I'm really concerned about is old patterns. Many years ago, I discovered through AA's wonderful 4th step that I was a man with a great future behind me - that, many times through the years, I'd started out on something with the best of intentions, get lots of encouragement, show promise, and then, irrationally and against everyone's expectations (especially mine), I'd disappear. I'd choke. I'd just, well, drop that and move on to the next thing.

...I always hoped that no one would notice - often, well, they did...

When you're living with me and I stop being there - I guess one assumes some things...

I did that with jobs, relationships, projects, savings plans, journals, classes, hobbies, family - dropping what was important was the thing I almost always did.

Staying sober is the only thing I can see in the whole of my life (save eating and sleeping) that I've done for 25+ years consistently. It's a big part of (evidence of?) the miracle.

So, any time today I don't live up to my or others' expectations in a commitment (e.g. daily blogging), it does give me pause and concern because it can demonstrate a sign of spiritual sickness in me. It has been that way for me in the past week - I can see where I could have easily kept my intentions to blog around time with my family and our several outings to Estes Park, dinner, errands, etc.

...but, I didn't...

So, I need to look one more time at my motivations and commitment to doing this deal. As I survey the blogosphere, I see I'm one among thousands that look at this occasionally... I promise I won't make it the theme that I see on some blogger sites (some folks seem to spend 50%+ of their articles relating why they should blog and wondering if they're continuing to blog).

If any one did notice my absence for the past few days and had a moments concern (seems unlikely), I apologize.

And, if I ever do decide to set aside this blog for any reason, I intend to post an article to that effect...

Until then, thank you to the faithful folks I follow who have continued in my absence. Y'all have and continue to make a difference in my life and I love you all...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Heard in a meeting...

"I used to think I wanted a relationship. What I really wanted was someone to hold me while I isolated."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Just a visit...

My sister is coming to town today to visit my mother and I. The fact that she and her husband would leave their comfortable lives in the Midwest to visit is a miracle at a number of levels but, for me, it's an example of the power of the program of AA.

I was about 9 years sober (~16 years ago) when my sister finally was "up" on my 8th step list. It had become my habit for all amends to write out a letter in advance of scheduling and making amends to be clear as to my part and what I was doing in this amends. Most of the time, the letter was set aside and direct amends - face to face - were made.

As that letter was slowly written (actually, it took about 3 months of avoidance and 4 hours of writing), the clear nature of my perpetration to my sister became painfully clear. My selfishness had made our relationship a joke. I would show up and show off with grand gestures of family (take our whole family to her place for a visit - buy everyone dinners - talk big - then leave) and then, literally, have NO contact whatsoever for years at a time. I think the longest time we didn't communicate was nearly 10 years!!! No phone calls. No Christmas cards. No birthday cards. Nothing!!!

Her son was killed in a motorcycle accident and I swooped in, took charge of her life, made major decisions for her and her husband, acted like I was really "being there" for them and then, after a call or 2 when I got home, disappeared again out of her life completely for several years. Even when I was in the same city or nearby on travel, I wouldn't make the time to visit or talk to her - I was just completely and totally selfish and self-absorbed.

As I wrote out this long letter (I remember about 6-8 pages - could have been longer) talking about specifically what I'd done our whole lives and how that had brought harm to her and her family, I remember feeling pretty shabby (I still do, remembering it now). I discussed it with my sponsor and read it to him. I was sort of surprised when he agreed with me that the right way to handle this one was to just put the letter in the mail - one more "grand gesture" of a visit was not at all what would be appropriate for this relationship.

I can remember putting the letter in the mail and feeling a new sense of freedom and release. Some of what I'd been most ashamed of and felt regretful about in my past had been brought to light. The truth had, in fact, set me free. I was prepared for any sort of reaction from my sister: She could agree with me and express her anger at my betrayals. She could forgive me and we could move on. She could not respond and ignore it. I was prepared for anything.

...except, what happened...

About 3 weeks after I sent her letter, I got a letter from her. Nothing, in all of my arrogant selfishness prepared me for what she said in that letter. She thanked me greatly for my letter and then went on to describe a little about what her life for the past 40 years had been like.

You know, it had never, ever, EVER occurred to me - had never even been a blip on the horizon - had never even entered the nether ranges of my consciousness - that my sister and I had been raised in the same family. Huh.

That some of the stuff that went on with (or didn't go on with) my mother and my father might have affected her had never been a consideration to me - at all!!!

Whereas, for me, this childhood became fodder for my budding alcoholism and reinforcement for the spiritual malady and peculiar mental twists, for my sister, her childhood in that family was the basis for a deep, dark depression that influenced her life and her choices. I was dumbfounded - profoundly dumbfounded. My sister's way of describing some of what happened in our childhood family is that my parents raised 2 only children together.

At the end of her letter, she thanked me again but allowed that she'd been down the committed friendship many times and, while she was open to the possibility of a friendship with me, she was more willing to "wait and see" how things developed.

Shortly after this exchange, both her and I changed jobs so that we both set most of every day in front of computers and had access to email (16 years ago that was much less common than now). I would not be exaggerating a bit to say that we emailed each other a least 3 times a day and sometimes emails 10-12 times a day were common. It seemed like we were in constant communication.

We visited her, they visited us. We took vacations together. She and I have taken 5-6 trips together. I've told her my story a few times. She's told me her story (e.g. sitting on the foot of the bed with her husband's gun, willing herself to have the strength...) a few times. I think I probably know my sister more intimately than anyone else in her life. I can't think I have ANY secrets from her.

Over the past few years, our lives have changed - generally not much to our liking or in accordance with our plans. But, we're each on our journey and it's been amazing to share this with her.

All as a result of a 9th step amends...


Wednesday, June 3, 2009


A few years ago, when I was working with yet another alcoholic who didn't think they had any resentments, I came up with a description of a symptom of resentment that seemed profound (I must have heard it at an AA meeting somewhere since everything I have that's profound comes from someone else...):
"If you find yourself having an angry conversation with someone who is not actually there (either out loud or in your head) - chances are, you have a resentment."
Lately I've found myself having lots of those conversations. With my kids. With my sponsees. With myself. With bloggers. With other members in AA. With my wife. Especially with my wife...

I also noticed that I've written 3 times about the 4th step in the past 2 weeks. Huh.

I also noticed that it's been 3 weeks since I connected in any depth with my sponsor. Huh.

I would certainly like to know why, against my best thinking and best intentions, I can still sometimes get sick from this disease...

At least, today, I know something about how to recover from that...

I love this program...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I was struggling yesterday to write an article on the 4th Step principles when I got a call from Denver Central Office about a guy in ICU in a community hospital about 25 miles away.

Jeffry (not his name) was in as a consequence of an OD and thought he might be an Alcoholic as well. I called him and talked to him and his wife. Most of the contacts I had in that town were either busy or out of town so I figured it was only 50 miles out of my way for other errands I needed to run and it was a glorious spring day so, why not?

I arrived and heard a story that was all of the drama we talk about. Turns out, this is the 2nd OD that's put him in the hospital in a year. This time he died - they had to use the paddles to resuscitate him. His exit drug was Oxycotton. I've never done these drugs but had sponsored someone who kicked this crap about a year ago and so I could appreciate the pain and suffering (it was ~65 degrees in his room and he was sweating like a pig) he was going through.

Although drinking was a part of his deal, he was pretty clear that he was an addict. He had plugged into NA as well as made the call to AA.

His wife was there and she was an acknowledged "heavy drinker" - possibly alcoholic.

As a consequence of the drama when he was hauled into the hospital, their 2 children were removed from the family.

They thought this might be a "wake-up" call for them. They had lots of the usual questions: 'What about God/religion?" "How do I start?" "How does it work?" "Where can I go to meetings?" "What's the difference between AA and NA?" "How can I stop drugging/drinking?" "The doctor wants to prescribe some drugs for me - can I do that?" "Can I be both an addict and an alcoholic?" "How can I never drug/drink again?"

I prayed my ass off to be available to being useful. I tried to listen hard. Most of their questions I either set aside or talked of my or others' experiences.

As I said, he was a hurting unit so he was only able to be with me for about 45 minutes. I got his permission to pass their phone number to others in our sponsorship family for follow up. I'll call him again in a few minutes.

Life just doesn't get any better or sweeter.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Anonymity - a clue?

I usually don't mix my blog and face AA worlds (for now). My rationale for that is contained in an article I wrote a few months ago and seems to have come up 3-4 times since I wrote it...

I was talking with a good friend - catching up with what has been going on. He's a former sponsee that I've had better than a 15 year relationship with in AA. We've seen each other through joy and darkness. I love him like a brother and we usually get together every week or 2 at the least.

Actual conversation:
Me - What's going on with you?

Him - (a more detailed list than usual - we really care about each other)

Him - What's going on with you?

Me - (a detailed list)

Him - What did you ever decide to do about the the AA blog thing last winter?

Me - (hesitant - I really have no secrets from this guy) I decided to go ahead with it but do it anonymously.

Him - Cool! What's the address?

Me - (now realizing my great mistake) Well, um, I'm anonymous...

Him - You're not going to tell me?

Me - Well, it's an anonymous blog...

Him - So, no one knows it's you?

Me - Well, it is me - I've just decided to not use the same name that I do in meetings.

Him - ...and not tell anyone who you are?

Me - That seems to be the point of anonymity.

Him - So, no-one knows who you are online?

Me - Well, everyone knows who I am online - just as everyone knows who I am at a face meeting...

Him - No exceptions?

Me - Well, I keep my sponsor in the loop...

Him - So, he knows what your web address is?

Me - Probably not - I told him but he's not really into the online thing and is pretty busy so I'd be surprised if he remembers the address or looks at it. I just talk to him about what's going on in my life - online or anywhere.

Him - I could probably find you online...

Me - I don't doubt it - it's really not that big a deal but I just don't use my "face" name and it seems like it's better that way.

Him - So, why did you tell me about this?

Me - It probably wasn't a good idea but you asked and I answered...

Him - Cool. (on to the next subject)

I learned something today...