Friday, July 31, 2009


My wife and I've been taking an AA meeting to prison in a nearby city once a month for about 12 years now. It's been a joy and a chore at different times but always a blessing.

This meeting used to have around 50+ folks attend (usually about 1/2 from the outside) but then we had a member stay in a service position too long and her resentful, toxic attitude literally drove off most of those who wanted to attend - both from the outside and the inside. Then it became necessary that we follow Department of Corrections (DOC) rules for security to attend and that meant that we only get 1-2 volunteers to show up.

The meeting shrunk (at one point, we only had 2-3 inmates showing up) but then we had a couple of case workers come in who felt that it would "help" AA if they would encourage the inmates to attend by telling them that attendance at our meeting would help their case with the parole board so we now get 15-25 inmates at each meeting. It's certainly deteriorated the meeting, in my opinion, to have 50%+ of those attending just be there due to wanting to look good to parole but we do, occasionally get a few admitted drunks along with the addicts and wanna bees.

Based on whoever keeps those statistics for the DOC (and however they judge them), over 85% of those at this facility are drug or alcohol abusers.

At our meeting last month, we went around the room and asked what they were in for and if alcohol was involved in their crime. Of the ~25 people there 100% (I'm not exaggerating) said they had been drinking when the committed their crime.

...and, you could see, there were still 50%+ percent who saw no direct link between their drinking and their landing in jail...

A few months ago, "Jason" took over the meeting and has been chairing every week since (we used to rotate the chair job around). He waxes eloquent until he shuts up and lets someone else share and then it's his turn again. I've been to sicker meetings but none that I've worked as hard as this one to be able to show up to.

Last night, his topic was on "willingness" - he shared his opinions about how willing you had to be and what you had to do to express enough willingness to earn sobriety for yourself. You just had to put yourself and your needs for sobriety 1st above all else.

Not my experience...

For what are probably obvious reasons, discussions of grace and surrender are often not well received with this crowd. But, I shared and we, between the 2-3 volunteers that were there, were able to offer our experience and a picture of what AA is like for those of us who are in the program. There were a couple of inmates who were genuinely appreciative of our being there. We tried to offer Jason some perspectives where he might see things differently.

We do the best we can and this, too, shall pass. The great advantage of this particular facility is that the population seldom stays more than a few months.

...but, one more time as it's been for the past 12 years, I got to leave sober and the gate closed behind me with me on the outside...

That's good enough for today...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Philip 4 ...

I have about 10 people who call me "sponsor", about 5 who I meet with at least once a week, 5 who usually call me at least once a day. So why do I keep writing about "Philip"? (don't worry, that's not his picture - Philip is not even his real name...)

It could be the way he came to me - clearly an answer to a prayer that I'd not uttered yet. It could be that he just seemed so willing and ready. It could be that I'm just bored of trying to figure out what else to write about.

I certainly have sponsees who have more drama going on in their lives. Or ones to whom I feel much more connected and effective with.

But, at least some of the reason that I think Philip keeps showing up here is that he's the first one I've had in a long time who just seems to have that charmed relationship with their higher power - to where they are just exuding the evidence of the grace of God in early sobriety.

He got out of his program at our detox on Tuesday. We had coffee Tuesday morning (he now needs to get around on his own since the detox no longer delivers him to me at my direction - bummer for us both, right? ;-) ). We've been hovering over the 3rd step for a week now while I get my guidance as to whether we start over now that he's released and go back through the book as is my habit or whether we charge on into an inventory...

He admitted that he'd screwed up (bad term) and pursued a "relationship" while he was at the detox. We both had a laugh about the fact that I'd actually caught him in several lies while I've been working with him. I assured him that, in my experience, the only way you could tell if a drunk was lying to me was to watch closely and see if his lips were moving.

As I've written before, he has more than his share of challenges - an ex-con who's fresh out of rehab/jail in a down economy in a community tweaked about bad crimes coming at the hands of the newly released. We talked about going through life on a spiritual basis and trusting God and staying in the moment.

He then went to report into his probation officer and, while there, met someone who had a job for him. Of course.

He called to share the great news with me and when I said he "...didn't know if he'd like the work or not...", I assured him that didn't matter one little bit.

I wasn't at the meeting where he was last night but the report is that he's exactly where he's supposed to be.

Of course.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Willing to have them removed...

I was writing a blog article today on another blog on the 6th step and was reminded of the following events...

When I was about 7 years sober, I managed to squeeze the hour that is recommended at the end of the 5th step on page 75 into about a 9-month long process on one trip through the steps. It was a thorough (exhaustive?) review if how I had used the character defects that I'd discovered in step 5 in my life until that time.

Drunk and sober. Young and older. There was that corrosive thread of my spiritual malady that was expressed in my character defects. While this process, on reflection, probably had precious little to do with the working of the steps as outlined in our Big Book, it was undeniable after that effort that my life, as ruled by my core beliefs grounded in those character defects, had not only not worked, was grounded on lies and beliefs that would only lead to my ultimate demise.

I can still remember the morning (now over 17 years ago) when I was sitting in a Saturday morning meeting and I looked at the steps on the wall. I realized that I was at the same bottom with my character defects then that I'd been at with booze ~10 years earlier. I truly couldn't imagine life without these core beliefs that had "served" me my entire life, but, I also couldn't imagine going even one more day with these lies, these distortions, these character defects running my life.

I think that day I was entirely willing...

My life has not been the same since.

I've yet to find the step or the promise in our Big Book that says "...and then we rendered pure as the driven snow..." I'd like it to be there, I truly would.

But it's not...

So, I've made acknowledged spiritual progress and I still have as my "standard" spiritual perfection.

That's the best that it gets...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Another Monday after...

I was at an AA conference over the weekend.

Great speakers. Great fellowship. Great encouragement along the way. Great service opportunities. Great chances to be with newcomers. Great workshops. Great food. Great scenery. Great weather. Great chance to expand my mind about some thoughts I'd been having around the general service structure a person who's served on the board.

A veritable love-fest.

Miracles everywhere. Grace abounds. Hundreds of drunks being more than they could ever be apart from our wonderful program.

Too little sleep. Too much money spent. Too much traffic on the way home.

It was a great time and there will be some consequences. I wrote about Blue Mondays in an article earlier this month. I hate the dopey feeling I get after a great conference like this - I feel like I'm moving through thick muck for as much as a week after it.

And, I can't wait for the chance to do it all over again.

I'm weird that way... ;-)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rotation today...

I shot this picture this morning on the way to the board meeting for the AA conference that I'm attending this weekend. It was kind of a bittersweet morning.

I am in the mountains that I love with some people that I dearly love and owe, in no small part, my life to. This conference has been about and in support of what I have for 17 years considered the "purist" form of AA - alcoholics carrying a message of experience strength and hope from the Big Book to other alcoholics. Loving me until I could love myself. Understanding the privilege of sacrifice and the blessing of service.

I chaired this conference in the past and, as a result, have been on the board for several years.

Last year, some "issues" I'd seen in the conference had compelled me to suggest an inventory of the board and take a serious look at the direction we were headed in. Based on the response to that and several other "clues", it was obvious that it was time for me to rotate off this board - my contribution was no longer needed or wanted.

I'd intended to resign in September but realized that the only reason I was going to wait until then was that my ego might be better stroked at that board meeting rather than the one held at the conference.

I'm profoundly sad by the passing of this opportunity but am also grateful for the changes that this service has offered in me. One more time, it is clear that I could not have "gotten here from there" if I'd not been engaged in this effort with these people. It was not my design or plan...

Anyway, now I'm free from this obligation and that might free up a few more minutes in my life for the next thing. I wonder what that will be?

God is good...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Philip 3 ...

I have a general way that I sponsor people. Everyone is different and I trust my gut but we generally get together and read through the book. We take it slow and do what they did so that we can get what they got.

now has 40 days. It's a miracle and proof of the power of AA and the grace of a willing heart. God is good.

But I've struggled with him.

Usually, I have my guys come to my house and we read for an hour or 2 at a time - usually about once a week - sometimes more often if we can find the time.

Philip is still locked up and, although he can go most anywhere on passes, he's constrained by buses and times and places he can go. So, we've been doing the best we can on the phone and with brief meetings in public places. His God seems to be up to the task as he's the 1st real eager, genuinely enthusiastic one that I've had in a while (I usually seem to get the ones who've been around for a while.

It seems like he's really "getting it".

What a blessing...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Celebrating diversity 1...

Over the ~25 years I've been in the program, I find myself sort of wandering all over the map from "they're (doesn't make much difference who they are - they are just not 'me') not doing it right" and "they're killing alcoholics" to "live and let live" and "whatever works".

There are several (many) things that I marvel about AA - paradoxes, as it were:
  • we are not organized and "We have a way out on which we can absolutely agree..." BB p. 17
  • we only have one program and everyone works the program their own way
  • if you're not working the steps, you will not recover and the steps are suggested only
  • "meeting makers make it" and no-one has ever recovered on AA meetings
  • the purpose of the steps lead us to a relationship with God and you don't need to believe in God to work our program
  • for some, general service work is the foundation of recovery, others claim that all those politics would lead them to drink
If you've been in meetings for more than a few days, you've heard several others...

My point here is to marvel a bit at what my perspectives have been through the years. I have at different times the zealot, the fundamentalist, the liberal, and, for a while, I was even indifferent.

The thing that I notice today is that so many of us have recovered from alcoholism from so many different efforts at trying to work this program so many different ways - and yet, thousands of us have definitely recovered. For many of us, it has led us back to a religion of our youth. For me and many others, it has provided a solution we could never find in our religious heritage. For sill others, they seem to do just fine with the spiritual facets of our program not expressed in any particular religion.

It's really quite marvelous...

Today, for the first time that I can remember, I truly value all the perspectives in this beautiful program. Not merely tolerate, but appreciate that it takes all of us and all of our perspectives and experiences to create this wonderful fabric, this tapestry, of recovery an hope...

What an amazing deal...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I don't know...

I live today in a life with way more certainty than I think I've ever had.

I found myself thinking of one of those 3-statement things you hear people offer at meetings as their offerings to whatever is being discussed at that moment:
  • I don't know
  • I need help
  • I give up
I'm sure that's not exactly what anyone else ever said (or, that it's really all that brilliant) but it's the best I can remember off the top of my head and it sort of makes the point that I am about today - certainty is overrated.

While, today, I like to have my life fairly predictable, life is not. It just isn't.

I'm blessed today with health, enough money to last through today, a few people who care about me - way more than many other people on the planet have tonight.

Yet, the only appropriate response that I can come up with in this spiritual journey is to "give up" - just stop the madness of presuming certainty in anything - at least anything outside of God and AA.

Because, in the midst of all this "certainty", I'm confused - about important stuff. Like: What's real? What's the next right thing? Am I really on the spiritual journey or just deluding myself? You might get the drift...

Anyway, I don't know.

I need help.

I think I'll give up for the day and ask God for the next intuitive thought or action when I need it.

And then, maybe I'll be given the grace to be able to do it...

I hope so...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Confused but back blogging...

I think this is a "just for today thing" but I'm back blogging and my intention is to blog almost every day...

...oh, if I could just be judged by my intentions...

It's true - I really do want to be judged. I want to be judged as superior. I want to be judged better than most people you know. I wouldn't really expect it, but want to be judged by you to be better than you...

I would really rather that you judge me (per above) than not judge me. I'm afraid that, if you don't judge me, you might not notice me or care enough about me that you'd form this positive opinion of me. That would be even more devastating to me than a negative judgment (why is that word not: judgement?) from you.

OK - so let us be clear - this is my disease speaking.

It's been speaking (in my head) a lot the past week.

As I've learned in the program of AA, the world judges me by my actions more than my intentions. I also have a proclivity to "step on the toes of my fellows and they retaliate" (paraphrase BB p. 63).

My last week is a blur of bad mental choices and weirdness. We went with a couple of our G-kids to see the new Harry Potter movie at midnight on Tuesday. This is sort of a family tradition but exacts a higher personal toll of mental fog as I get older and, after a couple of abortive attempts, I thought I'd posted blog articles on Tuesday and Wednesday and when, on Thursday I discovered I hadn't, my natural reaction was to not post then either - then I got busy and distracted until I was talking to someone yesterday about how important blogging was to me....

...then, Steve and Mary posted comments inquiring after me.

...and now, here I am...

I'm not real proud of this part of my personality. That I start better than I finish. That, given the choice of making some small sacrifice or find an easier way or a distraction, well, we all know what choice I make some times.

I've really never expected to blog perfectly - or, even to expect my actions to live up to my intentions.

But, I do intend to generally write a blog article almost every day.

I know there are people out there who will live up to that better than I do. I know there are people who will write, on a daily or occasional basis, a blog article better than mine...

But, per a discussion with my sponsor and my prayerful consideration, this (blogging) is a part of my path for now...

I think for now the principle du jour is "progress". As a former sponsor would say, "I'll leave the perfection part for when they pull the grass up over my face."

It's going to be another interesting week. I leave Wednesday for a weekend conference that used to be my favorite AA conference. I've been seriously committed to this endeavor for over 17 years and I'm thinking this might be the year for me to hang this one up. I suppose it's part of what has left me "hanging" and foggy the past few days. I don't suffer change easily....

I truly am looking forward to the conference this week and am excited to see what is revealed when it's supposed to be revealed.

Blessings to all and I apologized if I caused anyone a millisecond of concern by my absence in the past week. In reviewing the work I've done here, it's hard for me to believe that this is all that important to anyone but me but, again, in the possibility that my detour has harmed anyone, I am sincerely sorry.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Every time I read or hear a story and it includes a line to the effect "...glad to be home...", I am reminded of a story of mine from about 20 years ago.

It was one of the several times I was in some level of distress and disappointment with my corporate IT job. I'd been working there about 6 years and had great success but, being the chronic malcontent I am, I didn't think they appreciated me enough. I was bored. They didn't do everything I wanted them to do (actually, in retrospect, they pretty much did let me do whatever I wanted...). I was bored. I wanted excitement. I wanted out.

So, this was the time before the web (I know, many of you can't imagine!) but we had what now appears as a really crude service called "netnews" where you could see articles posted from all over the world and we thought that was pretty cool. I started casually looking at articles for employment and, on a whim, I applied to a job (replied to the post with and email of my resume) that was posted at Intel in Santa Clara, CA.

That was the end of September 1989. I wouldn't be able to remember that date except that the Loma Prieta earthquake happened a couple of weeks later and I presumed that my job application would be lost in the rubble and the shuffle of rebuilding.

On December 19, I got one of the weirdest phone calls I've ever received around employment. The person on the phone, obviously a new hiring manager under pressure to fill a vacancy by year end, and after verifying that I was the person who had sent in the resume offered me a job. I said, "Don't you want to interview me first?". She said, "I'll get back to you...".

So, on December 21, I was in California for a full day of interviews. It was beyond surreal being there from any number of perspectives. While life there was functional, damage from the earthquake was everywhere and people were still in a great deal of shock. On the badge I was given when I was in Intel's offices were a full set of survival instructions - and you got that they all took this stuff very seriously. You could still see people in fear - some even in tears - trying to just get one foot in front of the other and show up and work.

The interviews went very well. They offered me the job (again) with about a $20k/year raise from what I was making currently. They twisted my arm to commit before I went back home but I told them I needed to talk to my wife 1st.

I went home wildly enthused about this great opportunity for "us" and so was sort of surprised that my wife not only didn't share my enthusiasm, she seemed to be more steeling herself to wish me well on this adventure by myself. We had a couple of difficult conversations and we agreed that, if we could make it work, we'd try it for a year but, in order to make sure it would work, we'd need to find a place to live.

In retrospect, they really wanted me because they happily paid for a trip for my wife and I to check out the area over a long weekend in early January. We both love that part of the world - I love San Francisco and the coastal areas north and south of there. It was beautiful. We went to some great AA meetings (some that I still talk about today...), met some great people, were just really in love with the prospect of being there. We met up with a Realtor and she showed us ~20 (not an exaggeration - may have even been more) properties in 3 days.

Working as hard as we could to find anything that would work, we finally found a townhouse that we would not have been ashamed of that we could barely afford if we sold our home in Colorado.

...there was the major rub...

At the time, the Denver paper had a Sunday supplement of about 20 pages (again, not an exaggeration) of HUD foreclosures. While our real estate market was tanking, the bay area was, well, being the bay area. We asked our Realtor to write a contingent offer on this townhouse and we would take a huge risk. Her face fell and we knew immediately we had a problem.

She hesitantly asked "...a contingent offer..."?

I thought she didn't understand. She assured me that I didn't understand.

She explained that the townhouse we wanted would likely have at least 3-4 offers by that evening - several for $$$$ more than the asking price. In 20 years, she had never written a contingent offer and certainly would presume it to be a waste of time.

We went back to my new boss and asked for a bridge loan or some way to make this thing work out financially. Suddenly, they didn't seem all that interested in my coming to work there after all...

We made our way home crushed and defeated. It had all seemed like it was supposed to work out that way - that we were being "led" - that miracles were causing us to be able to go out there and have a wonderful adventure.

On the way back into town, I noticed (yeah, I know, they're hard not to notice of you're not asleep but I'd spent a great deal of my waking moments asleep) the Flatirons and said "...well, if we have to be stuck somewhere, this is a pretty good place to be stuck..." It was a joke and it was the hard, undeniable truth.

My life since then has been, well, interesting.

I often wonder if I could have ever really moved there and lived in that pressure cooker society and culture - amidst a population density several times what it is here. If I could have learned serenity in the past few years in traffic instead of on the top of Rawlins pass. If I would have been able to have the wonders of my experience in AA and AA service there that I've had here.

I suppose none of that wondering contributes much to the great reality of my life today. I am here and here is perfect. God has used me here and that is a blessing beyond measure. I must still have work to do here because I am still here.

On our trip to NYC last April, I was reminded how much I still love other places that I used to get to more often.

...but, it was good, it is good, to be home...

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I love the promise:
We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear. (BB - p. 68)

Sometimes, for me, this has worked almost like a drink - when I recite an incantation that's sort of consistent with the ideas in this passage, my fears are taken away.

Sometimes, it has begun as a process where it feels like peeling an onion - layer after layer after layer of fear is revealed and released and then, eventually, I find a place where it's just, well, OK.

Then, there is the real struggle. That wrestling match that seems as if my very life, my soul, is at stake and I can't make that mystical transition from fear to "being".

I wish I could choose which comes when...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

This, too, shall pass...

Mary reminded me in a comment yesterday of my experience in early sobriety with the saying "...this too shall pass..."

I sobered up in a clubhouse in Denver. Near the back door (where we all came in and left), there were always a collection of "old timers" - they generally had more than a year or two sober - certainly a long time relative to those of us with days or hours...

To this date in my life, the worst time in my life was approximately the last 6 months of my drinking and the first year of my sobriety. I hit bottom and "put the plug in the jug" but the circumstances in my life just seemed to get worse and worse. After I sobered up, that first year I lost my job, my profession, my marriage, my house, my family - there was a lot of loss. In addition, I had at least one appointment a week at the Jefferson County Courthouse for one thing or another.

...and, the Sheriff wanted to know any time I was leaving town for any reason (business, family emergency, anything)...

It was a tough time filled with drama - bill collectors, big ugly scenes around my old house, kids that were acting out in the midst of all this with their various adolescent rebellions, business confrontations.

It was the worst of times...

On one particularly bad day when I was about 60 days sober - I don't remember if the battles that day were with work, the IRS, the law or whatever (likely some combination of all of them) - I drug myself to my daily 8:30pm meeting and, as I came in the door, one of the old f___, um, old timers made the mistake of asking me how I was. I remember that he was patient (he describes the same conversation as "tolerant") as I unloaded all the drama of my life at that moment. After I'd slowed down a little, I remember he raised his palm to me and said, simply, "this too shall pass..."

I felt a combination of resentment toward him, disbelief and anger but I went on upstairs to my meeting and, somehow, got through that day and the next several days sober.

Then a few days later, as often happened back then, I got an incredible gift of hope and joy. I don't think the circumstances in my life changed much (they couldn't have, really) but I just remember feeling relief and a lightness that was wonderful and amazing to me. I couldn't wait to get to the meeting that night.

As I came in the door, I found that sage old timer and shared with him how right he was and how there had been this wonderful change in me in the passing of my sorrow and depression. It was a miracle!!!

He looked at me and smiled and simply said "...this too shall pass..."

He was right again...

Friday, July 10, 2009

4 Horsmen...

This morning, I woke up (more like "came to") in a distantly familiar place. I could feel the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse bearing down on me in my early consciousness and, I've got to tell you, I don't like it any more now than I did 25 years ago when it was an every morning ordeal.

Terror, frustration, bewilderment and despair - yep, that pretty much sums it up...

What happened, you might ask? I'm certainly asking that...

Best I can figure, whatever I've been doing and not doing to maintain conscious contact with a power greater than me sufficient to recover from alcoholism has not been enough.

...or, maybe it has...

One of the things I like least about this path that I'm on is that I don't get to choose my moods or my reactions to the circumstances in my life the way I think I should. For example, I could say that the fear that drives some of that darkness is evidence of a lack of faith, so all I need to do is increase my faith. I could say that the selfishness that ranges wild over my perspectives when I'm in this mood is evidence of a need for more gratitude and service so I could write gratitude lists and accept yet another service commitment.

Except that, I am generally grateful, I have a life full of service commitments and I believe that, unless God gives me the power that I need, I am totally screwed.

So, why the visit of my 4 familiar nemeses this morning?

The last time I went through this for some length of time and I talked about it some with some close friends in AA, they diagnosed it as a Prozac deficiency and strongly suggested that I seek a prescription to "fix" these moods. I am all for Prozac and psych medications and I know dozens of folks in the AA program who's lives and spiritual paths have been greatly improved by appropriate medications. But, after long discussions with my AA sponsor and much prayer, I decided to wait a little longer before seeking that kind of help.

And, over time, it got better...

So, that's the best that I can hope for today - according to my past experience, this too shall pass. I'd like it to pass because the reasons either in me or in the circumstances of my life were improved so as to eliminate all possible cause of the fuel for those moods. I think and believe that time will come - but perhaps not before this mortal body ceases functioning on this earth.

It's already passed some this morning - I'm sensing the relief. I could not possibly have written this article at 6:30 this morning.

Thank God for progress...

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I took down an article that I published earlier this week. It was clearly a mistake on my part to have posted it here.

It was a message that opened up a potentially negative perspective of portions of the AA general service structure.

I don't think the opinions I expressed were wrong, the perspectives misleading, or that it is even inappropriate to have discussions critical of AA - to the contrary, I think many more folks need to get involved with and participate in some probably very difficult conversations about our AA organization. In my opinion, if we don't have those difficult conversations, AA as we know it won't exist for the next generation of alcoholic working their way to the doors of our meetings and groups.

...and, that may or may not be a bad thing. I should hope this incarnation of AA would exist only as long as it serves God's purposes - not one day longer...

But, after I posted that article, I realized that this blog was not the place to have that conversation. I was inspired to post that article after I'd participated for a few days in the part of the web that I store bookmarked in a folder I call AA- (AA minus) - those parts of the web where detractors who feel AA should be abolished, exposed, and reviled share their information on the dirt we have in our closet. Yes, I believe AA has closets and dirt.

So, I wrote and posted a relatively innocuous article that simply posed a seed for a question. I was sort of proud of what I said and the restraint with which it was said. A couple of people commented on it.

Then, I realized it was a mistake to post that here. That is not the purpose if this blog - to open up that dialog.

So, that of course, opened up a couple of different questions:
  1. What then, exactly, is the purpose of this blog?
  2. Where, if anywhere, should this dialog that I feel is so very necessary (for AA to survive) happen?
After a few days of reflection, the best I can say is that I don't know the answer to either one, exactly. And that, I suppose, is the purpose of this article and, maybe, this whole blog. This is one small person's struggle toward "...truth, justice, and the American way..." - how, in fact, I "practice these principles in all my affairs"...

Mary, who just posted her 1,400th article, has assured me both in comments and articles she's written that she sometimes struggles with "purpose" in her blog offerings. I'm somewhat less than a 1/10th of the way there., as much as I still hate it, what they told me in early sobriety remains true today - I guess "I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be for right now"...

I love AA, the life it's given me and the challenges it's laid before me...

...I just pray God's strength to get me there...

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I love the 4th. The fireworks. The general party holiday spirit. Even the patriotism. It all seems to sort of jiggle something in me.

But, especially the fireworks. In our little community, we have a moderate fireworks display - ~1,500 shells in 20 minutes and 6 seconds but who's counting? The finale had ~600 shells in ~20 seconds. I've been to much, much larger displays but it worked out that we could get to this one and, one more time, I love the explosions and the artistry of the display. I can't help but feel sorry for those war veterans who are there, though - must be an entirely different (and, I presume, awful) experience for them.

It was interesting that the article that I wrote yesterday on Independence may or may not have been read (only 1 comment - not much traffic) since I posted another article which seemed to resonate with folks about the 4th (which, turns out, Scott W. pointed out was only partially factually correct). I guess, live and learn about blogging and how folks read their blogs - 2 posts in a day is probably generally over-indulgent of me.

Anyway, the aftermath from a lovely day on the 4th and the excitement of fireworks is usually sort of low key day - that's my expectation anyway. Some work plugging away at tasks that have been postponed over the last several weeks and hoping to keep my expectations low enough for activity that I can live up to (down to?) them.

Some years ago (may have even pre-dated my sobriety) the wife of a preacher explained to me a phenomena that the clergy refer to as "blue Monday syndrome". The observation was that, after even the most effective minister gave their fiery sermon, was thanked and congratulated by the congregation, spent the rest of the day calling on members of the congregation in presumably intense spiritual work - they would return home from this full and intense day and then sort of "crash" into a depression on Monday. Many churches are closed on Monday, in part, because of this phenomenon.

I thought this was interesting. It certainly has always been my experience that, after a conference or workshop, there was an aftermath - always a let down. Sometimes not so much of a depression but a blah feeling that I just didn't want to go forward. The dread of "blue Monday" would even keep me from attending or participating in something that was exciting and wonderful to me.

Just one more way that I was (and, to a lesser extent, am) sick. Even the good stuff - the fireworks - has a price beyond the ringing of the ears. In my sickest days, I'd avoid the good stuff to manage not having a depression.

"To be doomed to an alcoholic death or to live on a spiritual basis are not always easy alternatives to face." (BB p. 44)

I look at this as the most absurd sentence in our book - yet, accepting (embracing?) a life where there are spiritual ups and downs seems impossible some days. I would choose a sort of death rather than face a great time and excitement with an attendant "down" time or mood.

And I thought it was about not drinking....

(...but, not drinking was a great start...)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th

On a completely different note, I'm pretty sure this is a viral messages so it may not bear repeating here but it struck me as speaking to the true principles for which we should think of our celebrations on this day...

I don't know it's original source - if someone does, please offer likely citation in comments...

Note: Scott W. (thanx Scott!) offered in a comment that some of the following is true, some false - it comes from a viral letter that started 10 years ago (I didn't know that for sure when I posted it) - enough seems true to not be worth leaving here but you can see a fairer assessment of the history cited (e.g. the "real" story, proper spellings of names, etc.) at the snopes article.

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence ?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, ninewere farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his Ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown , Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters.

He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months

John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished.
Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't.

So, take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots.

It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: freedom is never free!


I wrote an article in my head yesterday that I'm glad I didn't post. It was pretty much all about the financial terror that woke me up at 3am and the restlessness of my soul. I will eventually write about it but I have to tell you that it was not the time or place yesterday.

The picture is from my front yard. You have to know that I just love where I live. The spring was spectacular for the dozens of rose bushes we've planted. Every morning when I go out to pick up the paper, I am humbled by the awe of just being here - in this time, and in this place.

The house itself does not reflect this love of mine in that it needs painting, a major section of fence needs replacement (I tore out the old fence and replaced it with temporary orange construction fence - my wife has long tired of the joke that it is deliberate "art"...), the yard needs weeding, the foliage needs trimming, the pool needs cleaning, the deck needs work - you get the idea. Lots of unfinished work everywhere I look.

And, we're spending about $5k/month more than we're bringing in...

So, I can (and do, in my illness) justify my financial terror. What an awful time it is in our world for a 57 year old fat man to find work or make money. And all this work must be done around our house and we can't afford to hire any of it done.

This is the sad truth for us....

Or, is it?

I have decided on this July 4th to declare my independence from all these perspectives of my world. I will, instead, focus on my spiritual growth and fulfillment. I will clean the pool, work on the fence, look for ways that I can be useful and "...ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be." (BB p. 68)

I don't know what the future holds for me. As I said, it looks pretty bleak and hopeless but, the greater truth is, if we're supposed to be here, it will happen. If we're supposed to be somewhere else, that will be far better for us and we'll be happier there. Again, my life is not my business...

I will also go to my home group and meet with a few sponsees and try to offer some hope for the recovery from alcoholism.

...then, we'll probably go see some fireworks...

...ah, freedom...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Of all the blessings I've experienced in sobriety, finding and living with someone who is on this same path has been the biggest blessing - and the most challenging blessing.

Syd wrote yesterday about "When the drinking stops" - about how a relationship can grow and how a relationship had grown in his life. I would have said that was probably a harbinger of my experience with my wife today. I was wrong.

The context is that, during my home group on Saturday night we had a couple of scheduling snafus - one of which had some tempers fly and a relatively big "scene" ensued. I was there for both of the problems - called and left a message with the church and have not heard back as to what is going on (e.g. - has our agreement with the church been modified? etc.).

After our meeting, my wife was discussing what had happened in a crowd near the door and, as I approached her, I heard her saying something which was errant in that it was placing blame on the wrong group and was describing the situations completely wrong. I attempted to interrupt - what I started to say was "...that is not true..." but my wife wheeled on me and yelled at me - maybe not a huge scene, but a scene nonetheless.

I can't really say how loud she was but it certainly stopped all traffic on the ramp at the door and all I could do was stand there, dumbfounded, and then I just walked off. This sort of thing has happened before (humiliation in front of others) but generally not this intense.

By the next day, my anger had abated some - I got that, somehow, I had taught her to treat me that way. (Sorry for the psychobable - I confess that a former sponsor had me read Relationship Rescue by Philip McGraw - was not a complete waste of time and energy but nearly so - and, almost cost me a quality relationship)

My wife apologized for yelling at me the next day and I told her I accepted her apology. I continued to gnaw on it some but 10th stepped it and put a call in to my sponsor.

I had a long chat with my sponsor last night and he and I got to what was my part and speculated some of what the changes might be in working it out. We both agreed this one will take some time and prayer. That was when I read Syd's post and presumed that I was "clean" - I was willing to go forward.

I guess I wasn't...

I found out last night that my wife had taken on the resolution of this "situation" with the church - I had done the same. As of this moment, she still doesn't know what I saw in the meeting rooms. I've learned to ask her if she wants to know what I know (as opposed to just offering what I saw) and, when I've attempted to tell her, she gets really upset with me. I guess it's just our special magic.

She has this amazing penchant for explaining about how "I always" and "you never" and "every time" and "it's always" - and then the quality of the conversation really goes downhill from there. Given how she explains the quality and nature of our communication today, I have no idea why she stays with me and puts up with such abusive behavior. I think it's just her Italian temperament that flashes through but, should we say, there are a few barriers to honest communication?

I've come to my computer because I can't let this go now. I'm a firm believer in "not letting the sun set on my anger". I used to think that meant that you work it out with the other person. I've had to realize that my 0God has to be bigger than that....

This is the first blog article I've written in this way and it seems like I'm violating some sort of purpose I've intended here but at least it's a try at turning these emotions somewhere other than inward.

I suppose the principles at hand are surrender, humility and forgiveness.

I'm still responsible for helping my home group work through this mess.

I also need to change my behavior around my wife. It may not be true that I always criticize her in public or that I'm always negative or silent around her. What is also true is that it never is a good idea for me to criticize her - especially in public - and that I can work harder at being "up" for her. Perhaps this blog is the venue for honest communication instead of conversations with her?

Something needs to change - and I'm committed to that...

Ain't it grand the wind stopped blowing?

(...wierd - as I wrote that an intense thunderstorm suddenly stopped - spooky...)


I woke up this morning to a non-functional DSL. Not a huge problem as we have another internet connection we can use.

But, you probably wouldn't understand that, since I used to be in the computers and networking business (still am but in a much diminished role), I feel as though I should be able to fix these problems as quickly as they show up. I should be that good. Don't ask me why I need to be that good - it's just the way I'm wired.

Anyway, I'm posting this from another computer/network since the best that I could do for this morning was to set it all aside and decide I will get to deal with this after my head has cleared some.

I think I know what's going on (my router failed) - I think I know what to do next (I have another router) - why I feel so incredibly failed at this has nothing to do with the technology and has everything to do with my character defects and a spiritual malady I've been trying for 25 years to get over.

I thought this was just about not drinking...