Monday, August 31, 2009

Philip and technology...

As a consequence of Philip's last relapse, he was sentenced by something called the "drug court" to wear an ankle bracelet that senses if he's been drinking.

I've never heard of such a thing. You can imagine his reaction - probably a lot like mine would have been early in the days after my last drink: "...invasion of privacy!", "'s not like I was doing something criminal or bad for society!", "...why are they picking on me?!!!"

Reminded me of a meeting when I was in my 1st year in the program. We had several very young people (high school!!) trying to sober up in and around the meetings at the clubhouse where I attended most of my meetings. We had a most memorable meeting where a girl showed up still flushed and sick looking declaring, "...well, I'll NEVER take Antabuse again!!!" She had really not liked the consequences of drinking on antabuse and she'd really learned her lesson. She never intended to drink again but the one thing was sure: she was NEVER going to take antabuse - that crap made you really sick if you drank while you take it.

So, Philip seems to be back on a path and 3 times a week, he gets to show up and allow someone to download the data in his bracelet and verify that he's not had a drink.

My only hope is that, before the bracelet comes off, he can find a power sufficient to keep him sober without it...

We'll continue work on that in a few minutes...

Friday, August 28, 2009


We have a new Barnes & Noble that opened up in our town recently. They just moved from one store to a new one the built across the parking lot from the old one. I guess the real point of the exercise was that they needed to move out of their old store so that Whole Foods (I call them Whole Paycheck) could expand.

Anyway, I had a B&N certificate from xmas, I'd not been to the new store and my wife needed something at Whole Foods so an adventure was planned.

My first impression of the new store is it seemed silly to have built a store that was smaller than the old store. Since the layout is a little different, it was hard to figure out how much smaller it was but this is a town that is big on big bookstores (we even have a thriving independent bookstore), so you'd think that they'd at least match the store they're putting in malls.

The next part was the hard part of the endeavor. The book that I was looking for was in the "Addictions & Recovery" section. I must tell you that it's been at least 15 years since I've deliberately even slowed down in front of that section in any bookstore.

A few years ago, I fell in with a set of folks who studies and reveres AA's Big Book as the only authority on Alcoholism and AA's program of recovery. As someone who'd spend countless hours in the self-help section, I'd reformed and we'd either ridicule or try to weed out any other source of recovery guidance.

I must say, I'm still mainly in that camp today...

But, someone who I respect had recommended a book that I'd borrowed from the library, it's now going on 3 weeks overdue and, I think I want to add it to my library - if only temporarily.

...besides, since I was just using a gift card, it's not like I'm really buying it, is it?

...oh, yeah...

Anyway, so here I was in the "forbidden" section in the new store and several things occured to me:
  1. This section is much smaller than it was 15 years ago. Personally, I think this might be a good thing. I sobered up in the middle of the alcoholism treatment boom. At the tail end of that, it seemed like everyone was writing a book and you could go to one of our local bookstores and see a wall of recovery literature. I'm sure some of it helped some people but it also may have ruined a good many AA meetings as folks shared some experience and opinions that are not consistent with AA's principles and program of recovery.
  2. Much of what is there is not only, at face value, probably confusing to an alcoholic (I'm not a "drug is a drug" kinda person), but, again, at face value, probably can support the sickness more than recovery.
  3. I don't think you can get what I've experienced in AA in a book. Several of the books reinforce this by suggestions like: "go to meetings" or, my favorite, "start a meeting". You can use a book to start a meeting with other people who've read that book and, well, I guess that's sort of how AA grew... But I just have visions that many of us who could join on a path are never going to meet.
  4. In this section, AA has pretty good support but everyone has their way of "improving" it. I guess you have to do that if you're going to get someone to buy your book.
  5. Surprisingly, they did have our Daily Reflections. That was the only AAWS literature that was there.
  6. They didn't have the book that I went after (even though their computer promised me it was there...).
So, this morning I ordered it online. In order to get free shipping, I also ordered another book that I may discard at some point in the future...

I wonder about AAWS books beyond the Big Book. I've heard from a past General Service Board trustee that we've got several (5-6?) books that have been completed and then placed on the shelf since there is perceived needless controversy over publication or that they didn't seem to meet the purpose for what they were published for. In another case, there was a dispute with the author over rights that could not be resolved.

In spite of the respect and regard I have for our Big Book (very high), I wonder if we (as AA) can or will ever be able to publish another book. Or even if we should...

Just random musings on a gorgeous Friday morning...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Philip 6 ...

I marvel at how AA is with our newcomers.

Some people just show up and the room swarms to them and embraces them. Others, AA people are more tentative and aloof. Myself, when I showed up in my 3-piece suit and money hanging out of my pockets was pretty much left alone until people could notice if I was going to land anywhere soon or if I was always going to be "better than" until I just died. For the most part, people still leave me to myself 25 years later, but that's a different story...

I marvel at Philip and peoples reaction to him.

In the 3 months since he was delivered to me as a new newcomer (btw - when you search Google images for newcomer, you find that there are lots of people named Newcomer - imagine! All the gravestones for Newcomer bring interesting ideas in AA...), he's been seduced twice, picked up as a "project" a few times by well meaning men and women, gotten job offers (bogus and real) - i.e. he can't seem to show up in AA and just be left alone. This is good. But, it's interesting watching the over-all impact with him.

As the aftermath of his latest relapse of ~10 days ago subsides, he's found new willingness and I think ready to set aside some of the drama of life in early sobriety and start into working the AA program of recovery.

As I've written before, I've struggled trying to figure out how to be helpful with him. I've not done with him what I've done with new sponsees for the past 20 years - start at the beginning of the Big Book and go through it, line by line. Partly because of the peculiar nature of his situation (on a tight leash at the recovery center with lots of time on his hands and unavailable to regular meetings with me) and more because of changing perspectives I've had in my life and AA program.

But now, I think we're going to start at page 0 - you know, the blank cover leaf to the book that has nothing on it - which is all you know about alcoholism and living as an alcoholic when you start into this process...

...and then, we'll just see what happens...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Four months until Christmas...

I find myself mourning the end of summer and wondering where my life is going.

Since I've yielded to this whole "spirit led life" perspective, I've been off-balance and unwilling to admit how much I'm bothered by this apparent lack of control in my life.

Yet, in many ways - indeed - in most ways, my life is infinitely better than anything I would have designed or planned.

I am very much a slave, a "victim of the delusion that (I) can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if (I) only manage well?" (BB p. 61) I wish I were different, but it's the way I know. It's never worked. It will never work. But, I feel that my happiness and satisfaction will come at my own hand or not at all.

I thank God today that I can see this for what it is - my threadbare character defects wheezing back into life around the places that my fears welcome them.

The truth is that time will march on in accordance with it's usual order. The circumstances in my life will not be any more certain at Xmas than they will be later today. My world, as I view it, can change in an instant or muddle along for decades. I don't get to chose what that will all look like.

...and, that, today, is the good news...

Monday, August 24, 2009

The road...

We took a trip to Delta on Friday, then through Ouray and over Red Mountain Pass to Durango (some of my favorite scenes on the planet - the picture is not mine as we didn't take the time to get one of our own this trip but the vista is from Red Mountain Pass on the way out of town) on Saturday morning, back home Saturday night and then had our last meeting before the CO State Convention on Sunday.

It was an AA-filled weekend - talking with sponsees along the way, always aware of "what's next" and precious fellowship and AA service opportunities along the way.

I've whined in this blog in the past about being over committed and having too full a life. This weekend, knowing that I was going to probably feel that way again, I decided to just surrender and look for where I could be of service in each step of the way.

I didn't succeed 100% of the time (I usually don't).

But, in general, by putting one foot in front of the other and trying to have a positive, useful attitude, I got to see some of the prettiest country on the planet, was able to be useful to a drunk or 2 and, staid sober and healthy.

That's just good enough...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Something on Scott W.'s blog from several months ago sent me back to a time in my life that I may not have thought about since my 2nd or 3rd time doing a 4th step - over 20 years ago...

When I was a kid in Junior High school (now THAT was over 45 years ago), I'd been watching Man from U.N.C.L.E. for a number of years and was just so incredibly taken by the coolness of the characters and the whole way they could be anonymous heroes in the world that I created a whole fantasy world wherein (of course) I was a (the?) key agent in a secret, powerful, international organization.

While the whole of my sleepy, small town in Colorado went about it's business, I would be picked up by silent jets in the middle of the night to go off to lead this exciting life of dangerous missions and important espionage. It was a great fantasy that crossed over into real life when I told my best friend some things about my "true" identity. I can almost still see the unbelief in his face as I tried to convince him what I was really about.

Looking back on it rationally now, I was about 2+ years younger than my classmates. They'd probably had and grown out of this stuff earlier. Anyway, we made a half-hearted attempt at doing some "missions" (usual stuff involving cherry bombs and home made bombs and churches and schools at night - I would probably have been quickly found and expelled today...) but at some level I still believed in my own fantasy until it just sort of passed. (Girls? Drinking?)

...until I was working on that 4th step...

I can remember feeling so embarrassed for myself that I thought I could die. I was such a nerdy dweeb. I mean, we're talking world class nerdy dweeb.

A few years ago, my step-daughter fell in love with the movie Napoleon Dynamite. She's watched it a number of times when I've been around - she particularly wanted her son (our g'son) to watch it when he went to high school. I've tried to watch it several times and must leave the room. It's just too painful. I even think I looked (gawd - look!) like him.

Anyway, it's one of the great things about growing older in sobriety (or older any way...). I've gotten over this stuff. All that embarrassment I felt for who I was (O.K. - the UNCLE fantasy was just the beginning of a weird life) is past. I've made amends. It just doesn't matter any more. I was a dweeb. Sometimes I'm still a dweeb. But, I have found the beauty of God in many people where I would not expect it.

I'm confident it must be in me as well.

Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin and, Angelique rule...

Vote for Pedro.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I met with a sponsee this morning. He prepared me Monday by saying he had a major "political" question that we'd need to deal with this morning. While they're not necessarily my favorite conversations to have, I have been in service for most of my 25 years so it does come up and we get through it...

It turns out that our Intergroup has published a set of night watch procedures which he took great exception to some of what was stated and directions that were given. Night watch is when our central office closes at night and the phones are turned over to a member of the program's phone and they can then answer calls to our Central Office (like, instead of the answering service). I agreed with him. I think we could be killing people by following those directions exactly.

So, braced by the context his first question was "Is Intergroup part of AA?". At this point I felt like I could have been channeling Mr. SponsorPants - but it was just my experience.

In my opinion, any effort of one alcoholic helping another alcoholic with experience, strength and hope in the AA program of recovery is AA. So, yes, unreservedly, Intergroup is of and part of AA. What is also true is that Intergroup is not part of AA's General Service Structure. As a result, it has it's own processes whereby it works in accordance with AA's traditions to be an extension of the groups it serves. These processes vary across different Intergroups, but our Intergroup does have a process for accountability.

The next question was "Does Intergroup abide by AA's traditions and principles?" My answer was that I expected my Intergroup would and, if it didn't, I bore some personal responsibility in seeing that it does.

So, we agreed on a 3-fold plan of dealing directly with the problem we identified.
  1. As of now, we would not follow the specific advice offered in the night watch process and would recommend others taking night watch similarly ignore these parts of the process.
  2. We would each talk to our Intergroup representatives and other members of Intergroup to see if we could open a discussion at Intergroup to improve the documented process - keeping much that is good in the guidelines and modifying those things that don't work in our opinion. Given that my sponsee didn't know for sure if his group even had an Intergroup representative, I thought that might be a great piece of the conversation for him and his group as well.
  3. Intergroup, as a whole, could then either take some suggestions and make changes or not.
We agreed that, in the unlikely event Intergroup elected to not take input into these guidelines, we would elect to not do night watch shifts - given that we could not accept the processes that the group conscience supported went against what we thought appropriate for a 12 step call. Also, at that time, we would need to evaluate our participation (time and financial) with Intergroup.

Seemed simple enough after all...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday 5th...

I started off my morning this morning with a work out, then a sponsee of nearly 15 years (how time flies...) did a 5th step. What a way to get rocketed out of oneself and into a spirit led life.

My life today amazes me. Not the fact of some of these things that are happening to me, but the choices I make and the general path of my life.

For example, instead of "working to fix my financial problems" (my wife's words), I spend 2-3 hours in the most intimate sharing I've ever had with other men and then blog about it. Seems sort of like, insane.

But, it was what I was supposed to do so we did it...

The whole thing of a 5th step in AA astounds me. I marvel how probably doctors or clergy or psychiatrists or even lawyers probably hear the sort of things I've heard in 5th steps. They're educated, skilled and, have a definite purpose and are effective at helping people.

My only credential is that I drank myself to the edge of oblivion, ruined my and several others' lives and, found (through grace) a spiritual solution to a problem of a physical, mental and, spiritual nature. I don't even get to pick the spiritual solution that will work for them in that I've sponsored Christians (several brands), Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, atheists and every variation in between. In all my times through the steps, I've only found one person on roughly the same path I've followed.

Yet, using our steps and practicing our principles, many have found a solution sufficient to their malady.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Philip 5...

Philip called this morning. He got drunk over the weekend. He presumed I knew about it (funny how we're like that...).

I wish I could have been more surprised. When I got back into town yesterday, I was to call him and we were going to get together but he didn't answer 2-3 calls I'd made and, well, I know how we are.

I so very much wish I could pick who gets this deal and who doesn't. For one, I would only pick the ones who get it to really care about (or at least try). For another, we could both just wait until they're done and then start in earnest. Finally, it seems like it's so cruel to just keep building hopes (theirs and mine) to let them fall.

But, it doesn't work that way.

I've had my share (I'm sure - at least I don't want any more!!!) of slippers through my time in AA. I've had some chronic slippers that have been on and off the sauce for years. Recently (the past ~7-8 years), I've been blessed mostly with folks who are pretty well established or at least fall off with a bang after multiple years and then rebuild with a vengeance and commitment that's easily identified as desperation in action.

But, Philip continues to struggle. He has a probation office meeting this afternoon and, given that he might be violated, he might have just forfeited his choices about what the next period of his life will look like. The fact that I've not heard from him yet might augur some bad news for him on that front.

On the other hand, I've been around this deal long enough to know that jail time can also be a good thing for one's recovery. Sometimes. God is pretty big, you know...

...but, I'm still selfish enough that I just wish it didn't hurt me so much too...

Please, say a prayer...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mountain test...

Last summer I built the deck for this place. This summer I get to sit out and see if the bogger mms link I set up will publish a blog article with a picture.

Life is like that sometimes.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I met with a sponsee this morning. (I do most mornings...)

He has a sponsee that had been chronically depressed for several months (pretty much since he got married, though that seems to not really be the problem). He has been to doctors and seems to be doing everything "right". My sponsee (the one trying to help) just came out of a several months long depression - in the middle of which he came into my fold. His depression was finally alleviated when he adjusted when he took some of his medications, by dropping caffeine, and starting into a new 4th step.

As we commiserated about how difficult it is to help us when we're in the grips of depression, I was reminded of one of my favorite Zen sayings:

"Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water."

There's just something compelling and right in this.

My whole life, I've expected "it will be better when...."

This is an old idea, a lie that has been slow to die and remains deadly to me yet today. I presume my moods have something to do with whether I'm on the path that I'm supposed to be on and, guess what, I make all sorts of interesting decisions and suffer the consequences .

I'm increasingly convinced that the whole thing around depression, from a spiritual side (there's a medical side of which I'm not qualified to express any opinion), is surrender. Seems it's always something that I'm unwilling or unable to give up. In many (most?) cases, I can only do this with God's help.

I hope that he can eventually have some relief.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back again...

OK - so I guess I'm 4 for 4 in terms of intending to keep doing blog articles while I'm out of town on vacation or at a conference and finding myself not doing it. I don't think I really need to understand it or make excuses for it. I think I really need to just accept that I can only really "be" in one place at a time and just allow that I may not be blogging regularly when I am otherwise out of my normal haunts.

Lesson learned...

I really enjoy continuing to read and comment on blogs while I'm away.

It (reading blogs) seems to have solved a problem I've had for years when I can't seem to get to meetings when there are other, like-minded, folks I can share a cuppa with after a meeting can do the fellowship I crave. Even when I can get to an out-of-town meeting and, in the rare occasion when we're truly included and welcomed, they're not like we are in my home AA community. Reading and commenting on blogs regularly seems to fill some of that need.

So, I'm at odds about wanting to blog on many things this day. I think I'll try hitting the high points - some of which might turn into articles (or not) later on:
  • I love the whole Puget Sound area - we made it to a few islands this trip and I think it's the one place beyond Colorado and Hawaii where I could make a home - there is that weather thing up there but I might be willing to try it someday...
  • I love to fly in the window seat - still, after all these years and miles. While I've never been a true "road warrior", in one of my former lives I traveled >20K miles a year for several years. As much as I wanted to feign just being another jaded aisle-seat traveler, I still can just stare out the window for hours at 30k+ feet.
  • I especially love to fly west from Denver. I'm just amazed at the landscape - the folds and tucks of the mountains and the plains. After 100's of hours observing the terrain, I still often get lost and am surprised what route I've been on.
  • One of my favorite scenes is Mt. Rainier popping up through the clouds.
  • I get that, as much as I love our kids and g'kids, they will get to make up their own lives and learn from their own mistakes. I'll get to love them the whole way.
  • My life and the principles I live by are somewhat unique in the world today.
  • I am being offered a chance to (possibly) contribute to the future of AA in a way that is exciting and scary. I wonder how much prayer this deserves...
  • I am feeling "off-balance" in my life. This has been going on for months and might just be how this part of my life is going to feel. I'm accountable to my sponsor and it's generally good stuff (I try not to judge) but it just feels like my legs aren't under me.
  • I should be working on filing our taxes instead of writing this. It's one of my least favorite things but, guess what?
  • I hate how, when you open a bullet list, it just seems like it will never end...
I think this life is better than any alternative I can come up with today...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Seattle serenity...

We got to Seattle last Thursday and, apart from being our anniversary, we were in the firestorm of a relationship breakup with the parents of our youngest grandaughter.

Firestorm is way much of an overstatement - they are in the politely moving to set up separate households stage (a stage I never got to in any of my divorces so it's sort of unfamiliar). It's such an amazing thing to get to be useful buying spice racks, hanging pictures, putting away new pots and pans, organizing groceries, and being positive and up beat when you know someone feels like their life is burning down around them...

Apart from that big piece of drama, it's been a wonderful visit. I only get to see the g'girls (we have 8 g'kids - 4 g'boys in the Denver area, 4 g'girls in Seattle - must be the water...) once or twice a year so it's great to hang with them and love on them if only for a little while. We know our roles well: sugar 'em up, caffeinate them, spoil 'em thoroughly, then leave. We do it pretty well.

Yesterday we spent a perfect afternoon on Lake Washington and Lake Union. Today we will sight-see in some of my favorite places on the planet. Tomorrow we pack up, say farewells and then we're home again Wednesday night.

When I think of the tornado I was in my family 30 years ago, I'm truly blessed to have this chance.

It's a pretty sweet life...

Thursday, August 6, 2009


This picture is of my wife and I on our wedding day, 20 years ago today. Well, not really... I don't think we even used them on our cake...

I stand amazed that I've been married to this woman for 20 years. We are in Seattle visiting g'kids for a week so it's truly perfect. We toyed with the idea of doing something special for this day but realized that 20 didn't seem to be a real milestone so we're just taking the day in passing and being in a part of the world we really love with people we really love. Sometime, we will really have a bigger celebration. Between us, we've been married to somebody for over 28 years (how would you count it?) so we really think it's about time to celebrate some year..

Her name is the same as my last wife so I just refer to her as the incumbent. In the spirit of this blog, we'll just call her "J".

J does not read this blog so I think it would be a great time for me to give my best shot at marriage advice - how you can become and stay married for 20 years. If you see this article disappear, you'll know that she found me on the web ;-)
  1. Meet as "boy meets girl on AA campus" - it helps if you're less sober than her and you hook up with only 9 months so you can remind her and her sponsees that she 13th stepped you...
  2. Date/hang out for ~3 years and then decide to buy a house together
  3. Learn that the whole purpose of children in these years is to attempt to drive you appart
  4. Live together for a few years
  5. Turn to Al-Anon to save your life (and perhaps J's as well)
  6. Then, decide to get married when " can't think of any real reason not to..."
  7. When J can't stop crying for 9 months after your marriage, decide to not take it personally
  8. Get a really good sponsor
  9. Talk to that sponsor a lot
  10. Learn to really depend on a sponsor and a higher power with sufficient power to save both your life and your life with/or without a relationship
  11. Learn that, not only are you always wrong, she is always right
  12. Practice the principle of #11 in all your affairs
  13. Notice that the same principles that work in AA can work in your marriage and your family
  14. Never "work on your marriage" (that was the only time we nearly lost it)
  15. Get closer to your sponsor
  16. Accept almost every AA service opportunity offered
  17. If no one offers an AA service opportunity, create one
  18. Create your own home group
  19. Realize that god can be in your life, relationship or no relationship, money or no money, etc.
  20. Build an extended family modeled on your family of choice in AA
  21. Be more than a little crazy - your kids expect it and your g'kids need it
That seems like enough for now...

What a wonderful life this has been...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A sign...

Something happened at the conference a few weeks ago that I've not shared here yet and I'm not ready to share details about yet. The cryptic short form (I will probably flesh out more on this later this month or next) is:
  • I have a concern that the organization of AA (e.g. the general service structure), as we know it, will probably either disappear or become harmful to the principles of AA in a few (less than 10) years
  • I am concerned that AA fellowship and meetings are changing - not necessarily for the better
  • Several people who share this concern, and want to do something about it, seem to have accumulated in my life
These feelings/observations seemed to come to a head for me at the conference last week where I met a past servant who had spent a lot more time thinking about what was wrong and how we might "fix" it. He suggested I read a book he'd been looking at in terms of how to articulate what might need to be done and how to do it.

Personally, I'd almost reached a place of neutrality that I get a lot of support for - that the service structure could just disappear and God would continue to allow us to "...create the fellowship (we) crave..." BB p. 164.

...BUT, there did seem to be a lot of coincidence in God placing these people and my knowledge in each of these circles...

So, after this discussion with the past servant a week ago last Saturday, I spent some time (a lot of time actually) in prayer and meditation and I finally had a chance to broach the subject with my sponsor this morning. After we'd fleshed out the context, I asked him to give some prayerful consideration with me as to the exact next steps to take. I really am concerned that I could be as much a part of a problem here instead of being useful in finding solutions.

In wrapping up our conversation, he said, " the way, someone I really respect in AA gave me a book to read that might be useful in your reflections... - I've just started it but I have it here with me... " (digs it out his briefcase) "...yes, it's title is ______"

You could have bowled me over with a feather - of course the book was the same one recommended 10 days ago in the discussion with our past servant... Of the millions of books published, what would be the chances...?

I still don't know for sure what I will be doing with this - I really believe it's important and the stakes are high...

But, I think I'll be checking the library for that book...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I had breakfast with a sponsee this morning like I have every week for the past ~ 2 years. He's a fascinating study in that he had ~20 years of sobriety (I'd been his sponsor for about 15) and, after coasting for about 10 years, the wheels came off his life (his wife divorced him and everything he thought that was secure turned to mush) and we started this breakfast thing.

We spend a lot of breakfasts talking about living AA principles as a newly single dad. It was sort of surprising to me when today I gushed out a flood of my memories of the first 2-3 years I was in the program (~'84-'85). I really loved when Mary Christine blogged about her first 25 years in the program. I was envious in that, since I didn't keep journals and my life was such a mess, such a project would not be possible for me.

But, out of the blue, my sponsee got to hear a synopsis of my early years.

Some of the high points:
  • I was 31 years old and newly sober
  • I had at least a weekly appointment at the Jefferson county courthouse
  • The sheriff wanted to know (and approve) any time I even considered leaving the city
  • At ~6 months sober, due to the family no longer being viable and the fact that others were being hurt, I filed for divorce
  • My wife/ex-wife was insane (really) and pissed and acted out by, for example, posting threats to me on the bulletin board at the AA club where I attended most of my meetings
  • I wound up with full custody (my ex-wife was only allowed short, supervised visits) of 2 teenage kids who, since they couldn't "act out" against their crazy mother, attacked me and did much of the stuff teenagers do
  • I was in a job that required 80+ hours a week; lots of concentration and focus
  • The kids were heavily involved in sports, band, extra-school stuff in 2 different schools several miles away from our home(s) or my work
  • I was > $50,000 in consumer debt - bill collectors called daily
  • My daughter decided to go to college in Philadelphia - my portion of that bill was >~$20,000/year
  • I got to at least 3 meetings a week - sometimes 3 meetings a day
  • After 9 months sober, I was 13th stepped by my now wife (we'll celebrate 20 years of marriage on 8/6) and her kids were doing their best to wreck her and their life and our relationship
  • ...
Anyway, the point, I guess, of that reflection was that I had no idea how to get through it back then and, looking back on it now, I have no idea how I got through it now. I don't think I would have won any "style points" and it was 2-3 years after that time that I learned how to actually work our wonderful AA program but, they promised me at meetings that if I took my life a day at a time and actually just put one foot in front of the other, eventually it would pass.

They were right...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Seventh tradition...

Probably the best "pitch man" I've ever heard around AA's Seventh Tradition was our area Treasurer a number of years ago. While, on balance, I think he was probably not our best treasurer (he had a hard time understanding the differences between the "books" of AA and other businesses or enterprises), when he talked about the nature and principles of our Seventh tradition, he seldom talked about money.

To him, this tradition was all about the privilege and opportunity of sacrifice, about truly "belonging" to something and, about choosing to participate.

When I first sobered up, I was counseled in the first few days that I was attending meetings that most people put a dollar in the basket but, if I didn't have a dollar, I could put in 50 cents. If I didn't have 50 cents, I could put in a quarter, a dime, a nickel - but, whatever I felt I could spare, that it would be appreciated and included to help "keep our doors open". They taught me that part of my "right" to be here was that I could participate at whatever level I felt I could afford.

Further, whether I would or chose to contribute financially or not, I could always clean, help with dishes, make coffee or otherwise make myself generally useful at our meeting place.

I look with sadness at my home group's largest meeting with over a 100 people in attendance and the basket often is passed 2 full rows without someone feeling enough ownership to contribute anything. I'm not sad for our meeting, we have a great deal on rent and we always seem to have plenty of money - at least for now. I'm sad for what seems to be a whole lot of our fellowship who don't choose to participate.

I try to think of this in all of my life. For much of my life, I was blessed with a good income where I could always "throw money" rather than show up and participate. Don't get me wrong, my whole family enjoyed the vacations, gifts (sometimes extravagant) and my slight-of-hand where I would always pick up the check for our outings. But, for now, that time is gone.

I've had to learn the same thing those deadbeats (I'm joking...) at my meeting need to learn. That, to participate and belong to something is one of the richest gifts life offers. The greatest joy of my life over the weekend was throwing nickles and dimes into the pool for my grandson to dive and get. No one seems to notice that it's not silver dollars or even quarters any more.

I think "self support" has everything to do with choosing to fully participate and the greater the sacrifice, the greater the blessings. Sometimes not blessings I would have sought out but always way bigger and grander than my little plans and designs.

That's been my experience...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

It is...

One of the things about living a while (sober or not - you just notice more if you're sober and go to a lot of meetings) are the various bandwagons that run through our culture. These are often expressed as sayings that come from the business world ("the bottom line is..."), the sports world ("step up to the plate..."), TV ads ("...the beef...") or popular psychology and religion ("*inner child*").

It seems like there the one I've been noticing around here in meetings and in the vernacular (it's even in today's comics!) is the phrase:
"It is what it is..."
The urban dictionary indicates this phrase has been around and popular for a number of years (USA Today named it the the #1 cliche of 2004) but this drunk is not always the quickest on the block. I just really started to get tired of it in the past few weeks...

As I heard a new sponsee sort of go on a riff around "it is what it is" last night, I realized how sometimes we toss a phrase like this out as so much flash powder sprinkled in conversation so that we don't really have to get honest about what's going on in our life and our feelings about it. I called him on it (gently, of course ;-) ) and we got to the selfishness and fear that was underneath those events that were bugging him in early sobriety. He lived through it and might have learned something. At 40 days sober, probably not...

...because, as we all know, it is what it is...


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Right use of the will...

There seems to be a theme running with me and my sponsees of late:
"... Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve Thee--Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will. " BB p. 85
I suppose this only comes up for me when I am in a place of selfishness or resentment. The happiest days of the past 25 years (maybe my life) have been when I really "got" the importance and the power of this wonderful and simple admonishment.

Today, and few days recently, I find myself fighting the selfishness and resentment that used to drive my life. It's obvious what needs to be done next. It's clear what God's will is. It is just intensely difficult to drive the cadaver down the street to do it.

Instead, I want to reflect on how overwhelmed I am (like, that's going to make me less overwhelmed?). Or worry on how the circumstances on my life are not to my liking (like, that's going to make me feel better or improve the circumstances?). Or pine about all the other things that I'd do if I could (like, that's opening up the possibilities or helping me to get to do those other things?).

I see the problem. I know the solution.

I just hope God grants me the grace and I have the willingness to get through this stretch.

At least I have that hope.

That's been enough this far.