Monday, November 30, 2009

Working the program...

I led a meeting on the 12th step last week.  I'm leading another one tonight.  Seems to be "up" for some folks.

Especially me.

In our AA community, it feels like many of us have come from a (dark?) place in our program where, what was suggested (at least what I heard) was that, when you get into depression and pain, you simply need to "work the program" harder.  What that meant to me and others was that you took another trip through the 12 steps (sometimes with a new sponsor or a new guide).  You got new insights from a more thorough and current 4th step.  You completed another set of amends.

All that was good stuff.  I grew a lot.

But, about two years ago I realized that this was not AA.

It's amazing to me, one more time, that they hid the directions in a book stealthily labeled, Alcoholics Anonymous:
PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.  It works when other activities fail. (BB p. 89)
So, the solution to my depression, my worry, my spiritual malady is not to find another guru, to change therapists, change sponsors, get more insight from another trip through the steps, to join another church, to get more exercise, or to change my medication.  The solution is to find another drunk and help him.  HELP ANOTHER.

All of those other things  are good - may even be necessary at times (and I think I can say that I've done them all - some multiple times).

Intensive work with other alcoholics. Not real subtle or rocket science, right?  That's what I mean today when I say I'm "working the program."  I can say that I've gotten as well as I'm ever going to get by naval gazing.  I need another plan.  Less of "I."

Yet, it's the last thing that I want to do.  It's as if I'm wired the opposite of that.  Like, maybe I have a spiritual malady.

Therein is the grace part.  (I'm a huge fan of grace.)  Today, I get the chance to be useful.

Thank you God...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Forget about ED once and for all...

I bet few of you have the same reaction I do when I see this subject line (blog title) in my email box.

If they only knew how long and how hard I tried to forget about Ed....  To just get rid of him.  To numb the racket of him out.  And I was really looking for a once and for all solution...

The best I've found to date to do this is the program of AA.

I think I know what people mean when they say in some of the meetings I attend that "AA is a selfish program."  I just really hate it when they say it.

My experience has been that selfishness is the basis for the despair that led me to seek a permanent solution.  There is no doubt today as much as there was no doubt 25 years ago that selfishness and self-centeredness was the root of my problems.

What I have as an antidote to that today is selfless giving and humility.

When I truly live in that space (happens occasionally), I get to forget about Ed for a while.

That is a solution for Ed today...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy holiday...

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I wish you the best.

If you don't, I wish you the best.

I'm thankful today for the community I've found in this space.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I am involved in a conversation on another forum about the idea of how we support our meetings in accordance with our Traditions.  I rattled of a response on that group and was thinking of just posting that writing here when I realized I'd written something very similar to the response in an article I'd done on the Seventh Tradition here last summer.

It still bugs me that people, especially young people (in both sobriety and age), don't feel any need or desire to participate in AA - either by putting anything in the basket or by showing up and taking their turn keeping the doors open in one place or another.  More than 3/4 of those in attendance at my home group's main meeting contribute nothing (I used to be the treasurer and still can't help but notice).

My own recent situation has been that I've been putting money in the basket even when I don't have enough to cover my bills.  I also find myself participating in a number of different ways in a number of different parts of the fellowship when it seems like it would be a much  more responsible use of my time and energy to look for employment or find some way to generate income.

My motivations are generally selfish (true statement generally as well in the matter at hand), but clearly something is different from my experience and the young friends I find at meetings.  Frankly, I make the choices I make because I think my life depends on it.

Makes me wonder, many days recently, am I just a fool?


However, in 25 years (26 next month), I've never been even close to starving and I have had a life that's beyond my wildest imaginings.  Why would this end?

It might.

Among all the things I've learned in and around the rooms of AA, there are no guarantees.

But, for this recent time, AA and the life that it's given me has been the core substance of my life.  Family, friends, my life's work, all my various modes of entertainment - they have all flowed from the source that I found in the rooms of AA.

And, they still allow me to put a bit in the basket and sometimes accept my meager talents when they need them...

What a great deal...

Monday, November 23, 2009


I have found it hard to get an article written and posted for a couple of days now.  During that same time, I've been struggling meeting other commitments and also have been doing some reflection around AA's 12th  Tradition (anonymity).  Funny how, for this alcoholic, the most difficult part of my existence is to just belong into my own life.


I can't tell you the number of times I've been on the phone with my sponsor and I hear myself whining "...well, it may be a perfectly fine life, but it sure doesn't feel like my life..."

It's about surrender and sacrifice.

Bill wrote in the essay "Why Alcoholics Anonymous is Anonymous" (Language of the Heart):
...Powered by alcohol and self-justification, many of us have pursued the phantoms of self-importance and money right up to the disaster stop sign. Then came AA. We faced about and found ourselves on a new high road where the direction signs said never a word about power, fame or wealth. The new signs read, "This way to sanity and serenity--the price is self-sacrifice."
I was marveling with a sponsee, new in sobriety the other day, how we - even with years of experience, still continually balk at this sacrifice.  If I can't uphold the image I want, if I can't have the relationship I want, if I can't eat/drink what I want, when I want it, if I can't do what I want when I want - then, I may as well just die.

And so, many of us die.  Some slowly.  Others, not so much.

But, when I let go of that almighty "I", the reward is sanity and serenity.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dr. Paul...

One of my worries (sounds much better than fear, don't you think?) is that I will start repeating myself in my blog articles.  It's a race at my advanced age - will senility creep into my daily life before I live long enough to not care what people really think of my repeating myself?  The point: I thought sure I'd written this story here in the past but can't seem to find it in any of the places that I could have written it so here it is either for the first time or the 10th time.

Anyway, Dave mentioned today some things from the story "Acceptance Was the Answer..." (4th ed. BB - "Doctor, Addict, Alcoholic" in the 3rd ed. BB).  I love this story.

From the time I was about 3 years sober to the time I was 10 years along, I quoted this story in almost every share and I used it as much or more as the basic text of AA in explaining how we needed to deal with life and life's problems.  When, infrequently, folks would challenge that his "instruction" was not part of the basic text, I would scoff and assure them that it must have been an oversight or that, since it was still in between the blue covers, it certainly was part of my program of recovery.


I was blessed for a period of ~12 years in my middle sobriety to attend several trips, retreats and conventions with Dr. Paul, the author of this story, and Max.  While we were never close, we eventually had a nodding relationship that borders on intimacy that I've only found in this program.  I was profoundly impressed by his spiritual path and the fact that I, on more than one occasion, saw him 12-stepping new folks with as much skill as any I'd ever seen.

Early in our acquaintance, we were at a conference together at a huge resort in Mexico.  We were sort of standing around after lunch.  I was waiting for my wife who was engaged in a conversation and I spotted Dr. Paul across the dining pavilion - at least 80-100 feet away.  He seemed to be sort of staring at me but I presumed that he was looking at someone else behind me or in the group where my wife's conversation was.  I just smiled and sort of turned away.

I noticed that he broke off from his group and started walking toward us.  Again, I sort of looked around and presumed he was either mistaking me for someone else or was coming to talk to someone  else in the group.

He marched right up to me.

I said "Hi."

With what seemed like exaggerated earnestness, he said "Are you all right?"

Confused, I said "yes."

He said "Good!  I thought you might be thinking."

...and turned on his heal and walked back to his group.

I loved that...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Lion's Roar...

I am amazed and astounded at how God works in my life.  Always.

I gave a pitch at a meeting last night and it was, well, different.  I made an oblique reference to how God has blessed the whole of my life (but, especially in sobriety) and gave specific answers to questions asked and unasked.  It seems God has always shown up with the miracle when I needed it.

So, I woke up this morning and went through the motions but was feeling fear and uncertainty as I approached my computer to maybe write an article and see if, one more day, I could find the encouragement I needed to get one foot in front of another and show up in this life.  (all you really need to know is that I'm an alcoholic that's currently in a situation of adverse, unwanted circumstances...)

As I was on the verge of fatal self pity, I read Mary at Letting Go and she had blessed me with my first award for blogging.  Of course, it was the last thing I would have expected from this woman who expresses herself so well that I sometimes just marvel that what I write can live in the same internet as her skill.  Sometimes, hers is the only place I can find on the internet to help my heart to sing again.  Thank you Mary.  You've forced my tears of gratitude one more time...

And, as I've seen you all model so well for the past few months, I now get the distinct honor of passing this award along to 6 of you to directly appreciate your efforts on behalf of myself and, perhaps, those that also benefit from your efforts:
  1. To  Mary of Being Sober for having the courage and the strength to show me and many others that a presence of AA on the internet can be an extension of recovery as found in AA.  That AA principles can (and must?) be paramount in all our affairs - including the internet.  I thank her especially for keeping the blog doors open until I could get here.
  2. To Pam of Sobriety is Exhausting. I can't think of a better award for her as I've heard her roar over the past few months through happiness, sadness, pain, sickness and, even, grief.  My deepest respect for her heartfelt, powerful, honest sharing of her experience on her sometimes difficult road of life.
  3. To Syd of I'm Just F.I.N.E..  Having been around Al-Anon for 25+ years including being a member in that program for 4 years, I can really appreciate the fine line he walks in supporting that program above and apart from the drama.  I know no-one in that program that has better grasped the principles of their recovery than he has.
  4. To Mr. SponsorPants who seems to have solved the problem of practicing AA principles in the difficult situation of not being an "authority" while clearly and directly answering questions that all of us have had over the years about our wonderful program.  He's a credit to AA and, even in the rare time I may not have agreed with an answer, I'm proud to be a member of the same fellowship as him.
  5. To "garden-variety drunk" of Another Real Alcoholic for giving me hope that another generation of alcoholic has found exactly the solution that I've found in this wonderful program and stands as a person who will keep the doors open when my dust (bits?) in cyberspace is all that's left of my being.
  6. To Scott W. of Attitude of Grattitude for demonstrating that a disciplined sharing of beauty and strength can be a beacon to me and many.  He's 6 years sober today, by the way.
What, wait!  That's 6 already?  What about Dave and Scott and Steve and....  Can't I at least also "award-back" a link to Mary LA? So many people have contributed greatly to my experience here of the past 9 months.  Oh well, maybe in another 9 months I will have another award or perhaps, instead, we'll all just comment occasionally on each others' little spaces of the bloggerland and encourage each other along the way.

I'm encouraged for at least one more day.

Thank you again....

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Step 11...

    Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
    About 10 years ago, I'd been beaten into such a state of reasonableness by life's circumstances that, with some 15 years of sobriety, I followed my sponsor's advice and redoubled my efforts at the 11th step.

    I read exactly the paragraph starting "When we retire at night..." (BB p. 86) in the evening and reflected on each of the questions and sentences carefully.

    In the morning, before starting my day I read the 4-5 paragraphs starting with "On awakening..." and followed the suggestions outlined there.

    It was a magical time. Nothing I've done in our program of recovery before or since has provided such and immediate relief my the daily problems and given me such a profound sense of connectedness with my spiritual path. I was on fire anew in AA. It lasted nearly a year.

    Then, I woke up one morning, and it didn't work. I did the same thing I'd been doing and I just felt flat and defeated.

    I thought for months that it was just a matter of trying harder, of saying something slightly different. Of taking more time. As I remember, I tried everything that was suggested to me and, struggle though I might, the magic just seemed to be gone.

    And then I realized that there was a lesson in this. God had graciously given me a time in his presence but this moment was not that moment. What I needed to do was to be open and willing to seek God in his way - not presume that he would always bless me how I wanted, when I wanted, based on my own habits and rituals.

    Since then, the feelings of inspiration and closeness have come and gone.  My habits and practices have varied from time to time and that seems to be appropriate - it's been my experience.

    Today, my practice is to pray the 3rd and 7th step prayers every morning before I get up. I try to apply my best thoughts toward thinking through the day ahead. Is it my will or God's will? I find the prayer of St. Francis that's excerpted in the 11th step chapter in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions useful helping with meditation and in keeping my perspective in a better place as well.

    At night, I still go through the review.  At least once a week, I read the paragraph verbatim. Every night I try to close my mind and open for sleep by asking "...God's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken..."

    Then, I sleep.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    Bigger things...

    I had someone come by and offer me an amends yesterday.  I was musing this morning that this has not happened much through the years.  My guess is the ratio is several hundred to one (given to received) in the amends department.

    I must say, in many ways it's easier to give them than receive them.

    This guy had stolen from me.  Tools as well as trust and then he talked bad about me around the fellowship.  It was really sort of interesting.  I think I have pretty solid proof of more stuff that he stole than what he copped to yesterday.  I'll chalk that up to the "more will be revealed" category.  I just hope he has gotten honest enough to where he can stay sober for a while.

    He's a bad drunk of the modern variety.  Typically gets coked up enough to slam some serious drugs to "improve" his work performance and then, amazingly, takes off drinking again.

    So far, in addition to a lot of money and property, he's laid waste to a marriage, at least one child and, well, he's doing the dance we do.

    But, I was honored that he chose me as his first amends.  Of his several times in the program and after over 4 years on a 4th step (drinking part of that time), this is the furthest he's ever made it.  I encouraged him to complete all of his amends as quickly as he can.

    Around our AA community, there was a myth running around a few years ago that one could "never complete your amends."  That, living amends were really the key.  This has not been my experience.

    I had an 8th step list (agreed to by my sponsor) and, when I was able to cross that last amends off, something magical - mystical - happened to me in my reality.  I worry that not everyone who's in AA's program of recovery has that experience.

    So, I encouraged him to set that as his goal.  I can remember when I used to look at my list of some 40-45 people and institutions that it looked absolutely impossible.  I guess, thinking back, it was impossible.

    But, ~2 years later when I was able to cross that last name off the list, it was clear that something really, really, really, really different was going with me and the world.

    I can't recommend it enough...

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Small things...

    Shortly after my now wife and I were beginning our relationship (~25 years ago), we were staying at a motel somewhere and I was watching one of the, then fairly rare, "lifestyles of the rich and famous" programs.  I remember it well because I seldom watched TV and was sort of enamored of this type of programming - I could see all the details about people whom I had to hate because they clearly lived in all the luxury that I so desired.

    They were touring a luxury hotel and they made a point of all the details they checked out in cleaning a room at every opportunity.

    One of the details they checked out was that the end of the toilet paper was placed just so - coming over the top and the sheet folded in a "V" and had a finished, deliberate, look and was convenient to grab.

    I must admit that, until that very moment, I had not given a single thought about how the end of the toilet paper roll hung out.  I guess I just looked at it as either a random matter or trusted my gut.  Hard to imagine that I was once such a cretin.

    It also seems funny now that within a day of my acquiring this knowledge, my then girlfriend (now wife of 20+ years) felt it necessary to "teach me" the "right" way of leaving the toilet roll which was, of course, the paper needed to come from behind and underneath the roll.  I started to protest with my new found knowledge and immediately recognized the look I've seen so many times since that this was going to be a fight.

    I didn't fight.  I realized that it just wasn't worth it to me that I be "right" in this matter.

    To this day, if you come to our house, you will be able to tell who last changed the roll of toilet paper.  As, I think, I generally change rolls more than she does (why is that?), the paper will generally come over the top.

    But, that's not the end of it...

    Embarrassingly recently (about 5 years ago?), I was using a bathroom, had to change the roll and realized that, due tho the proximity of the roll holder to the stool, it only made sense to hang it in the style of my wife instead of the style of the European hotel where I'd learned my craft.

    I had a good laugh.

    What is probably true is that my wife learned her paper roll changing skills from those who had such dispensers and that was why it was so important that she was "right" in her perspective.

    My wife and I may never, in this lifetime, fully discuss this matter.  It's almost ceratin that we'll never agree.

    It's important, only for me, that we are both right on this small thing.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009


    I went to a good friend's memorial service yesterday.  The minister said we were celebrating a "life well lived".

    Yale H. was 93 years young when he died last week.  He was amazing from the first to the last. He had 57 years of sobriety. He would have had 58 next month.

    His obituary doesn't tell half the story.

    When he was up for appointment to Assistant U.S. District Attorney for Colorado, his background check turned up, well, problematic. Yale was never bashful about remembering his past when he came to my home group to tell his story. He may have sobered up a long time ago, but he was clear that he was a bad drunk before he got to AA.

    When Bobby Kennedy was getting some flak from his staff about making this appointment, it was reported that he looked at the application and said " says here that Yale hasn't had a drink in ten years. Can anyone else in the room claim that?" Case was closed and Yale got the job.

    He was a story teller above all. To see the story of "Rascal", go to this link.  He had a million of them.  Another area he explored was AA history and pre-history.  He wrote a great story about the "Gold Cure" which pre-dated our fellowship. 

    The last time I heard Yale's voice was on NPR's Talk of the Nation listener call-in show last January when he called in to the program the Thursday before Obama's inauguration.  You could hear the host gasp as he came to realize the importance of this moment as Yale related, in his mater of fact way, his experience attending the first inauguration of FDR as a congressional staffer.  He had a front row seat for that part of history and could clearly relate the parallels and differences of then and now, first hand.  As the host struggled to get his show's pundits and guests out of the way so that Yale could have more time, you could hear the effect Yale had on others, outside our program.

    Beginning over 20 years ago, macular degeneration stole his sight.  He was still active and involved in the community and AA meetings - he was at his home group the week before he died.  Always, he would make sure the newcomer was greeted and made to feel welcome and important.  More than one person I went to a meeting or an AA social event with would ask me "is he really blind?"  It was as if he could see right through you and was completely engaged with you when you were in his presence.

    I have never in my life had as sharp a mind as he had at 93.

    His marriage of 68 years ended when his beloved wife died a few years ago.  While he was always in love with Jane, Yale was fully human and was quick to find wit with which to share his own failings.  The last 2 times he spoke at my home group, he closed his share with "...we say in AA to 'practice these principles in all our affairs.'  It has been my experience that it's better to just not have any affairs."

    The last intimate conversation I had with him was not long before the stock crash.  He related how his neighbor was a day trader and was becoming quite wealthy.  He could appreciate how his neighbor would work hard and concentrate and "lay up stores of riches for later times".  He was envious until he realized that, at his house, he had a constant stream of "visitors" (he hated the terms "sponsor" and "sponsee") who would sit with him for hours each day and realized that he, too, was storing up treasure.

    At the service, he was remembered for his wondrous life, mind and, his humility.

    I miss him.   It was great to celebrate a "life well lived".

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    The Gift...

    I was meeting with a sponsee this morning and we found ourselves again talking about the gift of desperation.

    Something shifted for me recently.  I've been spending some time looking into and thinking about the varying statistics that are offered for explaining how successful the program of AA is.  I have found a great deal of discrepancy for claimed "success rates" for AA: ranging from factions in AA who boldly proclaim 80%+ success rates for those who follow "their way" of working our AA program to AA detractors who claim that AA's success for long term recovery is less than 10% or, about the same success rate as doing nothing for recovery - just quitting through will power alone.

    If you look at even the most credible and statistically valid studies of how alcoholics recover, you can still find huge variations in the success rates and, worse, huge discrepancies about biases and and assumptions and caveats.  It seems that for every study, there are at least 2-3 folks who will explain why the data is not accurate.

    I was talking this morning with my sponsee about why some of the folks in his circle, and particularly his sponsee, don't find in AA a successful solution for not drinking and creating a life without drinking.  This discussion wound up with the same conclusion that I had observed in my recent study and my over-all AA experience.

    AA generally seems to work with a certain class of desperate alcoholics.  For others, it seems to not be effective.

    ...but, for he and I, AA has been 100% successful and given us a life beyond our wildest dreams.  For him, for 1-1/2 years, for me, 25+ years.

    ...and, for today, that seems to be the only statistic that we can really vouch for.

    What a gift!!!

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Anything to say...

    I find myself sitting here admiring every one else' life and sort of, well, sort of hating the one in front of me.

    I get that it's a gift of grace today that, God willing, I'll get one foot out in front of the other today and will find a few places where I can be useful.  That truly is "enough"...

    However, as I read my usual folks' blogs this morning, I found myself pausing to reflect (pray) and ask "do I have anything to say?"

    I've been taught to ask a few things before I open my mouth and say something (anything):
    1. Is it the truth?
    2. Is it necessary?
    3. Is it kind?
    4. ...
    And, the miracle of that just struck me in this moment.

    All my life I've shared what I thought was the "right thing" to promote the image that I was trying to portray - that was aligned with the script that I'd made up for that moment.

    For me, to pause and honestly ask is a miracle.

    Just that...

    Monday, November 9, 2009


    At a recent Area Assembly, our delegate brought to the floor a discussion of the question: "should we return the circle and triangle to our AA (AAWS published) literature?"

    There was some discussion about the difference between symbols and substance.

    I've been thinking a lot about this recently.

    I have a long history where I have failed miserably in happy sobriety (just short of taking a drink) and noticed that I've filled my life with service and have forgotten to get in integrity with my recovery program. Or, that I try to solve the problem of my misery by focusing more on working a better 4th step instead of finding a drunk to work with.

    So, even though our symbol has not been used as an official symbol of AA for a number of years (about 1994), I still have a use for a reminder that this is a 3-legged program – sort of like a 3-legged stool.

    Have you tried to sit on a 1-legged stool?

    I have.

    I need to remember why my life feels out-of-balance.

    By the way, support for the question from our Area Assembly failed.  Absent some action from some other part of the fellowship, it won't be on the agenda for the 60th General Service Conference.

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    Paul ...

    One of the liberties I think I can take of having a less well read blog is that I want to share something that came in email about good friend who died recently. If anyone has any sort of objection about this, let me know and I will remove this article.
    We lost another piece of AA history linking us to the founders. Paul Martin, 87 years old and 62 years sober. His sponsor was Tom Powers who helped Bill Wilson edit and publish the 12x12. Below is an official obituary that was in a local paper and a personal note from Gary B. a long time sober friend of Paul’s.

    Rest in peace Paul, we will carry the torch!


    Paul W. Martin, age 87, of Bethlehem Woods, LaGrange Park, formerly of Riverside for 42 years. A Veteran U.S. Navy Pilot during WW II, (survivors deleted). Paul had many accomplishments in life as a successful Journalist. He wrote articles for numerous publications including the Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine, Christian Century, The Grapevine, The Lion (a publication of the Lions Club). He wrote two books on the history of the Lions Clubs, the first We Serve and the second Lions Clubs in the 21st Century. He spoke Spanish fluently and traveled widely, including trips to Mexico and South America and Russia. A Health and Science writer, he hosted his own television show, was a professional wrestler and boxer, and was a true sportsman. He worked in Greenland, Iceland and Alaska in the 1950's, on the Dew Line radar warning system . In the Navy he catapulted, in observation planes, off of battle Ships. He had a great sense of humor and always had a joke. In lieu of flowers, memorials to Riverside Twp. Lions Club, Hadley School for the Blind and St. Thomas Hospice appreciated.

    From Gary B.:
    I returned home yesterday from Paul's wake and memorial service.  This was the third time I have been privileged to not only be with Paul but many of his sponsees and friends.  The first two times I was asked to chair (more like emcee) the celebrations of his 50 years and 60th years of sobriety.

    I met Paul 36 years ago when he spoke at the Wyatts meeting in Denver.  He had been invited to speak there by a fellow known as Big Frank McKibbon.  Frank was big and tough and a true Big Book Step Nazi who said that I should come hear Paul.  I was surprised that Frank really looked up to anyone so I figured I better go.  I left the meeting knowing that I had just met a man who really believed that the 12 Step program of AA was indeed "sufficient" for alcoholics and anyone else who might be motivated to go to the lengths we need.

    24 years ago I called Paul with my ass hanging out and jam on my face and asked him for help.  I had not drank, but I was living a life of infidelity, dishonesty in all my affairs--my wife still says I was depressed during that time.  Other than the depression that is a symptom of alcoholism I have no other experience with that.

    Paul and his group, the LaGrange group, firmly believe and practice repeated trips through the 12 steps.  Each time they do that they swap 5th Steps with several other people, and are extremely diligent in making all the amends to remain current.  I learned that the repeated process thru the 12 Steps in order relieves alcoholics of the depression, anxiety, fear and all those other things the sober alcoholic contends with.

    Paul always believed that guilt is the cause of depression.  In fact, he was sure that Wilson would not have had his depressions if he would have kept his pecker in his pants.

    I last spent several hours with Paul this last Spring when he was in Bloomington, IN undergoing a series of heavy radiation.  His conversations were always about AA.  He said he knew I don't really enjoy speaking on the circuit but asked me to continue to do it when I was asked so I could continue to share my experience with amends.

    Paul spent the last 3+ months in a retirement center/nursing home.  I am told that this past August there was a young man taking a tour of the home with his parents.  The parents were thinking of moving there.  The lady giving the tour always spoke to each resident as they passed by.  She would say "Hi Joe" or "Hi Mary" etc., but when they passed Paul she said "Hi Paul Martin."  The group passed by and then the young man returned and asked Paul if he was the guy who knew Bill Wilson.  Paul said he was and asked what he could do for the young man.  The kid said he was 3 years sober and was having trouble getting along with his parents.  Paul said "Do you have your amends list in your pocket?"

    Paul then showed the kid how to write an inventory, told him to come back when he had it completed (Paul gave him one week).   The kid came back, took 5th Steps with Paul and a few of his friends.  On September 10th the kid returned to see Paul and said he had made all the amends with his parents and things were getting better.

    All the years I knew Paul, I never once heard him change his mind about anything regarding the AA program--the Twelve Steps.  I asked Matt A., a 50 year sponsee of Paul's if he ever heard Paul change his mind about any part of the program.  Matt said he never heard Paul change his mind about a damn thing.

    Three weeks ago Bryan B took Paul up to Mayo Clinic for some tests.  The doctor came into the room after two days of testing and before the doc could say anything Paul asked "How long do I have."  The doctor looked down while looking for words when Paul said "I'm glad you didn't look at your watch."

    I'm sure someone will be telling more about his life.  He spoke Spanish fluently.  He interviewed many South American political figures, both winners and losers of revolutions. He was a wonderful god father and friend.

    The wake and service were truly victory celebrations.


    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Fear and ....

    I had a long chat with my sponsor last night.  It truly was evidence of how this thing (AA) works in my live today.

    Our general subject was fear.  Specifically, my fears.  About: my finances, my work, my physical health, my relationships, my AA program, my hobbies, my family, my friends, my spirituality, my mental health, the government, our economy, our world, the climate, the weather, my safety...  I think we pretty well covered a lot of them.


    Anyway, at the end of this litany, he related his experiences in early sobriety (I hate it when he does that - doesn't he know I'm 25 years past that? sigh...) and he suggested that I write a list - start into a fear inventory.

    I have a sponsee that has a paper taped to the bottom of his computer screen that says (in large type)
    " ... 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)

    There's seldom a week that goes by that I don't relate to at least one sponsee or another that process of "outgrowing fear" - the essence of coming into "being that H would have us be".

    Yet, for the recent past, fear has once again taken hold of my life in a serious way.  It pretty much fully defines what I do and don't do.


    So, today I'm making a list and only half-heartedly believing that the process which has "worked" the last several dozen times I've done it will, in fact, work again.

    Or, at least, I think I hope so...

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009


    Last night I pitched a lead at a meeting that I don't normally go to on Tuesday nights.  My 15 minutes went fine.  The topic was the 11th step.  I love the 11th step and have some experience that seemed useful.

    After my lead, the discussion started and, after 2-3 people had shared, Tom shared.

    You probably know Tom.

    Tom has probably visited your meeting.  Maybe Tom is there most every day.

    Tom started out sharing about how he was new in town and that he was on his way back to Afghanistan and was in more pain than was humanly possible to conceive and (now sort of dancing around the back of the room) was tired of sleeping in the cold but he got here from Louisiana by way of Selma and Chicago and St. Louis and got a bus ticket from Kansas City to Denver where he had a job but then his tools got ripped off because he was a great stone worker and then he was headed on the bus to work at a stone quarry where they were going to give him new tools in the south but because of some behavior problems on the bus he was pulled off and hassled (not his fault, mind you) and told that he had to wait 24 hours to continue his trip because they wanted to see him less manic and then he realized that he'd left his grandfather's wallet and other valuables on the seat of the bus and...

    Tom would occasionally slip and swear and then he'd catch himself and apologize and then congratulate himself about not swearing much.

    After he'd gone on for about 8-9 minutes (I was deeply engaged in meditation with my eyes closed when I realized one of the members of the group was nudging me and asking me "what should we do?"), one of the members of this group interrupted him and asked him to wrap up and sit down.  After another 2-3 minutes and increasingly stern requests, Tom shut up and found a chair in the middle of the room where he remained twitchy and, with great flair, picked items off the literature table and went for coffee 2-3 times.

    Tom may or may not have been high or loaded and, it was clear, he might have had problems other than alcoholism.

    I was so proud of this group, I could have just hugged them all...

    It was a good meeting.  Several folks shared useful insights, experiences and, perspectives on the 11th step in their lives.

    Many of us shared after the meeting that "...there but by the grace of God go I..."

    About 2/3 of the way through the meetings, Tom interrupted again and said "...I just want to say I love AA..."

    Me too...

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    How it works...

    On another site I "play around" with the AA program online, I started a minor s-storm by relating a recent experience at my home group.  From others' posts, I know that I'm not the only one who occasionally feels like I can get the hassles I find online in my face-to-face life so, like, why do I do this?

    Anyway, as this storm was blowing around, I found it hard to post something here since my head had been pretty negative.  However, this came to mind today.  I posted similar articles in both forums...

    "The AA Message" = "To show other alcoholics PRECISELY HOW WE HAVE RECOVERED is the main purpose of ..." ("this book" is how it is written in the Big Book but, I think the implication from the conversations I've had recently is that we substitute "meeting" or "relationship" or "conversation" and extend to "the whole of AA")
    How that works is (no particular order):
    • meetings and other gatherings that are solution focused and have a clear sense of purpose aligned with our message (above)
    • guidance by those who have had the experience of our path to recovery (some people call these "sponsors")
    • individuals who are motivated to not drink (we don't supply that initial motivation), work a program of recovery carefully hidden in our Big Book in a chapter of the name of this post
    • in the course of that program, they clean up their past and live differently henceforth
    • as a part of that program, they learn of a way of life that includes "love and service"
    • as a result of that program, they accomplish a spiritual awakening which orients them toward living by new principles in the world and places them in service to carry "the message" (see above)
    • one of the many promises in our basic text is that, if people follow this program of recovery, they will become useful  - this is to be encouraged above all else (being useful to God and our fellows)
    • we come to appreciate and apply the principles of the steps, traditions and, concepts as AA's 3 legacies of recovery, unity and service
    At least I think that's how it works...

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    My favorite night...

    This is my favorite night of the year.  It's the night they give me an extra hour.  I just have to love a world that, once a year, gives me an extra hour to enjoy.

    Some years I just sleep.  Some years I watch TV.  Some years I play with this project or that.  Many years, like this, I waste 3-7 hours doing a little of this and a little of that and wind up just relishing enough in that extra hour that I wind up tired and feeling hung over the next day.  Or the next week.  It's my own personal little annual time to enjoy an extra little time in my life  - my own one little personal hour of Rumspringa every year.

    OK, I know it doesn't have to make sense to anyone but me...

    Anyway, I decided that I could finally risk a full face picture of me and my lovely wife on this blog.

    Anonymity be damned - it was our night to go to a meeting and hang with the clowns in AA...