Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where and when...

As I've traveled around the country, I've run into the custom where some AA communities and central offices call their AA meeting lists the "Where and When"  We're not as creative in Colorado - I think I've only heard them called "meeting lists" here.

For some peculiar reason, the idea of "where and when" just sort of resonated with me today.

Yesterday here it was bright, sunny and at or near 70 F. degrees.  Tonight we're in the 30s with up to a foot of snow predicted.  It doesn't even stick for a day with the ground and roads as warm as they are now but it still makes a mess and everybody has to grumble some.

I have a few sponsees who are going through tough patches now.  I have been too so I've not been real sympathetic to their particular dramas but, increasingly, I'm struck by my sponsor's principle of being simpatico. It seems they're all wrapped up in variations of the drama of "...I don't get what I want, when I want it."

My whole life seems to be about getting to where God wants me to be there when I am needed to be there, and then really being there when I'm there.

Where and when - if I can be "here", "now", my life is a whole different experience.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In sickness...

OK - I have 3 minutes to upload a blog article to explain my absence (this time for both reading and posting) and the only thing that comes to mind is:
"I've been sick..."
OK - that doesn't work for me either, but it's the closest to the truth that I can find today.

No, I'm not in ill health (thank God!) - what's been going on is:
  • a new job (thank God!)
  • fear
  • lots of work on commitments that have fallen behind
  • fear
  • a deep seated ego-illness that has decimated my spirit
  • fear
  • judgments by myself and others around me
  • fear
OK - I think I can see what I could eliminate to regain some of the vast amount of time that I used to enjoy sharing on this medium.

From my own life, that of sponsees and virtually every direction I've turned to over the past few weeks, the message has been all about: "...what is it you're really committed to today?  Life on a spiritual basis or dying from the disease of alcoholism?"

Today, I ask God to remove my fear and direct me to who he would have me be.

God is good and AA works...

Blessings to us all...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stepping Stones...

I spent the day yesterday walking around Stepping Stones in Bedford Hills, NY.  Walking around under blue skies with 75 other AA and Alanon folk and looking into another life and time - in Bill & Lois's life, our fellowship, and all of it.

It was serendipitous that William Borchert, author of When Love is not Enough, happened to be there at the same time.  Turns out, he was a neighbor of Lois in her later years and collaborated on this project with her for some time.

As wonderful as this time was (and it truly was), the thing I got clear from all of the evidence of their lives (and there is much there), Bill and Lois were fallible human beings thrust into lives that were way beyond anything they could have imagined.

...like many (all?) of us...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Reflection...

Last week, I had a visitation by a spammer.   It must not have been a particularly skilled spammer in that he/she left comments on about 20 old articles of mine (where no one would probably read) in Chinese characters that most people would probably not be able to interpret on a blog where I can barely write and read English.  It offered links to what I presume was a porn portal (I couldn't read it but the pictures were pretty clear).

From being in the business, I know that what really did me this wrong was not a real person but a piece of software that someone is convinced will drive more traffic and revenue to some part of the internet.

Annoyed and tempted to leave the comments in place, I was sitting here this morning and decided to just go back and delete them.  While I was there, I glanced through what I'd written.  I think this was the first time I'd ever done that (just randomly leaf through my own blog).

I was surprised.

Having done this (blogged) for over  a year now, I have no illusions that what I'm creating here is great literature, great art or, great entertainment.  There are many more skilled and disciplined than I that do blogging better and more consistently.

On the other hand, some of what I've written was, well, worthwhile.  A few of my own articles brought me to tears as I thought back on where I was when I wrote them.  Some of them were more readable than I'd remembered them - they came off pretty well.

I guess I need to thank that spammer (person or software) and invite them back sometime.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What it is...

I'm back in NYC for 10 days. It was a gorgeous day yesterday and it's supposed to be better today.

It's a delight for me to be here.

I used to get to NY/NJ fairly often when I worked for a company that was based out here.  When I was laid off from my job, I had sort of presumed that I would never be here again.  This is the second trip I've been here this year.

Goes to show you about my plans and ideas and all...

Anyway, I feel I should say something about my post on Saturday, given that a re-reading of it after several comments made it look like I was in some sort of whiny mood around blogging again.  I guess, in part, I was.  I'd like to believe that I'm above asking for my readers' affections but I don't think that's true either.  In he process, it felt like I was in judgment about me for not blogging daily and perhaps readers for their expectations of me.

I wasn't, exactly.

What all that is really about is that I am once again, face-to-face with the nature of the spiritual malady of alcoholism whereby I really would like to show up in my life differently (better) than I am.  I am getting that reinforced from a number of sponsees who are doing this dance of death directly with booze or are trying to manage their lives better by lying and cheating - to themselves and others.

I recognize that because I do the same thing myself.

It's great to be here today and be sober.

God bless us all.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Coimmitment...

As I was settling in to bed last night, I realized I had not written a blog article yesterday.  I've been very busy and distracted, but I realized that I'd made time to play Freecell and had spent enough time in my head that I could have certainly found a few minutes to dash out an article.

But, I didn't.

...and, I didn't get my lazy butt out of bed and write an article either...

I have a general idea that I want to write a blog every day.  You could say that it's been my "intention." I've not been anywhere near perfect, to date, of meeting that intention.  In the past 13 months, I've published about 270 articles and at least one of the hiatuses was over 3 weeks long.  So, we're clear: I'm not perfect at this or anything else in my life.

As I started writing this article, I searched this blog for the word "commitment" and was, frankly, sort of startled that I'd liked some of what I've written about this in the past.  It would seem from what I've written here that I have a pretty good grasp of the principles and the concepts involved.

So it would seem...

The other thing in my head today is that this past week I was stood up by three different sponsees. 
  1. One, I fear (real word), has put himself in the precarious position that he's claimed to have finished his extensive 4th step and has failed to show up, as agreed, four separate times to dig into a 5th step.  I've seen that lie expressed in an undone 4th step get people drunk before.
  2. Another had a fight with his girlfriend the night before and wound up oversleeping.
  3. This morning, a young man just didn't show up but, well, I've just not heard his excuse yet.
I have really good excuses (actually, some pretty lame excuses too) of why I've not written an article some 90+ times this past year that the day closed without my meeting my intention.

On the other hand, at best the excuses offered (or not offered but implied) by my sponsees express an underlying rudeness and disrespect.  At worst, they may be, in fact, evidence of the character defects that are at the core of their alcoholism.

So, I suppose the "right" way to end this article would be to really express my commitment to show up every single day - reliably and as an example of the recovered alcoholic I aspire to be today. 

You'll notice that's not here...

Instead, what I will offer is an acknowledgment of my having learned something today and an expectation that you (and I) will probably judge me by my actions rather than my intentions.

Won't that be exciting for all of us?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Slogging through...

It's hard for me to imaging that it was a year ago that I'd written an article on trudging.  I was just getting started on this blogging deal. 

I think back and I can't imagine the year of trudging that came between then and now.  I truly am in a whole different place now than I was then and I can't imagine any other path that could have gotten me from there to here.

And yet, I'm not quite sure where I am.

The seeds for my reflections are pretty obvious - some readings of others' blog entries and the beginnings for me of the annual USA ritual of filing income taxes.

As I look back through the evidence of our journey through the past year, I'm jarred at how much was done, how little was done, and how much more remains to be done.  I can hold all three of those at the same time and find myself completely frozen to make one little step forward toward accomplishment that seems like such a small deal.

So, I wait.  I pray.  I try not to over-analyze or think.  On a really good day, I steer clear of judgments and projections.  I try to reach way down deep and embrace some little thought like: "What would a grown-up do in this situation?"

And then, a window of grace opens up and suddenly I'm able to make that huge leap - not to conclusion.  That would be nice but it seems pretty rare in my world.  The great leaps I make are to put one foot in front of another.  To pick up and dial the telephone.  To place one piece of paper with another.  To fill out one line on a form.

And thus, another year passes in this brief remaining time on this path.

It's good.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What I don't know...

My sponsor has assured me for the past several months that all God requires of me in this life is my best efforts.  That, beyond that, the life I have is pretty much none of my business.

I think the reason he and I are on this so much recently is that:
  1. I've felt pretty much failed at several endeavors which seem pretty important
  2. There's been more self-pity than I'm comfortable in looking at around some of the circumstances in my life
  3. It just feels like I should be able to be more, do more, have more - there is just a lot about "more" going on in my head these days
The solution?

Give up?  Try harder?  Both?

All I can say for me is that the only sanity I get some days is from simple acts of love and service.

I know  - makes no sense.  Life heading in the crapper?  Pick up chairs, clean floors, wash ash trays.  Hear that flushing sound from being in the crapper long enough?  Call all your sponsees - whether you're supposed to or not.  Take a new service commitment.  Take several service commitments.  Have so many service commitments that you can't pay attention to your life?  Problem is solved, isn't it?

WARNING: this is not a program for everyone.  I wouldn't expect that most people in the rooms of AA are as sick and as needy as I am.

....but, for me, for today, AA works.

....and, it's never felt to me like my efforts are or will be "good enough" - those are just my feelings...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What it means...

I woke up and wasn't sure what to think about this day and this Easter holiday.

I used to be a Christian and this holiday had huge significance to me in that I believed in and revered both the fact and the symbolism of a resurrection.

It seems peculiar to me that today I truly believe more in miracles and the miraculous (as expressed by a contravention of the forces of nature, space and time) than I ever have.  So having set aside my former belief in Christ's empty tomb in my own mind, my head and my heart feel both empty but I have a profound appreciation of what the Easter holiday means for those who believe.  There's a small amount of envy felt for those who hold to a faith I once professed.

Hope.  Redemption.  Love.  All great things.

So, this morning I find myself grateful for all those things in my past life as expressed through whatever means they were taught.

And, I'm profoundly grateful for men and women of all faiths and no faith who similarly teach the value of suffering, surrender, humility, faith, hope, redemption and, love.

Mary Louise this morning wrote about character.  I still fear that my character will not be strong enough to endure the circumstances that my life holds.  I might not have the self respect and the faith sufficient to this life.  I guess we never really know for sure until we get through it.

But for today, I am grateful for all the stories and symbols of rebirth and renewal.

It's not at all surprising to me that AA members of old and today borrow heavily from the Christian perspectives of Christmas and Easter.  It was much more, in my opinion, than cultural familiarity and convenience. The metaphor for what they were seeing spring up around them in their meetings and their "work" with others could best be described as true expressions of "rebirth" and "miracles."

To Carl Jung, what I see every Saturday night at my home group with more than 100 people could only be called "phenomena." (BB p. 27)

For today, I will attempt to notice, appreciate and honor the miraculous in my life and others and see what I can do to stand with the courage and convictions of those before me.  Maybe that's the best observance I can offer this Easter.

...and, also, remember to say thank you, and appreciate that this life is not all about me...

Friday, April 2, 2010

A changing mind...

When I drank, I never would have told you that I could not control my drinking.

What happened to me - a lot - was that I changed my mind.  Often.  A lot.

The insidious nature of alcoholism in my experience wasn't that I always drank to excess (though I often did) - it was that, one day I could quit exactly like I'd intended (and the circumstances in my life warranted) and the next day I would find my self struck drunk.

When I'm talking with folks about the "peculiar mental twist" (BB p. 33)  that I find defines the mental component of my alcoholism, I will often tell the story of two consecutive nights now over 35 years ago.  Both nights, the plan was to stop for a beer or two with some folks from work, then go home to an evening with my family.  Night number one, I stopped off at the bar, had a few drinks, was home for supper and an evening with my wife and kids.  Night number two, I stopped off at the bar, had a few drinks, decided to stay on past supper (changed my mind) and meet my wife and kids at the school for a meeting later.  I called and made appropriate arrangements.  You're probably ahead of me by now - a couple of hours later, I again changed my mind and decided not to go to the school meeting and stayed at the bar.

As they were turning on the lights after last call at the bar, I was reluctant to go home, knowing I'd disappointed my family (again) and before oblivion settled in for the night, I seem to remember thinking that it was peculiar that when I'd left work, I had every intention of going home and showing up where I'd said I would that night.

The Big Book says it (among other places) as: "... If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. ... " (BB p. 44)


The real curious thought of that moment after "changing my mind" did not appear all that remarkable to me until I was sober a while.

I have been told that I'm a strong willed individual.  I actually hear words like "stubborn", "obstinate", etc. from those that love me. 

Yet, I've never had what it took to make the right choice around alcohol.  There are other places that I'm similarly challenged with peculiar mental twists in other areas (e.g. showing up in a relationship, paying bills, etc.).  I don't know if those other lapses can be ascribed to my alcoholism or my character defects directly but, well, the same spiritual malady seems to adequately explain them and the same solutions (humility, surrender, willingness) seem to allow me to live and improved version of this life.

AA works.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A good idea...

I woke up this morning and decided it would be a good idea to start drinking again.

A simple, straight-forward decision.  I've not acquired the booze yet but I really have just had enough of this pain the bother of a life of service.  I see others all around me enjoying their lives. And they drink. Why not me?

I know I've had problems with drinking but that was 26+ years ago.  A lot has changed since then.  By many measures, I'm worse off today than I was then.  It seems my experience is that, if you want to have fun, project an image of "importance," and enjoy the real fruits of hedonism, you might as well drink.

So, I guess I'll just drink.

I know this decision will cost me something.  My wife will likely leave. The family will follow her.  I may as well abandon my home and friends.  You know, consequences will come due but, well, some days it just doesn't feel all that neat being me.  Really.

So, it's time to escape.

If it gets really bad and I don't die, I suppose I could always come back.  I've seen a few do that.  Some who try to come back in are able to stay.  Others, well, I guess it's just a chance one has to take.  It's hard for me to imagine, but I suppose it might be possible (coming back).

I doubt I'll be able to keep blogging when I'm drinking.  I really have no axe to grind against AA - it worked perfectly well for me for 26  years.  And, it's just not my natural style to go to any special efforts to do something like this.  Since I expect to be homeless and without means, it would be unlikely I could find the resources to write much of a blog.  At the very least, I'd have to re-title this one and find a new theme to write about.  I suppose that's no great loss to the world either.

So, I just thought I'd let y'all know about my latest good idea.

And, if you believe any of this today, you might be as much an April fool as I am....

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out (and in) like a lamb ...

Does anyone else spend all day thinking of topics you could write a blog article about and then sit down and not remember any of those things?

I thought so...

The old adage of March coming "...in like a a lamb, out like a lion..."  (or visa-versa) seems to be false for us this year as it's been remarkably lamb-like at both ends of this month here.  Weird some in the middle, but definitely mild at both ends.

Granted, we had a little breeze yesterday (in my little community, we call anything less than a sustained 30 mph gale a breeze), but we're wonderfully mild again this morning.

Don't worry - this is not a weather blog.

I was just wondering how often this phrase we've all heard is true in fact?  As an engineer/scientist, I think I can appreciate how little direct effect the weather on one end of a month has on the other end of a month.  Probably, this "belief" in lions and lambs comes from the level of variability that happens in March.  Last week we had a foot of snow (no exaggeration) and today we're having 70 degrees and sunny skies.

But yet, I found myself expecting harsh weather at the end of the month since it was mild 4 weeks ago.

I suppose this is the most minor of "old ideas" that I am challenged to let go of.  I clearly know that it has no likely basis in fact, but it's still what I heard from my grade school teachers (the ultimate authorities of all things true).  But, even though we got lambs on both ends of the month this year, I will probably be among the first to recite the lion/lamb balance next year.

I wonder how many other "old ideas" I hang on to?

"I will die poor and alone."  "My life means nothing."  "Everybody else gets what they want, I can't have what I need." "I just need to try harder."

A few...

But then, next year it could be true that March will...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

... a loving invitation ...


I got an unexpected letter from A.A.'s General Service Office last week.  It starts out: "Please accept a loving invitation on behalf of the General Service Board..."

They've asked me to chair a workshop on "A.A. Web Sites" at the International Convention.  The workshop is scheduled from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM on Saturday, July 3 in the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, Room 217 A-C.

This is great in that, as chair, I get to participate and I don't have to worry about putting something together to create a cogent talk.  The format is that there are 3 presenters who share for about 15 minutes each and then the floor is open for general sharing from anyone attending.

The reason I'm sharing this here now, 4 months before the event is because:
  1. I'm excited, honored and humbled.
  2. Since I blog anonymously, I figured the few of you who might be at the Convention and reading this now could figure out a chance that we could hook up at this session (if we've not figured out a way to meet earlier).  I don't plan to drop my anonymous participation here but I see no potential harm in meeting and greeting each other during and after this session.
  3. I don't plan to mention it (my particular participation in this session) again here but it's in my calendar to show up and it would be nice if some of the rest of us could be there as well.
I'm sure this will not be the only session at the International dealing with online experiences (e.g. there is another session titled: "A.A. in Cyberspace: Carrying the Message") - I will probably see some of you at other sessions but I may not know who you are - there will only be 50,000 of us there...

Anyway, I really appreciate the opportunity and wanted to share my exciting news with y'all.

Note: If you want to chair or present at an A.A. International (I think it might be too late for this year as I think the program is set - so you might want to mark your calendar to plug in around 2013-14), the process is to let someone in General Service (GSR, DCM, Delegate, etc.) know of your interest and have them recommend you.  While you can send requests and suggestions to G.S.O. directly, I've heard they are deluged with myriad requests and they tend to give preference to those requests that come as recommendations from people they know.

How I was "found" for this slot was that a G.S.O. staffer looked at our Area's web site, contacted the Area Web Chair who, in turn, passed my name along since I'd worked some on the site with her as well as led the Area Web Task Force that created the guidelines which support our Area's web efforts.

I truly hope to see you there.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nunca! Nunca!

I attended another Spanish speaking AA meeting yesterday.  A 3-1/2 hour meeting (no breaks) followed by a 1-hour feast/fiesta really takes a bite out of your day - it's especially tiring when you've already been sitting in meetings for the whole weekend.

It was important to attend though in that one of the pillars of that community (Spanish-speaking AA) was celebrating his 26 years of sobriety.  He's been a good friend to me and many others - there were about 150 people there from all over the state.

Since I don't speak Spanish, these meetings are hard for me but there is so much I can learn.  I see what they do as largely an AA Public Information pitch for families and friends in addition to an AA meeting.

The format runs something like this:
  1. After the starting rituals (prayer, reading, etc.), they invite some of the new people (under 30 days) up to share.  While they talk about "...really meaning it this time..." and "...going to try harder...", some of the audience laugh and catcall him - suggest they probably aren't really done - etc.
  2. Then people (mostly men) with generally increasing lengths of sobriety and experience, share what they did to get and stay sober and how their lives have changed.
  3. Then (about 2+ hours into the deal), they call special guests to share - people who are General Service Representatives, District Committee Members, Intergroup officers, the area Delegate, etc. about what AA is and is not and how it has impacted their lives and honoring the person celebrating.
  4. Next family members are given a chance to talk.  A brother who had 2 years sober at one time and would love to get sober again but just can't seem to make it through a day without drinking.  A sister who came from Oklahoma just to say that she is proud of her brother and grateful to AA,  Alanon members, kids, grandkids, cousins, everyone is given a chance to say what they think of the birthday boy or anything at all.
  5. Finally, the target of this celebration is given the chance to talk.
As he walked to the podium, tears were already streaming down his dark, handsome face.  Even with my exceedingly poor Spanish, I could clearly hear much of what he shared: "Nothing! Nothing! could have prepared me for so much love and gratitude from the miracle of what AA has done for me and my family!!!" ; "...all that I am today, all that I have today, all that I will ever be, I owe to AA...";  "...from a life of hopeless dispair and nothingness, I am now the happiest man in the world, thanks to AA...";  "...AA and God never gave up on my, long after I'd given up on myself..."

I hope you get the idea.  Not a dry eye anywhere.

Then, this community who are mostly unemployed or work below minimum wage, fed us all.

Rich, thick, meaty mole. Hearty green chili.  Pasta.  Fresh tortillas.  Cake.  All homemade and delicious.

As embarrassed as we were, it was clear that we would offend them if we didn't take extra plates of food home.

My heart is still full.  This "work" that we do in AA is important.  For ourselves and, more importantly, for others.  AA can and will change my life if I let it.

And, it tastes good too...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bidness...

I'm sitting at our Area Assembly business meeting which is one of those things that I've observed most of us love to hate.  I've certainly have hated my share of these meetings.

But, I've grown more than I can imagine in the 20 years I've attended.  As the punchline of that old joke goes, I just can't see how I could have gotten here from there, except through this path.

I hear a lot of comments from sponsees and other members about how "...those meetings are all just AA politics..." or "...I get tired of all the fighting and controversy..."

I've certainly seen more politics and fighting than I've wanted to see.

But, I sometimes wonder how everyone (including me, when discouraged) thinks AA, as a whole (meaning, outside my home group and around the world) will grow and find its way without these conversations and corrections?

So, I feel badly that people like Mary in Africa may not ever experience a meeting like this.  I feel blessed and happy that I get to be a part of this deal that is way bigger than my little home group.

I love this deal.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eat around it...

The picture on Dave's blog this morning reminded me of a meeting of a Big Book study I was co-leading a few years ago.

We were talking about the 6th step and becoming willing to have these defects removed.  A sponsee of mine thought of and shared something that I use as a metaphor yet today.  He said:
"...my relationship with my character defects in my life today is like, I'm eating a 1/2 gallon of ice cream out of the carton and suddenly discover a turd - right there in the middle of my ice cream.  I am disgusted and it sickens me.  I feel violated and angry.
Then, I think about it some and I notice that it looks like it's really just one solid chunk in the middle.  I really like the ice cream and it seems like a waste to throw out the whole carton.  I'm sort of hungry.  I think 'I could probably just nibble around the edges of the carton a little...'  I wonder how close to the chunk is safe to eat. ..."
I do exactly the same thing with character defects.  I've been around long enough and done the work in the program of A.A. so that I always recognize them when they crop up.  But, after initially being repulsed by them, I will think "...maybe I'm really OK with self pity this time..."  or "...yeah, it's resentment but it's justified and I'm only human..." or "...it's true I'm being selfish but she's being more selfish..." or ...

It's really exactly the same thing as rationalizing how close I can eat without being so disgusting that I can't live with myself.

Probably not the standard I want to live down to today.

The solution is to throw the whole thing out - now!!!

"...Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." BB p. 58

'nuf said...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anybody there...?

Several of my most favorite bloggers have stopped doing daily blogs - at least where I know of them - and it's really all I can do not feel like I was once more "...too late to the party because all the cool people are leaving to the next cool place to hang out..."

Or, something like that.

In fact, the number of people that are showing up at this blog is growing slowly (though nowhere nearly as large as those who've left the building).  Also, I recently took a 3-week hiatus which, in part, cleared my head a little bit about what I'm doing here.  The one thing that is really clear to me is that if I really am either in competition with others, I will loose, or if I try to do anything to drive up my readership, I will lose.

As I figured out yesterday, this (as is the rest of my life) is just not about me.  My only hope and sustenance is that I can remember the biggest promise offered in the program of AA is that I can be "useful."  On a really good day, that is my intention here along with the other areas of my life.

I will miss those who've gone.  I already do.  But, as others have observed, seasons change, people come and go and I really need to just learn to deal with it.

Doesn't mean I have to like it (I don't!) - but, it was not my decision that they leave (amazingly, I wasn't even consulted! ;-) ) .  It does mean that I will get to learn and grow with it.

Bummer.

Or not...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

About me...

I sometimes get the mistaken belief that my life and what I do in it has something to do with me.  Imagine!

Yesterday, I fought myself all the way to show up for a job that I'd put off since last October.  Just think of it as a heavy ball and chain around my neck that gets heavier every day since October.  To say I was dreading it and the dread was increasing was just such an understatement.

But, God is good, and by His grace I showed up with the best attitude I could muster.  The weather was predicted to change and I wanted to make progress before that happened.

When I work, I often leave my cell phone aside as I often make bad decisions (compromising my safety or ability to get work done) about when to accept calls.  I noticed a former sponsee was calling and I was in between tasks so I took the call.

He works at a detox and had just spent some time with a "live one" who he wanted me to meet.  We talked briefly, set up something for after the weather changed and I started back to work.

I noticed another former sponsee was calling during another work lull.  I had not spoken to this guy in over 5 years.  I was surprised my phone directory still had his number and that he was still at that number.  He called because a mutual friend (and, another former sponsee of mine - we'll call him Don), was out and having a hard time getting back to the program.  We talked about Don, caught up a little, he thanked me for saving his life, tears were shed, we made a nebulous plan to grab some coffee, typical stuff.

I prayed a bit and called Don.  I think it sort of creeped him out a bit initially because he was just looking up my number to call me.  He talked about needing to "get back into the book..."  (some jargon we use around these parts) and get back to the solution he'd found a few years ago.  His was the typical story of the life that AA had given him taking him away from the solution that AA had provided.  We talked some about the nature of the disease, the problems with reservations and ego, problems and solutions.  We laughed and cried a little, made a plan to get together, and I connected him up with another sponsee who lives in his town.

I finished up the part of the work that I had to get done just as the weather was bearing down and, still dirty, headed out to the detox to meet the new guy.  We talked for nearly two hours about willingness and life.  He might be ready.  I hope so.  Of course, the similarity of our stories was sort of, well, again, creepy.

I so get that my life really has precious little to do with me...

On a good day...

This was the best day recently...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring again, maybe...

So, we had 12 inches of snow on Friday, 65 degrees yesterday (the snow's mostly gone), and we're likely back to more snow tomorrow.

We're going to ignore all that looks like leaves and trash around the pretty posies in the picture, right?

As Mary writes of fall as relief for the oppressive summer, I keep trying to find a toe-hold of optimism in spring.  And then, the weather fails us again.  That whole circle-of-life thingy just doesn't seem to do it (provide the answer and solution I need/want), some days.

I think that's why I'm encouraged to place my faith, belief, trust in something that is bigger than all the circumstances in my life.  Bigger than my family.  Bigger than my job and the relationships I have.  Bigger than the politics, society and culture in my land.  Bigger than the weather.

Today, with any luck at all, I will have a chance to grow that faith.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Loopholes...

In my little community, there's a story in this morning's paper that talks about removing limits to the sizes of basements.

We have some old neighborhoods where the average house size is less than 1,000 square feet (not exaggerating).  These neighborhoods have become quite desirable (over $500k) and, of course, some people with more money than brains have moved into town and either scraped or "remodeled" these houses and put up 15,000 square foot (again, not exaggerating) manor houses.  Needless to say, the neighborhoods are in arms about this and have finally, in the past 3 years, gotten control to where these sorts of upgrades are limited.

Now, however, we are looking at basements.

I've always loved looking for loopholes - reasons why the rules that should rightly apply to you and everyone else should not apply to me.

As my wife (also an admitted drunk) was reading parts of the story to me, she seemed disappointed when I suggested that they would probably limit the basement size to the dimensions of the lot.  Our minds were "off to the races!!!"  Maybe you could just put in multiple levels of basements?  You could preserve the 1,000 square foot footprint of the house and have a 3+ level, 14,000 square foot basement underneath it.  Why not?

The idea that the same rules that apply to everyone else should apply to me has been a hard-fought concept.  The posted speed limit seemed to be a good place to start.

Granted, getting 2 speeding tickets last year helped me to my surrender.  The $500/month surcharge on my car insurance helps keep me surrendered.

But, the spiritual principle of humility has not come easy for me.  A dear spiritual guide and friend of mine who died 5 years ago last Sunday was fond of the saying: "I'm not a human being trying to attain a spiritual state.  I am a spiritual being trying to learn to live in a human state."

For today, without looking for loopholes....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Avoidance, evasion, distraction ... fear

Welcome to Spring.  Really.  (Image is from my front yard after sponsee left this morning.)

I love that the 12x12 talks about me: "...our talents for procrastination, which is really sloth in five syllables..." (12x12 p. 67)

I've had ample opportunity the past few weeks to become clear about what "stuck" can look like - even with a bit of sobriety and spiritual insight and experience.

Just to be clear - I do this to me.

Today, I am warm.  I am well fed.  There is beauty and love in my life in abundance.  I am healthy.  I have more opportunities to be useful and of service than I can shake a stick at.

And, that's the problem.  For the past few weeks I've spent much more energy shaking sticks than I have at being productive and engaged in my life.

What that really looks like, on a real basis, is that I sit down at my computer and, rather than looking for opportunities to make progress on any one of the dozens (not an exaggeration) of things I might be doing to be useful, instead I find some bright fun thing to distract me for hours.  Or, I play Freecell.  Or, I follow one wild hare or another.  For days.

Until the last minute.

Then, with all the heroic efforts I can muster, I try like the devil to protect my image.  What that looks like is often: "So, I can't do what I'd intended to do - what's the minimum effort I can put forth and still look like a great guy."  You get the picture - we're not talking anything I'm proud of here...

As best I can figure, the basis for most of this non-activity which looks a lot like "sloth" is fear.  Fear that, if don't agree to "take on" what you'd like me to do, you'll think less of me.  Fear that my best effort won't give be enough to build or sustain the "image" that my ego think it has to have in order to survive.

ugghhhh...

So, now you have it.  My dirty little secret.  My primary purpose in admitting it here is probably something like a blogged 5th step.  (I've already been down this road with my sponsor as my '...another person...' per our program of recovery.)  It is truly my hope and prayer that this flaw in my character gets repaired before it kills me.

Truly...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Consequences...

All of my sponsees eventually get very tired of the expression of my fundamental expression of life: "...consequences are a bitch..."

Some of my sponsees hear that as many as 4-5 times when they call on a day where they are really trying to sell their drama.  The ones that have been with me for a while usually will beat me to the punch line when they feel one coming on.  I really don't say it to be cruel or to hurt someone's feelings or to do anything other than to seek the acknowledgment that much of what happens that I don't like in my life happens as a consequence of reactions to my beliefs and actions.  Just that.

Except, I forget.

This morning, a former sponsee and good friend of mine for 15+ years was having tea with me and he talked about "...the time he blew up his brain on acid..."  His life, but, more importantly, his brain was never the same after that fateful time when he was 17.  It was just one of those conversations you have around this fellowship - as matter of fact as discussing the weather, he discussed when his brain just ceased to function the way it did before that time of seeking "more."

We postulated on what we know and what we don't know about the experiences of our lives today.  He's 30+ years past that time and, although he's got a case of diagnosed mental illness, the best psychiatrist he could get to declared that the problems he suffers from today has nothing to do with his use and abuse of 30+ years ago.  I wonder.  How could they possibly not be related?  It just makes no sense to me when you jack around with neurons and synapses and neuro-function like that, how can it not at the very least scar the brain and nerves?  Or give one a serious trauma to the limbic brain.

Then, I thought about all the folks I know who have seriously done in brain cells with a vengeance - or, are seemingly beyond hope and still at it - and again, I wonder.

For people with a spiritual malady like mine, we just like to presume there will never be a piper to pay.  We get a lot of relief in our recovery, but I wonder to this day why it is that it seems my emotions or my nerves or just my sense of the world feels out of whack.

Consequences, are, in fact...

OTOH, God's grace is a pretty good deal too...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sponsorship 6...

An exercise I often  challenge my sponsees (and also myself) with is: "What exactly would you have to give up to call this moment perfect?"

Mr. Sponsor Pants posted an article today that was much along the same lines I was thinking.  As usual, he says it better than I.

I am often struck by how hard we try to take a perfect moment and make it into something less than or worse, different than what it is.

I think that's often the hardest thing to do in sponsorship - to be the unflinching mirror of the reality that we get to support those who not only don't want support, but want someone who will instead buy into the drama of the moment. 

Instead, I might get to be the cheering section for letting go of those old ideas of what life ought to look like, shedding the myth of a world in which we can control all of the circumstances, discarding the avoidance of consequences we're certain will be unpleasant and permanent.

Coaching someone toward surrender may not feel much like a noble endeavor, but it's often the best 15 minutes on the phone that I can get for a day.

...because sometimes, I can hear what I'm telling someone else....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sponsorship 5...

I was reading with a sponsee this morning (our regular Saturday AM gig) from "There is a Solution":
"... We are average Americans. All sections of this country and many of its occupations are represented, as well as many political, economic, social, and religious backgrounds.  We are people who normally would not mix. ..." BB p. 17
It wasn't until just reflecting on that now, some 7 hours later, that this young man is less than 1/2 my age.  I've been sober longer than this guy has been alive.  He has never known a world "before the Internet."  etc.  He's in school.  I've forgotten what that could even possibly feel like.  He's dating and wildly raging in hormones and life and death feelings about acceptance and approval.  I've pretty much forgotten what that feels like as well.

Anyway, as I stated in an earlier posting, this is what I often do - read the book with someone and see if we can have the same experience that they talk about in the book.

This ancient, imperfect book seems to have reached down and grabbed this young drunk with a solution.

I love to see that happen.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sponsorship 4...

We had one of the best jail AA meetings we've ever had at the facility I'm at monthly last night.  However, increasingly I feel we do folks a dis-service to attempt to have a regular AA meeting behind the walls.  As I've shared here in the past, this meeting has gone from behaving like an AA meeting to completely off the wall and now seems to vary somewhere in between.

It doesn't take much to figure out why:
  1. Most (probably 95%+) of the folks there are really unclear about what AA is and what it is not
  2. As I am only there once every month (and most of the other volunteers rotate the same), it's hard to "own" a program when as many as 75% of those attending rotate through in a month
  3. Few of those that generally attend (including those who chair) identify as alcoholics
  4. Occasionally, we have well-meaning case managers who "require" their charges to to come to the AA meetings
So, as we went around the room with the 8 people there last night (thankfully, case managers seem to not be requiring meeting attendance now), it was a small miracle that everyone shared and at least 2-3 of them might be willing to look for a solution to their drinking problems while outside.  One of them mentioned how he wished they could get AA sponsors to work with them while they are incarcerated.

I've been thinking for a long time what might serve these guys and AA a lot better would be to either develop a sponsorial relationship with them or to have a weekend workshop where we could completely explain the AA program of recovery and even get them started working on the 12 steps.  Both these have faced huge security roadblocks in the past.

In other areas, AA meetings are being shut down in prisons.  The reasons are varied and beyond what I want to go into here but it occurred to me last night that, in many cases, it might actually be a good thing for AA and the inmates to finally shut this meeting down.  Rather than experience what, to me, is often a caricature of what an AA meeting is, they could instead learn about an AA program of recovery that could help them sober up while locked up and then join the fellowship when released.

Hard to know.  As I related in that other article, up to 100% of them committed their last crime while drinking so I keep thinking that, at worst, what this meeting may be or become is some sort of Public Information opportunity.  As to a real solution, these guys need one-on-one time with someone who can take them through the program of AA as outlined in our Steps, Traditions and, Concepts.

For now, I pray that God's will be done and that, when that moment of Grace meets that moment of oportunity, they can and will find a solution in their lives.

I hope that God can handle that.

I think he can.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sponsorship 3...

One of the things that I've found myself least successful at is "...sponsoring others into AA service..."  I've been active in AA service at many different levels - from group to Area, as well as sponsorship itself - for at least 23 of the past 26 years.  Far from the drudgery that many people understand "service" to be, I've found it a vital and continuing part of my growth in recovery.  It's seldom been painless, but, as the way of my life has often gone, I couldn't have gotten from there to here over any other road.  It has been drudgery at times, but my life's most fast friends today are all folks who I got connected with through AA service gigs.

It's puzzling to me why so few people get engaged in some level of AA service.  I heard my wife (also in AA) make a statement today that "...It used to be that you took your AA service commitments very seriously and, as a part of that, you learned to take yourself less seriously.  Today the sentiment largely seems to be that I have to take myself seriously and that the only service I will do is what's fun and easy for me."

Evidence of her belief: our local District is hosting a "game night" to promote AA unity and fun.  Used to be the only thing we did as a District were things that directly furthered the causes and purposes of AA.

Interesting.

I don't think they are "wrong" for having a fun event - or even having a fun event sponsored by an AA District.  What I marvel at is that, among my current slate of sponsees, so few (about 1/2) can seem to make time in their busy, recovered, lives to do 12-step work, PI work, take meetings into jails or anything that gets in the way of their busy, recovered, lives.

The fact that I see my life and my program in almost the opposite terms - I do what I do as a consequence of and often because of my commitment to AA - and they choose another path sometimes feels like I've failed them and the program.

On the other hand, I'm sober today and so are they.

I guess AA works.

I hope so.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sponsorship 2...

During my 3 weeks away from blogging, I thought some about discussing how I sponsor the guys I sponsor (all guys - no gals).

This is not intended as a "how to" guide as I feel I've had many relationships that were not satisfying or "successful."  In fact, I really try not to look at relationships - including sponsorship - as success or failure any more.  Some of my most "successful" sponsees have drank or left the program and relationships that I questioned for many, many years turned out to be the joy of my life today.  I can't tell.

Early on I was encouraged by "...any 12-step call I make where I stay sober is a success!"  I guess I have the same attitude about sponsorship.  I'm sober 26+ years as a direct result of, not so much being sponsored or sponsoring others, but being willing to show up in an uncomfortable relationship with intimacy and honesty that is way outside my comfort zone - on a good day, I deliberately only look for ways I can be useful or learn how I can become who God would want me to be.  There are many good days I've had sponsoring people.

I spent the first several years in the program in "sponsor envy."  I would hear AA speakers talk at length about "how they were sponsored" and think what I was missing - that, one more time, I'd joined a club and not followed the rules or found the secret relationship that would lead to my success.

Truth is:
  1. I've never sponsored anyone the same way I was sponsored or have ever been sponsored
  2. I've never sponsored any 2 of my guys the exact same way
I've just sort of figured this thing out along the way.

My M.O. for the past 15+ years for most guys has been that we just sit down and read the book.  I usually read it to them - one paragraph at a time.  This 75+ year old, flawed (in my opinion) piece of literature still seems to speak to the heart of the "real alcoholic." 

You can't be around as long as I have and be as curious as I am and not pick up lots of history and stories and experience which seems relevant so I share that as I feel led.  That means this can be a really, really, really slow process.  Elapsed time from the start to a completed 5th step and working on amends varies greatly but has been as short as 3 months and as long as a year.  I try to be open to the spirit or the mood.

Since I live a pretty full life, the only times I can commit to consistently are early morning.  Right now, my earliest guy comes to my house at 6am (has been 5am in the past) - the latest at 7:30 am.  I generally have 5-6 mornings a week spoken for each week.  I've let go of the 1-hour time limit I used to have so sometimes we chat for an hour, sometimes for more than 2.

After we've gone through this process for a while (has varied from 9 months to 5 years), we seem to evolve into a sort of "checking in" with infrequent link-ups at lunch, service events, etc.  I am heavily involved with some members, only see others during scheduled times.

Again, this is just my experience.  I think I'll be sharing about it for a while so I hope it is useful to someone.  As Mary pointed out in a comment yesterday, your experience with sponsorship will vary if you're in the wilds of Africa.  I think a future article might relate some of my experience with blogging and sponsorship.  As a few of you have pointed out, sponsorship is a deeply, personal relationship that probably has nearly as many variations and differences as members trying to do/be sponsors/sponsees.  The blogger who has best, in my less than humble opinion, articulated much of my perspective of the AA program (including sponsorship) is Mr. SponsorPants.  I'm glad I don't have to compete with him at any level.

I'm just trying to share how sponsorship has worked for me - and not.  If you'd like to share some of your experiences, I'd love to hear and learn from them as well.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sponsorship...

The picture above was taken Tuesday from a parking lot near where I've met with a sponsee every Tuesday morning for breakfast for over two years now.  It was actually taken 3 weeks ago when I thought I was going to return to blogging regularly.  That plan didn't work out.

All I think I'm going to say about my hiatus from blogging now is that, even with (or perhaps especially because of?) 26 years of continuous sobriety, one can still get really get sick in the head.  I have been.  Mercifully, I've not done anything stupid beyond repair (yet) and I hope I can get back to regular blogging.

As I've reflected some on the drama in my life and program and considered what others have written about recently, I realize that, for me, it all sort of boils down to what we call in AA: "sponsorship."

When I asked my current sponsor to sponsor me almost 3 years ago, it was after my previous sponsor had fired me (it was a really bad time in my life) and I was feeling desperate.  We were at a conference together and I finally buttonholed him on Sunday morning and asked him with more desperation than he was probably expecting from someone with over 2 decades in the program.  He took a deep breath, thanked me, and responded "...well, these days, I don't really like to think of myself as a sponsor.  I prefer to just be available to people as an AA 'special friend'."

I remember thinking at the time "...well alright a-hole, you can call yourself whatever you want to call yourself but I really need a sponsor and so I'm going to call you my sponsor."  In fact, I think I shared some such sentiment with him and he just sort of assured me that "he'd be there for me."

As I reflect back over the past 3 years, I've realized that I really needed more of a friend who I could be honest and accountable to more than someone to "instruct" me on this path.  I realize now how inadequate the word and definition of "sponsor" is to what I share with this man and how important it is.  I've never known an earthly brother, but even that is inadequate metaphor.  Someone who just genuinely cares about me and hurts when I hurt (whether self inflicted or not) - he often uses the word "simpatico" with me.  That's not it either but it's closer.

Another friend of mine in the program shares often that the "crisis" he sees in A.A. is a result of 2 things:
  1. Our unwillingness or inability to do our own 12th-step work
  2. Failures of sponsorship as an institution in A.A.
I'm not a perfect sponsor.  I know that because I don't compete.  I have guys that I "sponsor" that I'm reasonably sure I'm doing more harm than good for.  I hate it but I've not felt led to terminate our relationship yet.  I've "fired" other sponsees when it was not the "right time" and learned lessons from that.  So, I hang in there and try to be a friend, or at least useful to them.

Others, like my Tuesday breakfast, we share an intimacy that is probably only comparable to what might be shared with a psychiatrist or a priest.  And, I'm clear, the only real qualification I have for that trust from him is that I drank myself to the very brink of insanity and/or death and then, by the grace of God, found a program of recovery that has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams.

Sorta wierd...

A.A. works that way....

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Life...

Life has been presenting me some challenges/opportunities (are they the same thing?) that have gotten in the way of my writing regular blog articles the past few days.  I can't say that they've even consumed all the time I could have written, but, well, it's just not been possible for this person to get an article out every day the past few days.

I hope/plan to get back to writing regularly in a few days.

Since I was sick before, I just wanted to let  those that care know that is not what this is about - I'm healthy enough but am thoroughly distracted right now.

It's probably no accident that this patch of my life has come up close to my anniversary of starting this blog (last March).  As I remember, the thought I had at the time is that I would try this for a year and, if it (the blog and the efforts to create it) were useful, I would continue.

My inclination is that blogging will remain a part of my life for the foreseeable future (for me, foreseeable might be today or tomorrow but I generally make commitments in annual increments, at least).  As to the form or if I will have the luxury of continuing blogging at least 3-5 times a week, that is all up in the air for now.

Anyway, I miss it (a lot!) when I can't write up anything and I miss it even more when I can't comment on the articles of those of you whom I have come to care much about.  I plan to explain more about what my thoughts are when they are more fully developed in  a few days/weeks/months.

As to the details of the challenges - it's all just bound up in the drama of the disease and my life.  I'm sure there will be material for several articles when we get around to it in a few days.

Until then, I wish us all God's best.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quitting...

I had my regular breakfast with a delightful 20+ year sober sponsee this morning.  He'd had a particularly frustrating and discouraging weekend and, as we were leaving after his expressing his frustrations for nearly an hour, he asked me "...have you ever just felt like quitting AA?"

I had to take a deep breath because there's a short answer and a long answer to this question.  The truth is that I've been given a life beyond my wildest dreams as a direct consequence of AA.  AA really does work.

The medium-length answer is that, over the years, I've often felt like quitting AA - even knowing that it might be my death sentence to leave.  No, maybe especially because it would probably be my death sentence.  But, that's probably another article.

There are basically a few reasons I've really been ready to throw in the towel on AA over the years:
  1. Early in sobriety and many times since, I would sometimes look around the room and get pretty judgmental and say "these guys and girls are all losers and hypocrites."  I still do occasionally.  Sometimes, frankly, I'm just embarassed to be apart of this family.
  2. I look at what we've made AA to be - the chanting, the opinions espoused, the religiosity, the latest pop psychology - and I just hate it.  It seems foreign to me and what I knew this program to be many years ago.
  3. I've felt that some members have become friends and then hurt or betrayed me.  Their hypocrisy or the way they've used me have caused significant pain.
  4. It all seems like such a huge waste of time.  I spend hours each day practicing the program or attempting to be of service to others involved in this program.  It really seems like this time would be better served with making a living, being useful in my family or, just finding an interesting hobby.
I think there are many other reasons I have for quitting AA but they might also just be variations of the above. I don't think it's worthwhile to come up with an exhaustive list.

So, against that, I have some different ways of looking at these same ideas:
  1. Any family has people who are more successful than others or folks who could be an embarrassment.  Heck, I've even been the one who I've known some people are embarrassed to know so who am I to talk or judge?  At my largest home group meeting, it's not an exaggeration to say there are 35-50 people there on any given Saturday night who would go to any length available to them to support me in my sobriety.  I've never had a family like that anywhere else.
  2. I realize that, today, I am  responsible for what AA will be in the future.  If I don't like what it is today or its general trend, I need to become active in making it into something different.  It's part of why I became a co-founder of aarenewal.org.  It's a privilege to, perhaps, be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  Besides, as a fellowship, we've been arguing since 1936 as to what is the "right" thing for AA - mistakes of AA leadership in the past seem much more egregious or dangerous than the ones of today.
  3. In every case where my feelings have been hurt or that there's been betrayal, it's been as a direct result of my either projecting intentions or commitments that were not there or I've been attached to people being something they weren't or I've been too sensitive or taken myself way to seriously.  I can't think of any other way I might have learned these lessons.
  4. For every minute I've invested in my and others recovery, I've received countless dividends.  Frankly, the world is not knocking my door down to ask for my professional contributions and my family is happy when I can be involved with them but are just as happy when I let them get on with their own lives.  The principles I've learned in AA are the only things I think that make me attractive to anyone else in my life.
So, while I have times of discouragement and despair in AA, on a good day I can see where all of those times have led me toward growth that I really could never have accomplished in any other way.  On a really good day, even my discouragement and feelings of hopelessness in AA can be useful to someone else on the same journey as I am.

Today was (is) a really good day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

If...

For the past few days, I've had hat the lyrics to "If I Were a Rich Man"  stuck in my head.  Probably not all that surprising given that, off the top of my head, I've worked on 6 productions of Fiddler on the Roof in the theater, have seen it produced by others (including on Broadway) at least 8 or 10 times and have seen the movie countless times. 

About the only relief I get from that the past few days seems to be when I'm working with others and then the tune in my head has largely been "Tradition."

When life gets uncomfortable for me, I can so relate to Tevye in fantasizing it being improved by money, relationship changes, political differences, changes in the weather, whatever.  Likewise, when people are struggling in any way with compliance to the principles of AA, my answer wants to be "...because you just have to do it that way if you want to stay sober."

Yet, people in far worse situations and circumstances than mine all over the world are happy and grateful.  People who work a radically different AA program than I get sober and seem effective in their lives.  I guess my only natural response to that would be that I would have to hate them for that.

I thought I was over my head cold last Wednesday but this morning was the first morning that I've felt anywhere over 80% towards normal.  Last Friday, I finally had the bright idea that I could move the Kleenex box down from the shelf to the place where I could reach it while at my computer.  I'm a pretty slow study sometimes.

Anyway, when I'm sick (in many different types of ways), my "situation" becomes more intolerable and it seems the only think I can bring to the table is judgment/condemnation.

Seems I still have some things to learn.  I guess that's why I'm here.  As my sponsor continues to remind me: "All that is asked of me is my best effort."  God seems to add to that whatever additional is needed.  With God's help, I can learn and life will continue to surprise me with blessings aplenty.

That's been my experience so far.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Aw shucks, I'm going to live after all...

I've been sick (head cold) for the past 3 days.

I have lots of experience around sickly, heroic people.  People who rise above their challenges and accomplish amazing things while presented with ill health or tough life circumstances.  While I was laying around this past weekend, I watched the program Temple Grandin, a semi-documentary movie of Temple Grandin on HBO.  It truly is amazing what people can accomplish when so many odds are stacked against them.

I'm not those people.

I get a head cold and it serves as an excuse for an extremely self-centered me to focus more on me - How am I feeling?  Am I going to die?  Can I get something out of this?  Can I disappear and nobody notice? Am I going to live?

Way to much of me for me.

The good news is that I feel better today.

The even better news is that, so far, I've thought about at least 2-3 people besides myself today.

God is good.

...and AA works.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Haven...

I spent some of the weekend at a local conference with a theme of "Haven at last."  Comes from our Big Book:
"Many a man, yet dazed from his hospital experience, has stepped over the threshold of that home into freedom. Many an alcoholic who entered there came away with an answer. He succumbed to that gay crowd inside, who laughed at their own misfortunes and understood his. Impressed by those who visited him at the hospital, he capitulated entirely when, later, in an upper room of this house, he heard the story of some man whose experience closely tallied with his own. The expression on the faces of the women, that indefinable something in the eyes of the men, the stimulating and electric atmosphere of the place, conspired to let him know that here was haven at last." BB - pp. 160
 I just love that....

Friday, February 5, 2010

Solution, the...

In a comment left on yesterday's article, dAAve posted a comment to the effect of "Solutions?".  This was interesting to me in that I thought I was actually representing a solution when I wrote it.  I could see where it would be seen that I was simply griping about living in the selfishness and self-pity and, well, self.

I'm one of those rare folk who truly see the nobility of Sisyphus - as the rock rolls back down the hill, I really am grateful for the purpose, direction, strength and grace that I have to roll that rock back up again.  Where others see futility, I see a heroic effort and an answer to a life that has just always been beyond me.  My hope today is not only that I will get a huge income and fancy toys.  My (sometimes successful) pursuit of money and material goods has all but ruined me, drunk and sober.

What this life is about for me, today, is that I can be true to my task.  Again, carefully hidden in our Big Book are the directions:
"... We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. 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 - pp. 85
So, what I understand for today is that I get to apply my will to learning how to serve God.  How can I be useful?  What can I contribute?  Where can I offer love and tolerance?

On a practical basis, this gets worked out in some queer ways (sorry guys - you know what I mean ;-) ).  Yesterday, I spent $175 that I don't have on some computer equipment that will upgrade my tools/infrastructure so that I can make some progress in developing some software that I've committed to provide.  Makes no financial sense (maybe).  Makes no practical sense (maybe).  But, I've avoided dealing with this part of my life for nearly 3 years now and it was really "the next thing.™"  I'm trusting an instinctual nudge that just seemed to indicate this was right.

I wish I had a clue what the vision thing is about - I sometimes think I have an idea where it might go and then, well, surprise!

The thing I really want to be clear about today though is this is not a veil of tears.  This is not drudgery.  The truth is, as best I can express it, that in sobriety my circumstances have been up, down, easy and challenging.  When I have applied my "...proper use of the will", I have had an amazing life regardless of my circumstances.  For alcoholics like me, AA works.  It has thus far, and I believe it will into the future.

I truly have had a life beyond my wildest dreams in my time in AA so far.

I can certainly see where someone who isn't an alcoholic would be reluctant to step into the harness of recovery as outlined in AA.  How, would one cure low self esteem, selfishness, self pity, etc. by carrying a " ... vision of God's will into all of our activities ... "?  How indeed?

For this drunk, it basically gets pretty simple:
problem = self
solution = God

It just really does work.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I don't feel like it...

I truly can't remember when a sponsee has offered the "I don't feel like it..." line to me.  I guess the current crop know what they will get from me in response.
"...For if an alcoholic failed to perfect and enlarge his spiritual life through work and self-sacrifice for others, he could not survive the certain trials and low spots ahead. If he did not work, he would surely drink again, and if he drank, he would surely die. Then faith would be dead indeed. With us it is just like that." (my emphasis added) BB pp. 14-15
I've not felt like it much of the time recently.  I've been in fear.  I'm embarrassed I've been in fear.  I've been selfish.  I've been embarrassed about being selfish.  The list goes on but I recognize it from when I hear it from myself and others.  It's just character defects as expressed in the latest drama of the day.

And, I have a sponsor that I really think I could convince him that my sorry lot in life just deserves a rest.  In my heart, I think I could get by with that about as readily as convincing him that it would be a really good idea for me to drink.  It might happen.

Truth is, I think my favorite sentence in our Big Book is: "... With us it is just like that."  It's an amazing catch-all that really, does, in the final analysis, explain it all.  Every little bit of it.

 'nuff said.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What's up...

I have no real excuses for not having posted the past few days.  I just haven't made the time to do more than read and comment.  I generally seem to much prefer that to writing my own entry these days.

My life since Thursday (my last post) has been too much self and too little thought of God and others.

The activities have included:
  • working on my computing environment and making a commitment to learn some things I've been skating on (just sort of not committing to really learning about and improving my network but hating the problems and patching together a framework which sort of works, some of the time) for over 2 years
  • my wife had an AA deal in Buena Vista, CO (about 4 hours from here - lives up to it's name) on Saturday night and we had a gorgeous drive over there
  • some wonderful folks there put us up for the night but I had to fly to NYC on Sunday morning so we had a gorgeous drive back over the mountains in a wonderful full moon early Sunday
  • I arrived in NYC on Sunday afternoon and got to walk around the upper west side and experience some of what I love (the people) and what I hate (all those people in a small area) about NYC
  • I interviewed for a voluntary position there Monday afternoon and learned that the fact that the interview didn't come off well had precious little to do with me - I gave, I thought, a pretty good interview but the fact that the people who will make the decision were not there (along with other factors which might weigh against me) mean I will probably not be offered the job/service opportunity - that could well be a very good thing...
  • I flew home last night and got home more tired than I'd like but I will get over it
During that time, I had plenty of time and opportunity to write an article but didn't.

My life feels like it's in a (major?) transition.  I've hesitated to put this observation down in a blog article because it's felt like that for over a year now (it's part of what brought me to writing here in the 1st place).  It just seems like I'm ready to cease fighting and let go of whatever resistance I have but I can't, for the life of me and with all the inventory and honesty I can muster get to anything I can do.  Writing this, I realize I'm just frustrated - yet more manifestations of selfishness and ego.

At the very least, I'm here for now (did you notice? ;-) ) and that is all I've got.

Now, it's on to the next thing...

Thank you.

p.s. the pictures are the best view I got of midtown (I think) from the cab on the way to LGA and Union (I think) on the way out Monday night.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Self...


Our good friend Philip continues to amaze me and do this deal.  I'm sure he is certainly giving me more than I'm giving him at this point.

 This morning, we recited the 3rd step prayer together on our knees and he got started writing out his list of resentments.  As we read from the book, I realized how very many of the answers for my  trials of the past few weeks were suggested in that portion of the Big Book that starts after the part we normally sleep through at the beginning of our meetings:
"The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with something or somebody, even though our motives are good. ... Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. ...

"... What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. ... He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. ... Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? ... And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

"Our actor is self-centered--ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. ... Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

"Selfishness--self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. ...

"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us! ... Many of us had moral and philosophical convictions galore, but we could not live up to them even though we would have liked to. ... We had to have God's help.

" ...First of all, we had to quit playing God. ... Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. ... "

(3rd step promises?)

" ... (1) We had a new Employer. ... (2) He provided what we needed ... (3) we became less and less interested in ourselves ... (4) More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. ... (5) we felt new power flow in ... (6) we enjoyed peace of mind ... (7) we discovered we could face life successfully ... (8) we became conscious of His presence ... (9) we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. (10) We were reborn.

" ... 'God, I offer myself to Thee--to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always!' ... " BB pp. 60-63
Seems pretty clear:  Problem = Self

I can't fix a selfish, sick mind, with a selfish, sick mind.

Philip asked me: "...So, at some point does this become, like, an automatic thing?  This surrender?"

I wished I could give him a different answer than what my experience is.  I assured him that, over time, I've developed some different responses and that I'm not as reluctant as I once was around noticing and acknowledging that what was going on was just another manifestation of the selfishness and self-centeredness that I've discovered as a result of this process.

But, for today, my selfishness didn't have to result in acts of homicide or suicide.

That seemed to give him some hope.

Imagine...