There are two topics I don't touch in meetings: politics and religion. I don't even like people wearing clothing advertising their opinions on these matters to meetings (although I don't say anything about it).
The most basic reason is that I was raised in a home where there was One Opinion on these matters. I did not always share that opinion, and I was lambasted by family members because of it. It hurt to think that such hurtful behavior was okay as long as the topic of discussion was something that will never actually be solved.
No one human being is going to be proven "right" in either of these arenas, whether alcoholics or not. What many do prove themselves to be as they pontificate is hostile, overbearing and/or condescending.
The Big Book tells us not to approach newcomers in the spirit of "witchburning" on the subject of alcohol. I personally expand that to politics and religion as well. We endorse nor oppose any causes.
The program's predecessor, the Oxford Group, was humming right along until its members decided to get involved in political matters. Then, Oxford experienced problems of money, property and prestige, and it is now history.
In my private life, BF and I discuss politics amongst ourselves, but we don't bring those discussions into meetings. It's my hope that few, if any, in my home group know where I stand politically.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
A few days ago, a newcomer vented in a meeting that he had no idea what to do with himself now that he wasn't drinking. Suggestions ....
1) Go to as many meetings as possible. When I first got sober, I went to three meetings a day. I got to know everyone, got to work making coffee and emptying ashtrays, and got comfortable with the whole process a lot more quickly than newcomers doing one meeting a day.
2) Get a job or keep your job. If you're not busy during the day, of course your mind will wander. Get a job, volunteer somewhere, or amp your performance at the job you have.
3) Clean house - literally. If you're sober, you have no excuse for living in a sty. Clean up after yourself around your home
4) Read the Big Book. If reading at home is too quiet and isolating, get thee to your nearest coffee shop or library and actually read the book everyone keeps raving about.
5) Serve your group. Does something need to be done at your meeting place? Then do it! Volunteer to wash the coffee mugs or clean the bathrooms. We are self-supporting through our own contributions, and that doesn't just mean money.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I believe that I have always been an alcoholic, from the day I was born. I remember sipping my mother's gin-and-tonics and thinking about how great it would be to be an adult and have one (or seven) all of my own - and I was five!
I don't ever remember having one drink, ever. I drank until a) there was no more booze in the zipcode I was partying in or b) I passed out. I sometimes hear folks referring to "becoming" an alcoholic - sorry, can't relate.
The Big Book tells me that I must accept that I will never drink like a normal person, assuming I ever did in the first place. I spent several years wondering if I had a drinking problem. Ironically, normal drinkers don't wonder if they are alcoholics!
I have probably sat in thousands of meetings. I have no idea how many times I've read the BB or the 12&12, but I know it's several times apiece at a minimum. Every single day of my life for years, I have spoken to at least one recovering or wanting-to-recover alcoholic.
But this is not rehab. All of that listed above does not eradicate my disease. There is no chemotherapy for this. It helps me hone my spiritual dimension that in turn makes me able to go one more day sober. Then I will get up tomorrow morning and God willing, do the same things again, with the same result.
I have blue eyes, horrible vision, a great sense of humor, and alcoholism - it's who I am, and who I always will be.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I have a new sponsor, whom I meet with most Monday nights. Last night I asked her about her employment history, not as an interview question, but because she really appears to me to have it all together, and I'm going through a not-very-all-together season in my life right now with this putrid job at the courthouse.
As God would have it, she told me that when she was about as sober as I am now, she had a job at our local sheriff's department, and she hated it. My mouth was probably hanging open as she said, "When I say that I know what you're going through, I really mean that."
What never ceases to amaze me about this program is how a bunch of folks you would never dream in a million years would be spiritual develop spiritual lives that save our very lives! No two paths completely the same, and most widely varied.
Then the really amazing concept is that the program itself has thrived for seventy-odd years. Sure, there's more alcoholics in the world than the world wants to admit, but none of them want to join until things are really bad (I tell newcomers that by the time some entity is discussing incarceration with you, you are officially a drag on society). As a group, we have more divorces, bankruptcies and prison time than most social strata in the world, and yet it works!
So last night when my sponsor told me to believe that she believes, I agreed, and I do. She has good reason to believe!
Monday, September 22, 2008
I have developed a peeve about folks that share about wanting to quit smoking or eating junk food in meetings, and as Glenn Beck would say, here's how I got there:
I know that both smoking and junk food are bad for us. I worked for PepsiCo for many years, and you don't even know the kind of money that's spent making you think that Cheetos count as a serving of dairy. I know that smoking causes all kinds of horrible conditions, and in many cases, death (assuming that death is actually a horrible condition - I've never been dead, so I can't speak to that specifically).
Neither tobacco products nor junk food will cause me to:
- Kill someone if I get behind the wheel of a car after consuming them
- Engage in acts of violence, domestic or otherwise
- Face any sort of jail time for my ensuing behavior
- Lose my job
- Lose my family
12-Step programs are named for the substance that its members are trying to break an addiction to. If I have a drinking problem, I should be in A.A. If I have a drug problem, I should be in N.A. The Big Book tells me that we meet frequently to encourage each other and show newcomers the way.
We encourage each other from a sense of survival, what the Big Book refers to as the camaraderie among survivors of a shipwreck. We are each day escaping death - not an additional dress size or a bit of a cough.
I can hear it now: but M, smoking and obesity can be fatal!
I agree, and I would add to that list traveling via any kind of vehicle, immersing ourselves in any body of water (including the shower) ... the list goes on and on. In fact, 100% of births result in death.
The difference is that I literally can not stop drinking without total abstinence, reading the Big Book, working the 12 steps with my sponsor, praying to my Higher Power and being of service to others. Those who feel that their lives are unmanageable due to their powerlessness over tobacco would find the most fellowship in Nicotine Anonymous.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
"No outside circumstances will offer us full time and forever the security we all long for. And in like manner, none will adversely interfere with our well being, except briefly and on occasion." - Each Day a New Beginning
I was sharing the other day in a meeting that I chose to drink at almost five years of sobriety several years ago.
I did that because I secretly viewed the program as a game show: surely for having given up the love of my life (booze), there will be cash and prizes: perfect man, perfect children, perfect lifestyle, perfect finances. I mean what the heck do we read those promises for anyway?
But when I read the Promises closely, they actually do not describe the acquisition of things, but of feelings: feelings of courage, optimism and usefulness. They do not promise me money, but losing my fear of financial insecurity.
I am not enjoying this season of sobriety: a job I was so excited about has melted down before my eyes. I am seeking something just to keep the rent paid and food on the table. More than likely it will involve less money, a more strenuous schedule and the public perception that my life is going backwards, not forwards.
But what other people think of me is none of my business.
Most of the world has not had to give up the substance they love the most in order to survive, so most of the world doesn't understand that I would really like a nice round of applause at the end of the day for not drowning my sorrows in a swimming pool of margaritas. But that applause is not coming.
I need to find the reason to keep doing this inside myself, every day. I need to keep my daily reprieve.
Friday, September 19, 2008
"I pray that I will find happiness in doing the right thing. I pray that I will find satisfaction in obeying spiritual laws." - Twenty-Four Hours a Day
So much temptation to not do the right thing! I daydream about lashing out at these maladjusts that for some reason I have been given as coworkers.
But now I get emotional hangovers when I lash out at people, whether they deserved or not! My conscience is no longer silenced by booze. When I act in ways that conflict with my HP's standards, it haunts me emotionally until I make it right. My HP says I should pray for my enemies.
It's work to be sober!
So today, I will not tell any of these in-duh-viduals to bugger the f*** off, put exlax in the coffee to watch them kill each other getting to the potty, or remove the ball from every mouse in the building and watch them inundate IT with their ignorance.
My HP also says "Better a dry crust in peace than a feast with a cantankerous woman," which authorizes me to look for a new job.
Let the resumes fly!!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Every so often at my home group when desire chips are offered, people attempt to "sell" a newcomer on getting one ("go ahead!", "they're free!", "don't you want one?"). The culprits are always the pink-clouders with a few weeks or months and are now out to sober up the world.
But the world at large does not want to get sober. The latest estimate of the adult population in my little city is 100,000. If ten percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be alcoholic, that's 10,000 of us in this city alone (and if you ever get a chance to read our city's police blotters, you'll probably agree that's a reasonable estimate). I've never seen more than 50 people in a meeting around here.
Alcohol was everything to me. I wouldn't have actually said that out loud, even to myself, but it was. Nothing got between me and my drink, whether I had to hide it, lie about it or steal it. But I would have indignantly told you I was i no way an alcoholic.
Step One says that we admitted that we have a problem. Webster's defines "admitting" as "confessing". My confession came from hitting bottom - that point where life itself showed me that I had a problem, and I had to agree.
One of the great mysteries of life for me is why some people admit this earlier in life than others. Why did I come in after a few fender-benders and get this, while we have folks court-ordered to attend who are right back out the minute the last line of their form is signed?
The closest I've come to an answer to this riddle lies in "How It Works": I get this when I am capable of rigorous honesty. Until that day, you could keep your chip.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Step One is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.”
But I am learning that "drinking is but a symptom" of my disease. Once I subtract the booze, I am left with my brain, and I've been pouring booze on that since I was an adolescent!
Today, Step One reads for me "I admit that I am powerless over others, that my life has become unmanagable."
When I came into the program, I had a string of booze-related traffic accidents that each should have resulted in a DUI, but for some reason, they didn't. Maybe because I didn't need them to: once I wrecked a rental car with scant knowledge of what I'd done the next day, I knew I had a problem, and I wasn't going out in some blaze of glory. Jails and institutions didn't sound like anything I wanted to experience.
Lately with my anxiety running amok, I am missing out on my life to agonize over things that haven't happened. I am not sleeping, and I am almost constantly tormented by "what if?"
I am powerless over the behavior of others in my life. If people are acting out in my life, that's their choice: I can't hit some mute button and silence them (trust me, I'd have done it by now).
Step One freed me from the moment I walked into the program to get better. I have the relief of my problem having a name. I have a Big Book that tells my life story. I have people around me that understand.
Now I need to keep working, to get more relief.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
A big Trudge Report thanks to the genius behind the tag cloud code over at Compender - finally a code I could get working on this blog! If you're blogging on Blogger and want a painless way to put your tags in a cloud, I highly recommend this!
"Opinions vary considerably as to why the alcoholic reacts differently from normal people. We are not sure why, once a certain point is reached, little can be done for him. We cannot answer the riddle." ~Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, There Is A Solution, pg. 22~
Monday, September 15, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Getting high is so chic, isn't it?
A Dozen Steps has a great post today about the importance of accepting responsibility for our own behavior. I especially enjoyed it because this matter came up among some of my homegroup's members this week.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Posted by M at 9:25 AM
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tonight someone from my home group asked me to participate in an intervention for one of our female members who, if the stories are true, is back out drinking and in rapid decline. I haven't reflected much on the concept of intervention in a long while, but my thoughts on the matter haven't changed much:
1) Interventions aren't really for the alcoholic, but for her friends and family. If most alcoholics wanted help at this time, they would have sought it on a less dramatic scale. However, friends and family attending this event should be past the breaking point with this person: if she doesn't get help, she is out of each attendee's life until she does.
2) Threats won't work, but promises might. Any friend or family member is wasting his time participating in an intervention if he can't carry out on his statement to have no contact with the alcoholic if she refuses help. In fact, he might be worsening the problem by undermining the entire production.
3) It's now or no. She doesn't get to leave the room without making a decision. She's either going to treatment right this very second (which means transportation has to be somewhere waiting) or she is exiting the lives of everyone present. No scheduling issues, no upcoming events, no more excuses.
4) Leave law enforcement out of this. If the alcoholic is in legal trouble, some families have arranged for officers to be present to take her into custody if she refuses treatment. I think this is blackmail and therefore doomed to failure. If she's only going to treatment to avoid incarceration, you may as well grab a few 12-packs for her Welcome Home Party, because she's going to want them!
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Hazelden's recovery thought for today from The Language of Letting Go reads, in part "Too often, we try to gain a clear perspective before it is time.That will make us crazy.We do not always know why things are happening the way they are.... In hindsight, we will know. It will become clear. For today, being is enough. We have been told that all things shall work out for good in our life. We can trust that to happen, even if we cannot see the place today's events will hold in the larger picture."
Life often makes no sense to me from the seat I'm assigned in the present. For example, I am now a couple of months into a job that more than likely is not going to work out, and that has been a great disappointment to me. I have no idea how many times I have thought to myself, "Why is this happening to me?" or second-guessed myself for taking this job in the first place.
If I'm not vigilant, I will get into woe-is-me, and that's not good for my sobriety. The Big Book tells me that "anger is the dubious luxury of normal men" and depression, as many professionals will tell you, is anger turned inward.
I come into this place each day, and I remind myself that I am here to be of service. I do what I know is the right thing at each moment, trying not to worry about what the future holds. This place was not built to fill me emotionally, so to expect emotional fulfillment here is irrational.
My favorite story in the book of my faith is the book of Job. Job is this all-around success story: well-to-do, great family, and respect in his community. One day, God and Satan are talking, and God says, "Hey Jerkalope! Check out Job! He is one of my biggest fans!"
The devil says, "Well sure he is - you've given him everything. Take away his stuff and then see how much he loves you - I dare you!"
And God does, and Job, though miserable in his new, cruddy phase of life does not lose his faith that God sits supreme in the universe, doing everything for everyone's greater good.
The best part of the story for me is that Job specifically asks God why He took everything, and God doesn't ever tell him why. I love that because it tells me that it is not my job to know why things happen. It is only my job to respond properly.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I've said before that we are often not seated in a vast hotbed of mental health when we go to meetings. The Big Book tells us that there are times when medical attention is necessary to help us sort out our thinking.
Bad things happen to us, even when we're sober: relationships end, jobs are lost, loved ones die. This is part of life, and we're learning to live it on life's terms. Many of us then find that once we remove the alcohol from our brains, we see depression, anxiety, and other related mental conditions.
So it's not uncommon to encounter someone talking about suicide as we trudge this road to happy destiny. These are the common signs of potentially suicidal behavior, provided by the United States Army (and they would know!)
• Talking or hinting about suicide
• Formulating a plan to include acquiring the means to kill oneself
• Having a desire to die
• Obsession with death (music, poetry, artwork)
• Themes of death in letters and notes
• Finalizing personal affairs
• Giving away personal possessions
Suicidal ideations are most common is those who are experiencing life changes that they perceive as totally negative, such as:
- Relationship problems (loss of girlfriend/boyfriend,divorce, etc.)
• Substance abuse issues/relapse
• Work related problems
• Transitions (retirement, adult children leaving home, etc.)
• Serious medical problems
• Significant loss (death of loved one, loss due to natural disasters, etc.)
• Current/pending legal action
• Setbacks (academic, career, or personal)
• Severe, prolonged, and/or perceived unmanageable stress.
• A sense of powerlessness, helplessness, and/or hopelessness
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Last night I heard in a meeting something I haven't heard in a while: "You never need to take another drink again if you don't want to."
I can't begin to estimate how many times I uttered the phrase "I need a drink" in the Before Times. I really felt I did need a drink - I didn't think I was exaggerating!
My dictionary defines "need" as "a requirement, necessary duty, or obligation", and that's what alcohol became for me. It was no longer optional.
But the other way of defining "need" is the things that make my survival possible. I literally need food, reasonable clothing (a Louis Vuitton Galliera GM bag does not fall into this category, unfortunately), shelter, and access to medical care. In those terms, I did not need a drink.
*Note: the effects of physical withdrawal from alcohol can be fatal, which is why in some cases, those doing 12-step calls take with them a little bit of booze. In this one scenario, a drink is in fact needed.
But I sure thought I needed it, because I knew no other way to live. I had to get with the Program to learn to not drink, clean house and help others. I do not need to ever drink again if I don't want to.
It's my wants that bite me in the proverbial ass every time. The BB specifically tells us that "selfishness and self-centeredness" is "the root of our problems." Basically, that I was roaming the earth a slave to my wants, winking at what each new acquisition might cost me. Tough day at work? Have far too many drinks and then drive my wobbly self home - I deserve some fun!
Ironically, my favorite toast in any situation was "We may not get what we want, we may not get what we need, as long as we don't get what we deserve!"
And I was right.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Just in case you're thinking this sobriety thing is too much work, check out the items I'll be posting under the "It Still Sucks" label ... remember, you're eligible too!
DALLAS — A car driven by a drunk driving suspect with four previous DWI arrests raced away from a sheriff's deputy, ran a red light then went airborne after a wreck and landed on top of an SUV, killing a newlywed couple inside, authorities said.
Second-grade teacher Erika Clouet, 24, and her husband of a little over a month, construction worker and aspiring musician German Clouet, 23, of Irving, were killed in the accident early Monday.
The driver, Uriel Perez Palacios, 22, of Dallas, remained in the hospital Tuesday. His passenger had to be cut from the vehicle and was also hospitalized.
Officials on Tuesday charged Palacios with two counts of murder and three counts of intoxication assault. A phone listing for Palacios could not be found.
Palacios was arrested as recently as June for driving while intoxicated and was released after paying a $500 fine. He was also involved in two police chases and had four outstanding drug and DWI warrants, officials said.
A Dallas County sheriff's deputy pulled over Palacios around 2 a.m. Monday after spotting him weaving through traffic, authorities said. As the deputy approached the car on foot, Palacios sped off with his lights off and drove through a red light, striking a sport utility vehicle carrying five Southern Methodist University students.
Palacios' car went airborne and crashed into the Clouets' SUV, crushing it and killing them at the scene, authorities said. The couple was returning from a date at the movies.
"She was a wonderful teacher and will be greatly missed," said Irma Vega-Zadeh, the principal at the elementary school where Clouet taught.
At least three others were injured, including two SMU students who were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
"Many deputies said it was one of the worst accidents that they ever saw," Dallas County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Kimberlee Leach said in a story on The Dallas Morning News' Web site. "You couldn't make out what kinds of vehicles were involved."
In my opinion, getting a sponsor and then actually calling her is one of the most important things we can do to stay sober. Sponsors are there to guide us through the 12 Steps, assist us in studying the Big Book, and understanding recovery culture. My sponsor knows things about me that no one else on this planet earth knows, and shows me how to deal with that Deep Dark Stuff without taking it to Happy Hour.
Hey Fellow Trudgers - be sure to check out DryBlog for a massive amount of information, including some of our sister programs. I've been checking it out for several days now, and I still haven't gotten through it all.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
"How lucky we are, that we can experience that divine spark with one another, and with all recovering women. The program offers us the chance, every moment of our lives from this day forward, to experience divinity. All we are asked to do is be there, for one another, to share fully who we are. Vulnerability gets easier as we learn that we can trust each other, that we can share pain, that it's okay to pull and prod and follow, first you and then me and then her." - Each Day a New Beginning
The Program is without doubt a fellowship. It's darn near impossible to go to meetings every day and not develop the kind of close friendships never possible for while we were drinking. All of my friends and BF are in the Program. All the socializing I did this holiday weekend was Program-related.
But I need to be very careful in my thinking about those who are not recovering alcoholics - you know, "normal people" (those freaks that have one serving of alcohol and then stop because they are "starting to feel it").
I got sober because my ability to function in the world was declining. Now that I'm sober, I am a mom, an employee, BF's girlfriend, a friend, a volunteer ... in other words, I am now functioning out in the world again. That's the whole point of sobriety for me.
Society fears alcoholism, and it should: drinking alcoholics are responsible for almost all of this country's fatalities that involved booze, from driving while intoxicated to domestic violence and everything in between. We kill an average of 18,000 innocent bystanders each year just by getting behind the wheel of a car drunk. To add insult to society's injury, we tend to survive these vehicular homicides because we're so drunk!
Sure, I have "normal" people in my life who don't really "get" this recovery thing, but they didn't "get" my drinking either. I have realized that they aren't ever going to fully understand, and it's not their job to understand me. The Big Book tells me that my end-all mission in life is to be helpful, not to hope others help me.
I am the only Big Book most people will ever read.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Q: I am completely new. I am going to AA meetings, but I find my pain so overwhelming. What do I do?
1) Go to every meeting you can possibly make. Forget this 90-meetings-in-ninety-days stuff - if you can make three meetings a day, do it. Going to meetings is the most important thing you can do, after not drinking of course.
2) Actually sit in the meeting. Do not fall into the habit of hanging out with the folks who are technically at a meeting, but not really (they're outside smoking, etc.) I refer to this area of my group as Relapse Row for a reason.
3) Stay physically and mentally busy. If you have a job, go the extra mile at work. Clean your house like the Prize Patrol will be there any moment with cameras. Return phone calls immediately (unless they're from the dealer). Call people who are supportive of you. In other words, do whatever it is that keeps you from drinking. If you're sitting around with nothing to do, go to a meeting or get busy.
4) Get a Big Book and read it. Most groups sell them. Our public library has them to check out. If you don't have the money, ask one of the women at your group if you can borrow hers. Then read it.
5) Get a sponsor. This early in recovery, this is simply someone you feel you can call and honestly say, "Okay, I want a drink - what do I do?" Any sponsor worth having will require you to call her every day. Don't overcomplicate this by trying to find the "perfect" person - you're not marrying this person, you're just calling them and asking them how to do this thing.
6) Cut yourself some slack in 0ther areas. We are not drinking - that is the goal. This is not time to quit smoking or start a diet of ground walnut shells and yak milk. In fact, I take newcomers for ice cream after meetings on a regular basis. This is because alcohol is sugar (I'll spare you the chemistry, just trust me, it is), and by suddenly not drinking, your body is jonesing for some sugar.
7) Remember that you are only doing this TODAY. One day at a time - if you're really miserable, promise yourself you'll get drunk as Ted Kennedy tomorrow, but today you're sticking it out.
It doesn't seem like it right now dear, but you're in for the greatest experience of your life if you're willing to go to any lengths to get it.
Now playing: Mourning September - Glorietta