Obstacles

I can’t remember why I stopped posting blogs.  I don’t know if I got too busy or just disinterested.  This year has been one of so many changes for me, none seemingly for the better.  Perhaps I will look back on this time and see that the struggles I went through were necessary.  For now it seems as though there are only obstacles in my way, most of which I created for myself.

From June through October I drank.  My last binge set into motion a series of events which have left serious consequences.  I have not had a drink in almost a month, nor have I felt the desire to numb this crisis away with alcohol or drugs.  This is always the case for me, when I decide I am going to be sober.  My desire to drink is removed.  The danger for me lies in not following through; I do not maintain my spiritual condition.  I lack discipline.

Discipline of an unwanted variety will soon be given to me, to uphold or suffer a set of even more serious consequences.  I know that correctional, punitive discipline will not keep me sober.  Only an honest, willing effort on my part to abandon myself to what my experience shows to be a solution will keep me from dying a spiritual death by drinking.

 

 

 

A Breath of Clean Air

I came to the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous by way of a suicide hotline on October 24, 2001.  The woman who answered the phone was kind.  I told her that I had a problem with alcohol.  She asked if I had ever tried AA.  I told her that at this point, I would try anything.  I was desperate, I wanted to die; after all, I had called a suicide hotline.  She said there was a meeting very close to where I lived at 6:30 that evening, that it happened to be her home group.  It was called Clean Air.  It was morning when I called her.  That meant I had hours to wait for the meeting.  I spent the day in morbid reflection of my situation.  I had cast everything good out of my life because of my behavior while drinking:  my job, my appearance, the health of my marriage and the friends in my life.  The last straw had been the loss of the one person in my life who I thought would never abandon me, my best friend Christy.  In the week prior she had not returned my calls.  Finally I had heard from her husband, who said that they just couldn’t have me in their lives at this point because of my behavior.  I was devastated.  I thought of dying and nothing else.  I was an atheist; I had no higher power to turn to, nothing larger than myself to give these feelings over to.  I didn’t even know the concept, having turned away from the church and God as a rebellious young girl of thirteen.  I had a psychiatrist from whom I got my meds but I had not seen a therapist in years.  My husband was already freaked out by my drinking and behavior; sharing with him that I wanted to die would have sent him over the edge.  I slept eighteen hours a day and drank during my waking hours.  By the time I went to the meeting that night I was full to the top of despair.

Clean Air was my salvation.  I was relieved at once of the desire to drink, which was a miracle.  I had not gone more than a day or two without a drink in the last five years.  I became a very active member overnight, going to three meetings a day, having breakfast after the morning meeting, lunch after the noon meeting and dinner after the evening meeting.  I went to every function and group conscious meeting.  I got a sponsor and started working the steps.  Clean Air became my family.  I know I was insane, but they loved me just the way I was.  Some of them told me things I didn’t like to hear, in fact I left meetings and refused to speak to some people over some of their advice from time to time, but the wisdom of their words would always sink in eventually.

After eight and a half years around the rooms of AA I know that Clean Air is something of an anomaly, or at least it was during that time.  This was God doing for me what I could not do for myself.  I was protected from some of the behaviors that I have since experienced in other groups, specifically the rumor mills and the predatory men.   All I knew at Clean Air was love and support.  I had the impunity to practice my program and get well.  I won’t exaggerate here and say that there weren’t other sick alcoholics around me, there were.  I had my share of shady experiences, but no men ever tried to get into my pants and no one ever whispered stories into my ear about any one’s private lives.  Perhaps these things went on but I was delivered from them.

I spent five years at Clean Air.  I chaired meetings, sponsored women and led a speaker meeting for a year and a half, which was both a challenge and an honor.  I drifted away from the group when I moved to another area of Dallas, where there was a clubhouse less than a block from my home, but I returned to Clean Air from time to time.  My relapse began shortly before I moved away from Dallas in July of 2006.  I went to the Sunday morning meeting the day before I left Dallas and asked for a desire chip, sometimes called a 24 hour coin.  My sponsor was chairing the meeting.  I had blamed her for my relapse.  We had not spoken in more than a month.  She handed me my coin.  It was the last time I was to see her or Clean Air in three and a half years.

Expect a Miracle

This is a response to an email from a friend who just moved to another city.  He went to a group attended by members who were not so welcoming.  The second paragraph, in particular, addresses not-so-welcoming AA’s:

I heard L’s fifth step yesterday, it took from 1:00 until 6:45. She had 94 items on her 4th step. It was pretty amazing. She is an exceptional woman. I love her. We have developed something pretty special in the time that we have known each other and have been working together. C’s dad took him for the day, which was such a blessing. We would never have gotten through it in the time that we did with him there. He is a neat kid but he has issues. It was quite an experience for me, I learned as much as she did, I’m sure. I went out to dinner with a friend and then to the 10:00, the topic was resentments. I was a little disappointed in J, who seemed to gloss over the fact that there was a newcomer in the room. Had I been chairing the meeting I would not have chosen a topic from our fourth step–page 30 would have been the suggested topic, or something from step one on the 12×12. I like to read the passage about admitting complete defeat when a newcomer identifies themselves. When my turn came I talked about my first meeting and what the topic was: the slogans. I cried through the whole meeting, I was the last to share. The majority of the folks there said that “One Day at a Time” was the slogan they liked the best. I don’t recall exactly what was said by anyone in particular. I kept looking at the podium, situated off to the side of the room. Hanging from the front of it was a sign that read: “Expect a Miracle”. When the discussion got to me I introduced myself and said that would have to be my slogan since a miracle was going to have to be necessary to get me sober. I shared with the group last night that a miracle had taken place that night, and several since then. I pointed out the line from the Dr.’s Opinion where Dr. Silkworth says “You may rely absolutely on anything they say about themselves in this book”, and how I had indeed come to do just that. I said that I was grateful that I had fallen in with a home group in early sobriety that relied on the book, on sponsorship and that believed in the program and the solution. I said that all over the book it talked about the hopelessness of our condition but that we need only read a few more lines and we could always find hope and demonstrations of faith. I cannot imagine having gone to my first meeting and hearing of nothing but resentments. Wait, I think I did. I was 15. I left thinking alcoholics were a bunch of old coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking complainers. Something on that night in September of 2001 helped me set aside everything I think I knew for an open mind and a new experience. It was desperation.

As for not very friendly groups, what is my home group now was not very friendly when I first attended there in 2006. I see now that this was in my perception. I suffer from a disease of the perception. The book tells me: “He will show you how to create the fellowship that you crave.” I just had to ask, and take action. I did, and that’s what happened. It was all in my perception. I had to set aside everything I think I knew about the meetings and the fellowship. It was tough. It took me two and a half years. At first I had to drink about it. It was so painful. I don’t want that again. The experience will help me to avoid that again.

Just Listen Bob D. (Beyond the End of the Road)

This post is from another site, Beyond the End of the Road.  Bob D. blogs with bitter honesty and eloquence about his life, recovery and family.  I was particularly taken with this entry from October 15:

I went to my “Homegroup” last night. It had been a few weeks since being there the last time. The last time I was there I felt on the outside. I had been a trusted servant there for over 3 years. It was time to bring in new servants, it would have been done sooner but there was a lack of willingness on others that prevented this. I wasn’t happy with the way the meeting was being chaired, and was less than thrilled about some of the personalities. I walked away that night with a bad taste in my mouth.

I went last night and felt the same way. I felt like i was on the outside, even though, I was asked my experience on a matter and had a humbling moment of seeing a guy from the detox facility I spoke at through H&I on Sunday. He called me out by name at the start of the meeting as having heard me spoke and was glad I carried a message of hope to him…….

Suddenly my ego began to inflate. I would say some cool shit tonight for sure. I felt connected and had goose bumps. I would impart my Spiritual Sword and Shield of Wisdom onto these fucks and let them have it. I would tell them how I am doing everything right in my recovery and how they are falling short. The sharing began around the room to the far side…..If these newcomers would just pass….I could have more time to lay the smackdown on the chairperson, the secretary, and anyone else…..

The meeting gets to the guy chairing….he shares and looks at his phone and says it’s time to close the meeting….1 person away from my chair…..

WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don’t they understand I am important……I have important things to say……..

I spoke to the guy that was in detox after the meeting and pointed out some other meetings in his area off the schedule and made my way out to the car.
That sense of being on the outside again swept over me…This isn’t my homegroup anymore I muttered….Even another member asked me if it was and I lied and told him…No….Not Anymore. I gave him the name of another group instead. I stood there and lied.

Sitting in the car I began to talk to myself….I know….But in talking out loud my selfishness and ego were revealed to me in something that flashed across my mind like lightning streaks across a Oklahoma sky……

God doesn’t want to hear your cool shit today Bob….
In fact he would rather have you listen.
You haven’t been doing much of that when you come here.
You expect people to treat you like your some kind of marvel.
Why don’t you follow your own suggestions you give to your guys and let other people be themselves?
Afterall….As long as someone is not using just for today….It can’t be all that bad can it?
You have enough of your own defects to turn over.
Stop worrying about this and that and concentrate on what is important…..
You Listening.

Take Care……

I replied to his post:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the exact feeling you had that night. I know that it’s a result of my self will not being in its proper place, but that doesn’t humble me enough to hold back the malevolence. Surely they wanted perfection, as I did, right? Couldn’t they see what a spiritual and intellectual giant I was? I’ve heard it said that the steps are terms of surrender, each a tool into itself in the way of smashing my ego. Along the way I have to not only surrender my notion of power over my disease and the manageability of my life, but I must also surrender my knowledge of right and wrong. This has been one of the biggest challenges in my recovery. I have for so long been the chief critic of God’s universe, particularly when I refused to listen to the Music of the Spheres.

Fortunately for me, I have a solution. Contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition, I have a daily reprieve. But my ego rebuilds itself ever so quickly. Surrender is a constant practice for me, something I need to be even more diligent about than personal inventory or carrying the message. The fear that has been the guiding force of the bulk of my life makes this necessary. Fear, I have heard it said, is a dark room where negatives are developed. I must let God shine a light into that dark room, and I invite him to do that when I surrender my knowledge of right and wrong, when I admit complete defeat and when I ask him for his will to be done, not mine.

Thanks for the reminder that, in a meeting, I need to ask not so much what I can get but what I can give. Your honesty gives me hope that I can stop lying someday.

The Rumor Mill

Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house.  p.98 Alcoholics Anonymous

I post this here to burn this into my mind.  Regardless of anyone. Trust in God.  Clean house. I can get well regardless, even, of myself.  I can recover regardless, even, of a shit storm swirling around me, whether I created it or not.  The above line is from Chapter 7, Working With Others; our 12th Step, but it applies from the moment we give ourselves to this simple program.  We must first admit complete defeat, as stated in our 12 and 12.  If I haven’t admitted defeat, I am still playing God.

In Dallas, it’s quite possible my home group was host to the soap-opera rumor mill that exists in so many AA clubs and, well, anywhere a group of people gather.  I was never witness to such shenanigans.  I was selfishly seeking the solution with all the desperation of a drowning man, barely even paying mind to my own floundering marriage and peripheral relationships.  I had a few female friendships in the program, I went to meals with fellow alcoholics and frequently stayed after meetings for fellowship.  I was never approached by men and heard very little gossip about my fellow AA’s.  I was protected.  I heard about other clubs where “13th stepping” was the norm and felt gratitude that my home group was not one of them.  Clean Air was, as I have mentioned before, comprised of older folks with, for the most part, long-term sobriety.  The average member was there for recovery, not socializing or scoping out a date for Friday night.

When I came to Gillette my experience changed.  This is a very transient town.  The median age here is early 30’s and I would say the median recovery age is 2 years.  The rumor mill turns at breakneck speed and “13th steppers” prowl with intensity.  That’s not to say there isn’t good recovery, there is, but it isn’t the norm–not in my experience.  I had to look for the solution, I had to create the fellowship that I craved.

I am no angel.  I have missed the mark.  I have written here that I relapsed just before coming back to Wyoming, and about a year after that I fell again in another area of my life.  It involved a man in AA.  As a result a rumor was started which, as a result of my actions is not completely unfounded but it is untrue.  My transgression with this man was brief and ended long ago but that false rumor is still alive in the rooms.  I have grown in the program and in my relationship with God but in the eyes of some of my fellows I am that lie.  I am that false rumor.  To them, I will not recover, regardless of how completely I trust God or how thoroughly I clean my house.  I will wear the red A on my lapel every time I appear before them or each time they hear my name mentioned.  Because of my actions, and because of a rumor.  Because someone, at some moment, did not practice restraint of tongue to withhold a lie.

I can say it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me, only what God thinks of me, but I would be the one who was lying.  I have always cared entirely too much what others think of me, especially fellow AA’s.  Perhaps one day God will remove this defect of character, but he hasn’t seen fit to do so yet.  Perhaps he is waiting to do so until I can conduct myself like a lady without fear of what others think of me.    Perhaps there will never be a full answer to some of these questions.

g*d

I wrote this as a reply to a post in Daily Reprieve.  I am reposting it here for a friend.

When I came into the program I had been a long-time Buddhist practitioner. I was struck by the similarities between the 12 Steps and the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path:squeakybuddha

The Four Noble Truths:

1. All life contains suffering and unsatisfactoriness
2. Suffering is caused by craving (for base objects, goals, desires)
3. This Craving can be eliminated
4. The key to the elimination of craving is “The Noble Eightfold Path”.

The Eightfold Path:

Right View
Right Intention
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration

The Eightfold path is further broken down into Wisdom or Prajna (Right View, Right Intention,) Ethical Conduct or Sila (Right Speech, Action and Livelihood,) and Mental Discipline, Concentration and Meditation or Samadhi (Right Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration.)

The cultivation of the path leads to Right Knowledge and Right Liberation.

My mind was spinning when I entered the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I was confused. Why had Buddhism not cured my Alcoholism? All the elements were there. Now I understand:

But the ex-problem drinker who has found this solution, who is properly
armed with facts about himself, can generally win the entire confidence of
another alcoholic in a few hours. Until such an understanding is reached,
little or nothing can be accomplished.

Buddhism is an atheistic “religion”. I don’t believe, either, that this was my problem. The 12 Steps need not be theistic! This power need only be other than self. Right view, intention, speech, action, etc.; that’s powerful stuff. When these actions are working in my life, I feel power working, particularly when I am practicing the miracle of mindfulness.

I do have a higher power today, and I choose to call that power God. This, for me, is shorthand for everything the Eightfold Path encompasses. I no longer share about my Buddhist beliefs in meetings. Nor do I share about my Jewish faith. My beliefs today are a melting pot; I have come to find that all roads lead to Mecca. Our book tells us to be quick to see where religious people are right. For so long I was quick to tell you where they were wrong. Who was I to say? Today, of myself, I am nothing.

I was the chief critic…

Finally, we begin to see that all people, including ourselves, are to some extent emotionally ill as well as frequently wrong, and then we approach true tolerance and see what real love for our fellows actually means. It will become more and more evident as we go forward that it is pointless to become angry, or to get hurt by people who, like us, are suffering from the pains of growing up.  p.92, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions

Yesterday evening’s meeting is still resonating for me.  M chaired and I was instantly annoyed that she didn’t have a topic prepared from our literature.  What she did suggest for a topic turned out to be spot on for me and made for an excellent meeting.  “I judge people,” she said.  She shared about a man she works with.  This man is in a happy mood every day and makes no secret of the fact, going so far as to do what he calls a “happy dance” every morning.  M told the group that this annoys her to no end, and that she is easily bothered in many situations, not the least of which being our fellowship.  She talked about judging others and how she can’t seem to stop this behavior.  I  have known M since she was 9 or 10 years old and have always admired her honesty and non-conformist pluck.  I have also judged her.  Last night the last shred of prejudice I felt for her fell away from my eyes.  My love for her as a member of our fellowship replaced any vestigial memories I held of the old M I had known.  The knowledge that only her Higher Power can be the judge of her conduct was brought to the forefront of my consciousness.  I had not forgotten this fact, but it had become shrouded in judgment.

When I was called upon to share I read the passage from above, from Step 10 of our 12 and 12.  I talked about fear, for me, being the basis of judgment.  I fear that you won’t like me, so I judge you.  I fear that you are better than me, so I judge you.  Judgment is one of my defenses of character.  It is a survival instinct.  I am now learning to replace fear with faith.  I must have faith that God loves me as if there were only me, that there is no one of us better than the other, that the only defenses I need are love and tolerance.  What a tall order.  Thanks to M, I now have a little more faith that I can go through with it.