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.

 

 

 

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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.

A Desire to Stop Hiding

Last night there were five of us at the 8:00 meeting.  I chair this meeting every Sunday night.  The last few weeks there have been only a handful of us at the meeting.  Last night it was just three of us to begin10AA22 with: M, T and myself.  The three of us ladies all share a drug-using background as well as a past with alcohol.  Tradition three states:  The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.  Sunday night is a closed discussion meeting. Closed meetings are limited to alcoholics only.  S showed up after the meeting began.  He is a recovering IV drug user.  Meth, I assume.  Heroin is not a big drug in these parts of the country.  L came in after we had begun reading “A Ward of the Probate Court” from Experience, Strength and Hope, a volume of the stories from the first three editions of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Though the Sunday night meeting is a closed discussion meeting, I held a group conscience and asked if anyone would mind if we read this story, thinking that we might not have much of a discussion with only 4 people present.  The discussion after we read the story, which began with S, turned to “other issues”–program speak for drugs.  He spoke of needles and spoons.  I did not shut him down.  S shares rarely in meetings and I was not about to stop him tonight.  He stopped himself at one point and wondered allowed if he were saying the “right” things.  I told him that he was speaking our language, that no one in the small group that was there that night was going to ask him to leave for speaking about issues other than alcohol in a closed meeting.  I wanted to hear what he had to say.  T shared about the first time she was arrested.  It was for having a meth lab in her back yard.  M shared about losing her home and children–twice–to alcohol and drugs.  L shared about becoming a cocaine dealer so that he could use as much as he liked.  I shared a little bit about drugs, even though alcohol was my drug of choice.  Although we all talked about addiction in the form of chemicals, we each touched on the solution.  Here is what the author of the story shares about our new way of living:

I have a new outlook on life. I look forward to each day with happiness because the real enjoyment it is to me to be sane, sober, and respectable. I was existing really from one drink until the next, with no perception about circumstances, conditions, or even nature’s elements. My acquaintance with God-lost and forgotten when I was a young man-is renewed. God is all-loving and all-forgiving. The memories of my past are being dimmed by the life I now aspire to.

I was like this man, existing from one drink to the next.  I shared in the meeting that whether it was drugs or alcohol, nothing filled that hole like the solution that I found in Alcoholics Anonymous.  There was a plateau with those substances, but in recovery there is no plateau.  I can go as high as I seek to go.  The way this man has worded the last sentence has particular meaning, to me:  “The life I now aspire to”.  I don’t always live this way of life the way it is laid out for me.  I aspire to live this way.  What I have is a daily reprieve, contingent on the maintenance of my spiritual condition.  I miss the mark, often.  I will take steps forward and then take steps back.  But I will continue to advance.

The Part You Throw Away

I want that beggar’s eyes
a winning horse
a tidy Mexican divorce
St. Mary’s prayers
Houdini’s Hands
And a Barman who always
Understands
Will you lose the flowers
Hold on to the vase
Will you wipe all those teardrops
Away from your face
I can’t help thinking
As I close the door
I have done all of this
Many times before
From Tom Waits’ “The Part You Throw Away”
From Blood Money (2006)

God doesn’t make junk.  Such a trite cliche, heard so repeatedly in the years I’ve spent in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous you think I would believe it by now.  I do, about everyone but myself.  I don’t think you are worthless.  I tell my sponsees, other women in the fellowship and anyone suffering from the pains of growing up that He loves every one of us like there is only one of us.  This I truly believe, with all of my heart–about you.  Me:  I am the chaff.  The excess.  The part you throw away.  The military threw me away because I have a diseased mind.  I gave away my gifts to anyone who would have them, only to find them in the waste bin when I walked back into the empty room.  One thing I will say about my sister, she never even accepted my gifts.  The act of throwing them away never had to take place.  They were pre-disposed.  I guess I never built up enough credit in that relationship to schedule the gift-giving ceremony.

I know that God accepts my gifts, but sometimes my fear is disproportionately larger than my faith.  I get a sneaking suspicion at times that He disposed of me because I turned my face away from His light.  Today I told my dear friend in Dallas, someone vital to my early sobriety that I wondered why He didn’t shake me up sooner in life, why He let me wander, so lost for so long.  I know a young man who has a beautiful relationship with his Higher Power, one that gives him great joy.  He writes music to Christ and finds great comfort in His words.  He is 22 years old.  When I have conversations with him I cannot believe that the words are coming from the mouth of someone just shy of half my age.  Granted, he has been through acute spiritual, emotional and psychological pain in his young life which have made growth vital to his existence, but I am still in awe of this person.  He is my spiritual superior.  He has strength of character beyond anything I have ever come close to attaining.  His belief and conviction thereof make me reevaluate my own.  He is 22.  There is a spiritual high ground, a moral high ground;  I have realized through my friendship with this young man that I am on an age-based high ground.  Hello, square one.

I digress.  Back to the business of self pity, which is really just a form of self-centeredness.  Reading Tom’s eloquent words:  I want the world handed to me.  I will ignore the beauty of life and miss the forest for the trees.  I will hide my true self at any cost so as not to get hurt.  I will repeat those mistakes over and over again.

Ripe Summer Wheat