Normally Do Not Mix

I was thinking today of my friends (especially Suzanne, it’s her birthday) in the world and how incredibly varied they all are. Not all of my friends are in 12 step programs but I think being in a 12 step program has made it easier for me to become friends with a wide array of people. Going to a meeting you will likely run into a gamut of characters – bikers, politicians, house wives, students and divas to name a few. We all manage to get along as we have a common solution, a common peril that unites us. We stand together or we fall alone – it’s been proven to be true – this 80-year-old program changed more than just the lives of Alcoholics, it’s changed the world. (the book made the Library of Congress’s top 100 books that changed America LINK)

12 step programs not only make members better… they somehow transform those around them into people members can tolerate. :-) I kid, I kid… If you work the 12 steps the result is intended to be “an entire psychic change”, some say a “spiritual awakening”. That entire psychic change is a pretty marvelous thing in my experience – it made me a different person, some argue that drugs and alcohol hid the real person, but I’m not sure. What it did do was fill my life with some really wonderful people who I don’t just tolerate… i need them, they fill holes in my brain and turn calamity to calm.

“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. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, Chapter 2, There is a Solution, p 17

If you end up attending the same meeting with people every week, you get to know more about them – their families, politics and cars. You might even become friends with one or two that watch the wrong news network… Even with all that you know they’ll be there the next week helping to make coffee or shaking hands with the newcomers.

So in the real world – at the office for example – you’ll find the same things. This person over here thinks in ways opposite to me, or that person there cheers for the wrong football team… but the next day, there they are at the office answering the phone and helping the customers…. kind of like a meeting, only we get paid here, lol.

in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions on page 93 (Step 10) it says this:

“Finally, we begin to see that all people, including ourselves are to some extent emotional 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.”

That’s pretty powerful stuff (I have this taped up in my cubical at work – right above the phone and where people stop by to talk to me, so I can glance at it and remember they too might be suffering), that all of us humans are continuing to grow up and getting angry or hurt by it isn’t what we are here to do.

I have a lot of growing to do – every day is a day when I struggle to tolerate or endure some moronic nonsense that any damn fool knows is bullshit… so I just take a deep breath, smile and hope they have a better day later.

(I had a goal in mind when I sat down to write this post – it evolved into something else, but I think I like it as it is)

The Language of Driving

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been collecting different things I tell other drivers on the road. I figure it might be helpful to share this information with the rest of the world… because knowledge is power. These are just a couple of weeks worth, I assure you I have many more.

“What the Fuck are you doing? why are you going so slow? 45 not 35!!! Look there is another sign, see the big letters in black? that’s the third sign since you got in front of me”

“Get in the turn lane to turn, the turn lane… omg what’s wrong with you? Oh wait, you’re from Minnesota… still stupid as fuck”

“why didn’t you get in this lane to begin with, plan ahead holy crap buddy you were just beside me at the light”

“You’re all a bunch of idiots, what are you doing? It’s a cop on the other side of the freeway – you’ve never seen a cop before, he likes to do the speed limit too – move those vehicles”

“move all the way into the other lane, is this your first day?”

“Why are you slowing down? Whhhyyyyyyyy???!!!!”

“You didn’t think this through, you shouldn’t turn left here – why didn’t you go to the intersection with the light?”

on second thought maybe most of the time I just ask them questions

“Don’t go faster now that I can finally go around you asshole”

“Those newer models don’t have blinkers” (my Pa used to say that)

“its a short light, move, move… ugh”

I’ve only been driving regularly since I moved to Phoenix… I used to be much more concerned about my own safety.

My sponsor suggested when I get really mad at other drivers that I should call my own voicemail and say on there what I want to say to the idiots… when I reach for my phone I think yelling at that driver isn’t really worth it… but sometimes it still comes out.

I just have to not get all that excited, eventually I’m going to reach my destination  – I’m just on the road with some people that need extra help… I should be nice to the disabled.

Acceptance Is Not Defeat

I’m not a fan of the part of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous  that talks about Acceptance – mostly because people refer to it so much but don’t look further into the program of recovery found a few hundred pages before it. I agree with the principle of acceptance being the answer to all my problems… here’s the part that I’m talking about:

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.” Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Page 417

This has been true in my life – if I just change my outlook on things and accept them as they are – I seem to have a better day. I used this recently with an attitude I had about work, I was pretty frustrated – it took an earth person (a person not found in the rooms of AA) reminding me that it was my attitude that was hurting me to get me to change my attitude. I still have the frustration, but my attitude makes it bearable and I am then more tolerable to people around me. That’s the key-just accepting things and moving with them.

Kind of like when you’re sanding wood or cutting meat – you want to go with the grain – you’ll get less resistance and a better end product.

My boss, nice guy, sent me an article to read from GQ on Stephen Colbert – he said he’d know I’d read it if he saw a blog post on it… so here I am, lol. It was a really great story, the writer manages to paint the picture of Colbert in my mind that seems familiar and yet different. I think this Colbert will be a joy to get to know.

A terrible thing happened when he was very young, his father and two brothers died.  Many people who have that type of tragedy happen seem bitter or sad – but he just seems to be full of joy. People ask how he can have this much laughter and joy in his life with that big thing hanging over him – he credits his mother who was broken by the incident, but not bitter – she managed to love her son throughout the grieving process and teach him joy.

He is actively involved in all parts of everything that’s going on and he wants to be. He talks about intention – “the end product is jokes, but you could easily say the end product is intention. Having intentionality at all times… the process of process is process.” I liked that quite a bit.

He also shares a lesson about “learning to love the bomb” it’s here:

“I went, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I have to do it,’ ” he said. “I have to get up onstage and perform extemporaneously with other people.” He was part of the same Second City class that included Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello and Chris Farley. “Our first night professionally onstage,” he said, the longtime Second City director Jeff Michalski told them that the most important lesson he could pass on to them was this: “You have to learn to love the bomb.”

“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn’t ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get it next time.’ It wasn’t ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you’re failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.” (You’re welcome, Dune nerds.)” GQ The Late Great Stephen Colbert – Joel Lovell, August 17, 2015

It wasn’t that long ago I was struggling to figure out if I was any good at a new job – seemed every day I was being shown one more thing I couldn’t do right. It was so frustrating that I was almost brought to tears a few times. I was close to quitting and had even talked to my sponsor about finding something different. One day I just gave up, my supervisor came over to point out my failings one more time and I just laughed (which pissed her off a little bit), I was finished and i knew I wasn’t going to be able to ever get this down and they’d likely let me go. From that moment – from the laughter forward – I figured it out. The stress vanished, the fear dissipated and I just did the best I could (which is actually pretty good most days).

People often say to me – you’ve survived so much it’s amazing. I think it’s not much – not much in comparison to Colbert, or others who have lost or been hurt. We all have our own journeys to make and will leave with scars that help define who we are. I don’t go through life trying to avoid the brambles – I just keep my destination in mind and keep moving trying to do the right thing. The right thing usually means not treading over those I pass along the way, but stopping to offer them a hand.

Acceptance is the key, laughter and love will help you through it and accepting doesn’t mean giving up.

Choker

This morning on the way to the office I stopped at the grocery to get some healthier alternatives to the chips I tend to snack on there. I grabbed some grapes, bananas, carrots and two apples – It wasn’t all for me I was sharing with folks. I rinsed off the grapes and set them and the bananas on the kitchen counter and alerted the work folks that they were free for the taking and then I went to my desk with a snack pack size of carrots, the two apples and my bottle of water.

Everything was going fine, I was attaching emails, answering the phone, fixing erring printers…

Continue reading

7th Tradition Story

This story was originally published in the July 2015 issue of the newsletter put out by the Salt River Intergroup called “The Filing Cabinet”.


I found sobriety the old fashioned way – people thought I was a danger to myself and others – so they had me committed. Many people don’t wait as long as I did, they reach out for help before falling to the depths I fell. Fortunately for them the hand of AA is there – always.

At my first meetings I was rather ashamed I didn’t have anything to contribute to the basket as it went around – I was struggling to get a hold on life and money matters truly troubled me. I remember feeling rather proud when I got that job and then prouder when I was able to put a dollar in the basket two weeks in a row – that was real progress for me. My sponsor, and other home group members, placed two dollars in the basket each week… I wasn’t that well yet, but I was trying to get there.

At our groups business meeting I found out where that money went – rent, coffee, cookies and literature just for our group. Then we doled out money to the district, the area, G.S.O. all the way in New York – if we had had an intergroup we would have given to them as well. Looking at that one dollar each meeting, it didn’t seem to be very much to go all that way. Continue reading

neither endorses nor opposes any causes…

Telling you that I was in attendance at this weekends SRI Roundup because its mandatory as a member of the SRI steering committee would be a lie… I love AA, round-ups, conventions, assemblies and the like… they started me early on service work and it helps me to continue to grow. Round Ups and special conventions like this one are akin to getting injected with great recovery in an intense weekend. We had over 400 people pre-register and more registered on site today and will tomorrow as well. It’s a bit of a big deal (they say there are no big deals in Alcoholics Anonymous… I say hogwash… Fellowship-Recovery-Service all rolled into one… that’s a big deal).

When I hobbled in today (I crashed my bicycle this morning.. long story for another time) I saw my friend and fellow steering committee member Doug outside and he directed me to the registration table – someone was showing him a pamphlet, I didn’t stop to see what it was I just noticed it. When I passed the table again I saw the word “FAITH” and I wasn’t really sure what they were selling or why they were right at the front door. Two gentlemen were sitting at the table without registration badges, talking loudly about what they had there

But it didn’t belong. Continue reading

Going to the Wrong Meeting

Many people say there’s no such thing as a wrong meeting… but I disagree.

Once in San Antonio (SA) I looked for a meeting online and found a meeting near by marked as SAA – which I took to mean San Antonio AA. But when I walked into the room everyone kind of stared at me (more than normally), but it’s ok… sometimes I stare at people I don’t recognize at meetings also. So I sat with my coffee and got ready to attend the meeting – I was late apparently as they were in the middle of sharing already. UGH, I hate being late to a meeting.

A guy leaned over and said “Are you here for SAA?” and I nodded yes, “I’m an alcoholic, glad I found this place”. He smirked a little and said in a whisper “No, this is Sexual Addicts Anonymous”

“Oh” I said and probably turned beet red (which isn’t really a red at all it’s like a dark purple isn’t it?)  and stood up calmly and walked out – at least I hope it was calmly, I probably ran for the hills. Not that there is anything wrong with being a sexual addict… or I guess maybe there is if they’re having meetings…

Anyway… tonight I went to the wrong meeting again… but a different kind. Tony saw me last night at a meeting and asked me to share at 5:30 and I said yes… and he probably told me where but I didn’t pay attention… I assume the 5:30 meeting is at PoP so that’s were I was… early even. PoP is close to home and work.

At 5:25 I still didn’t see Tony so I texted him “PoP?” and didn’t hear back right away… but I asked Scotty “Does Tony come here on Wednesday nights?” nope, he goes to VAC… ugh, I’m at the wrong meeting. VAC is near Tempe, which isn’t far, but far enough that I was going to be late.

So I hopped into my car and started speeding across town. Tony called me after I texted “On my way!” (that just auto corrected from O M W to On My Way!, just like it did on my iPhone… I love tech) and he called and said he’d get someone there already. I apologized I need to learn to pay attention. Tony said it wasn’t a big deal and put me on the calendar for 2 weeks from today. That I can do.

Anyway, I rushed out of work at 5 and I’ll have to do it again in 2 weeks… probably good for me to leave on time anyway :-)

Age Tames the Monster

I think I’ve gotten over being so critical of AA meetings that are being run wrong or AA’s that are stupid… well maybe i’m not completely over that last part. It’s either I’ve given up on a clear message being delivered in meetings or I’m just tired or maybe errors happen and I just don’t notice anymore because it happens so frequently.

Tonight for example I was sitting next to a guy at a meeting who was taking a photo of someone at the podium… and I didn’t even notice. There was a time I would have berated the fool loudly during the speakers share… but I didn’t notice, I wasn’t looking around the room for what was wrong (I do that see this post  ). I was rather shocked at myself and then spend most of the rest of the meeting wondering what had happened to me (ok, maybe just a few minutes but it seemed a lifetime).

When I was new I’d leave meetings that would read non-conference approved material. Or spout traditions as to why this and therefore. I was a strict task master when it came to everything being by the book in AA. I was intolerant of anyone who did it anyway but mine – and I was right, of course.

I don’t think I care less, I still have a deep love and respect for AA as I understand it, but I realize (maybe) that other people might have their own path that is going to lead them in the same direction – that’s hard for me. I so want to be right… most of all… but also want to think of the world in black and whites most of the time – middle grounds don’t work well for me.

I’ll use this over used example on my blog – I want to shake your hand if you come to a meeting. Some people will hug me and not shake my hand and I won’t hug back… I’ve told them if they read all the literature AA has to offer they’ll see the handshake is mandatory and the hug is excessive (this is how I encourage newcomers to read the stuff… ), to be fair I only said this in jest to a few folks that hug first and then walk away leaving my hand empty, and hurt just hanging there. Sigh.

Tonight someone at the meeting summed up the Beatles Let It Be as “fuck it” or that’s what I heard and I rather liked that, and I love and respect the Beatles.

What matters to me today is if I do what I’ve always done, one day at a time. If I continue to show up early, shake hands, help set up, read the Big Book and the traditions over and over again and make sure AA is there for the next guy… I guess I can do that without being all rigid, but I don’t have to like it. :-)

Blotting Out the Past Doesn’t Make it a Better World

They’re taking the Dukes of Hazard off of TV Land; there is talk of digitally editing the episodes so the confederate flag isn’t displayed. This is going to be as effective as a means of stopping racism as digitally editing out the smoking scenes from old Tom and Jerry cartoons was to combat smoking (this was big idea back in 2006). I’m not so sensitive that I think we should erase the word faggot from songs by Dire Straights or Guns and Roses and when I listen to them today I’m not hurt or shamed by them, it was a different time and a different place. There was a time, during the crusades, when you believed in the Christian God or you were slaughtered – but I don’t think taking down the crucifixes all over the world is going to undo the war, hate and bigotry caused by the church still today.

I was re-reading a favorite book the other day and came across one of my favorite characters talking about being too good

“It breeds intolerance, rigidity, a belief that because I am right, those who don’t believe as I do are wrong.” Fizban Dragonlance – Dragons of Spring Dawning

What’s that old nursery rhyme we used to chant – Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me… nor will symbols of ancient prejudices, cartoons smoking or cars built for transporting moonshine in the south.

Are American’s so easily offended today that we cannot look at history and still grow past the error of our ways? Are we so stuck on the image of a perfect society we’re unable to see the ugliness that creates the character and uniqueness that is us? I don’t know.

Taking that flag down isn’t going to magically change the landscape of black America, it’s an empty gesture that only serves to blot out the past. If we erase the history of our nation how are we going to learn from it and not be doomed to repeat the mistakes we made then? If we refuse to use the past mistakes as ways to grow and be better then I’m not sure it matters at all.

Maybe it’s that I’m living in a red state now and possibly influenced more and more by Fox News that is playing at every establishment I frequent… but I thought were were above all that petty nonsense. Does a flag represent hatred, death and intolerance from years past? sure, so does the Star of David if we think of how it was used during the Holocaust, so does the cross if we think about it used in the Crusades or the people who hung that imaginary guy Christians claim to believe in.

My liberal friends seem to grow more and more intolerant of everything. Nothing is safe, nothing is secure from their judgement – any day now Superman will be associated with Hitler youth and the call will ring from the rooftops to stop publishing him.. or erasing any images of him being a bully. That isn’t a place I want to see, but it’s where I fear we are headed.

Happy Birthday “Book Of Jamez” – 10 Years

Ten years ago today I started blogging. I started this site out on Blogger and moved it to WordPress when I changed my name as there were issues with changing my email address and linking it to the site. I average about 5 posts a month – sometimes I post up to 15 stories a month, sometimes only 2 – depending on what I’m willing to put out there.

One of the first stories I blogged was …and it sold comics where I talked about death and dying in comic books and how Supergirl’s death back in the 80s was a significant moment for me. But I went on to talk about the seeming resurrection of all heroes and how it’s just used for sales purposes instead of a good story that touches the heart. I recently cancelled my comic subscription box at the store as both DC and Marvel apparently used up all their ideas and are retelling stories and undoing some of those changes that kept me reading about characters. If they get done with Secret Wars and Convergence in the near future and stories aren’t too complicated to figure out again I’ll start reading them again, but it’s just a mess.

I also wrote about a trip to visit my good friend Julie in Cleveland OH in the story Fish Pride. She had left DC and moved and I missed her (still do, she’s pretty great). I should go visit again – that was ten years ago and her kids are almost all grown up now. Julie actually lived in Phoenix once upon a time and really liked it here.

It was the year I quit smoking too – I was often complaining about the smell of smokers after that – still today it’s just nasty to be in an elevator or to kiss one (I no longer date/fuck/make out with smokers no matter what). I was bitching about one of those things that I used to love to do… and I had only been smoke free 6 months when I wrote Ex Smokers Soap Box.

I went back to college in 2005 and wrote a lot about classes and shared stories I wrote for school. Many months there were 15 – 18 posts a month. Some great things that I wrote that I still love are Foster Home, Race for the Cure, Creepy Guy on the Bike, and My Knuckles are White – I think I’m a little calmer driving now after two years of living in Phoenix.

I write a lot of stories because I like writing – I love getting the thoughts that are running through my head down on virtual paper and sometimes other people like what I have to write – sometimes they don’t. Whether it’s liked or not I have to get it out of my head – once it’s been put down here I can move on to something else. I don’t publish everything here, somethings are inappropriate and some items I’m working on long term hoping that they become something eventually.

To all my readers new and old thanks for taking a look – I’m going to keep on doing this thing until my fingers don’t work anymore.