Neglect

I was at a meeting a few months back and a guy shared about how he tended to lose girlfriends when he wouldn’t pay attention to them, didn’t show up, only showed up when he needed something or neglected them. They’d likely not be very happy with him and he’d have to work hard to keep the relationship or lose them. He then related that to his higher power – that’s how he sometimes treated his higher power, just there for his own purposes when he wasn’t busy or if he was in a jam. He asked us,  was that a way to continue to have a healthy relationship with that higher power that you need to stay sober.

I honestly thought it was a pretty decent analogy – but all through his share I was applying it to the home group (not the higher power). I think a home group is the same way – if we treat it with respect, attend regularly and love it (I use Chuck C’s definition of love “service – giving of your self completely expecting nothing in return”) it’s going to continue to grow and prosper. If we fail to attend regularly or only show up for the spot check sobriety stop when we’re particularly resentful it’s going to lose its specialness.

If I don’t water the plants each week at the office they’ll die, maybe not today or tomorrow but that lack of sustenance is what it relies on. We have to treat the things we need in life – in life – the same way. Is this thing – this job, this meeting, this person – something I want to continue? Is it something that I would like to stay around not just for the benefit of me, but for the benefit of others? If so, what am I wiling to do to help that continue – to help it grow, change and bear fruit?

Sometimes I get all full of self-righteousness and don’t want to do all the work that’s required for these things. I’d like to sit back and let other people shake hands, clean up, set up the meeting – I’m pretty grumpy when that kind of thought process is going on, but I do still get that way. I can be silent, frown a lot and rub my “no questions” tattoo… but it’s really me that’s screwed up. I’m letting imaginary feelings and misinterpreted words screw with my serenity.  I can fix it, sometimes I fix it in a snarky way… but usually i fix it by giving of myself, expecting nothing in return. That whole being selfless thing is what helps make me a good person again – when I’m full of self I’m not really me at all… (don’t make me angry… you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry)

Tonight a bunch of old friends and I were texting and something we loved is changing or dying. There was some finger-pointing and some blame placing… It saddens me.  I’m well removed from the area now, so it’s probably easy for me to sit back and not be emotionally invested, I haven’t been a part of this thing since I moved really. This thing we created though… it changed me (and I fought it tooth and nail), it gave me new friends (and I don’t like people), it gave me new experiences…. I’m pretty happy that happened. I wish I could save it but I don’t live there anymore and as much as I wish it otherwise – I’m not a superhero.

My friends who are there – thank you for being my friends, I’m so glad we created this thing and grew with it. If you save it or let it go – maybe it’s not a choice for us…. either way, it was an experience.

An Origin of Fear

When I was a lad growing up in Wisconsin I heard about the dentist – I don’t recall if I heard about it from my big sister or from the kids at school. They made it sound like the most unimaginable horror (they said it was a scary place with a mean man) one could encounter. A part of my wondered why we had to go to these places at all, it hardly seemed fair, what did we do to deserve such a thing?

What really stuck out in my mind was “The worst part is the needle they stick you with”.  My developing mind took that into consideration and I decided I’d avoid the worst part by just refusing to let them stick me with the needle. My logic was flawless – to avoid the worst part just refuse it. No one explained to me at that time that they were injecting a numbing agent into me so I wouldn’t feel the pain – and no one was going to convince me of that now, I know they’re just mean.

So there I was at the dentist refusing the needle that would hurt me. The dentist was flabbergasted – I just wouldn’t let him near me with it. He tried to reason with me but I wouldn’t have any of it, I knew it was a ploy. The dentist, in all his adult wisdom thought I’d change my mind as soon as the drilling started, seems logical right?

But I was living in fear, sure this hurt but the fear of the pain of the needle the “worst part” had me hang in there. I was in agony, no tears though…. this was a victory. When the dentist finished he told my mother I sat through things he’d seen grown man cry about with Novocaine – she didn’t understand why either and as a child it was hard to explain my logic to adults (they never seemed to understand).

Every visit to the dentist was the same – I’d refuse their needle and I’d get mad at them when they’d even put that peppermint cottontail in my mouth – I knew what that meant. Eventually the dentist got to know me and just didn’t even try. No screaming, no crying… just hold on tight to those arm rests and be ready to rip them out if need be. Isn’t it amazing what a kids brain can do?

When I was an adult, after years of going through that kind of pain regularly, I decided it wasn’t worth it at all. Alcohol was more important than the dentist at that point anyway, who cares what my teeth look like? That was until one wisdom tooth rotted and had to be pulled out – I still refused the Novocaine and the dentist thought I was nuts (new dentist) and I likely was.. but I made it through that too. (that guy pulled out that tooth with a pliers, I swear he did)

All this led to when I was living in DC and broke a tooth – I was pretty frightened at this point of the dentist and I’d talk about it at meetings and my body temperature would rise when I’d start to even think about going. A member of the program suggested a good dentist and I took a chance… this dentist was very calm, kind and convinced me to try the Novocaine… but not before I had several anxiety attacks could I be convinced. (it helped that he was pretty to look at too).

I’ve gotten better at this dentist thing. I have to constantly remind myself to lower my shoulders (they’re up to my ears), breathe and concentrate on something, anything else. I can sometimes meditate at the dentist, just calmly take myself out of the situation and truly relax… it’s crazy.

This Thursday morning I’m heading back to the dentist, I need two crowns (old fillings are cracking and breaking my teeth). So I’ll go and remember all my tricks and let them give me anything they want for the pain… and I honestly think I’ll likely be at work after it’s done.

I’m not living in that fear anymore – I’m free of it. (although the co-worker who had a root canal and developed an infection last week kind of freaks me out…but I can get through that too…

Curiosity

“I love you” he said

“Why do you say that?” James asked

Smiling down at the child he states “I say it because you fill my heart with joy”

“How do you know your heart is filled, is there a meter somewhere?” the boy asks, looking at the man with curiosity and half expecting a gauge to pop out of an arm

“You just know” said the man “it’s a feeling I get when I see you, when I spend time with you”

“If you didn’t spend time with me this love would go away?” James asked

“No, no” chuckled the man “I’ll always love you”

Love, James decided, was a complicated thing

Another thing he struggled with understanding – love, fear, sadness, hate. People would often say they “missed him” but their explanations and definitions of missing weren’t logical at all – how can just the absence of his presence affect anything at all – that’s not how the universe works. For things to be affected something has to be there and he was nowhere near those people who “missed him”.

Humans, James decided, were a complicated thing. Continue reading

Hiding in Plain Sight

*I don’t speak for AA*

I attended a Grapevine writing workshop in Tucson two weekends ago – the area GVR told me about it and I figured it was the least I could do as the GVR for the home group. They wanted people there who had been published in the Grapevine to share their experience with that entire process. I met five other published authors there and we all brought copies of our stories to share with the workshop. There were funny stories, tragic stories and ones that taught valuable lessons about growth. The panelists were asked to share one of their stories with the group and how that all worked – all of us did so and were met with approval until the last person shared….

Instead of reading her story and sharing on it she opted to step on a soapbox regarding anonymity. She let us know her feelings on the dangers of being too open on Facebook, too open in general and her fears about the future of AA. Sadly – most of the questions from the workshop then went to that topic instead of writing and sharing experience, strength and hope.

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Dayton, OH. AA Members – 1942 Members donned masks to protect their anonymity

Continue reading

Grass in the Calipers

My car was making some noises – the brakes were squeaking and there was a “ker plunk, lunk lunk” when I’d hit bumps sounding like it came from behind the driver panel – so I took it to the shop. It’s nice that it’s still under warranty or whatever so they take care of it, when I bring it in they even wash the exterior for me. It was cold out yesterday morning (60 something) so I had the top down, heated seats and heat blasting. The dealership then puts me in a shuttle and got me to work (cute little bear cub driver too).

Around 11 they called to let me know my car was good to go – seems there was a clip not attached in the back panel on the drivers side which was causing the nosies when I hit bumps – how it got unclipped I don’t know.

The service guy said “your brakes were squealing cause you had grass in your calipers”.

“Oh” i said (I have no idea was calipers are – I don’t know much about cars… I can never find the discombobulating thing-a-ma-bobber when I need it)

The service guy wanted to know how grass got there and I couldn’t remember – until just before I fell asleep.

Continue reading

Football, Chickens and Jedi Knights

For weeks we practice – we meet and discuss our game plan, our strategy. We go over in minute detail what our goal is going to be for the upcoming game – how can we keep the ball moving forward and reach the end zone?  Reviewing past games where things didn’t go so well, listening to excuses for why the ball was fumbled and nodding to assurances it won’t happen again. You’re prepared, the coach gave the pep talk, the players are anxious to get started.

You line up on the field – everyone on their toes ready to go. You do the hard count:

32 – 57 – Left – HUT HUT

You watch, seemingly in slow motion as the ball leaves the center and you grip it in your fingers… pull back to  look downfield. Continue reading

I Wake

I wake

There is no weariness in me

No remnants of terror from a nightmare

I simply wake

convinced I’ve slept well into the morn

my eyes open to darkness

the distant digital clock blinks at me that it’s a little after four

I rise and go closer, my eyes play tricks without my glasses

almost midnight when I closed my eyes, I should be weary

no pressure on my bladder, no urge to release

I force myself to go, perhaps that’s why I woke

common enough these days

returning to bed I can sense sleep on the edges

it taunts me, entices me and I long for it

stretching towards it I grasp and wrestle

sleep would be ideal, I don’t have to work tomorrow

dream tinged bubbles of reality flash before my eyes

visions of the day that was and the work week to be

fragments of  books merge with real life worries

I spend minutes that pass like hours contemplating thoughts

frustrated I toss and turn

laying on my back I breathe, slowly in and out

slowly in and out – count 1, 2, 3 exhale and think “out”

focus only on the breathing, stay focused, but

the bubbles return again, demanding to be observed, contemplated

still no weariness and sleeps seems to have slipped past the horizon

I wake and enjoy the silence – better than the struggle to sleep

Pinch Us!!

Pinch Us!!.

 

very happy for my friend Allie

On Top of Grass Mountain

I was bitten by a horse fly or some kind of damn fly… ouch. There, now I’ve complained about everything bad that happened this weekend. I’m so glad I got that off my chest, I was trying to look tough and not complain.

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When I first met my current sponsor he let me know right away that he escapes from the Phoenix heat each summer and goes off to New Mexico – it’s a good thing to know if you’re looking to get spiritual direction from a guy that he’s not going to be local for half the year. He’s a good sponsor, a good example of AA in action and I’ve shared things with him that I’ve not shared with another living being – so he matters a little bit to me (ok, a lot). Even before he left in May he suggested I come out and visit, spend a few days at his cabin and take a break. I thought that might be a good idea, and at his suggestion asked one of his other sponsees (Scott) if he’d be interested in joining me, he said yes and we tried to get a few others to go as well, but only had one taker who had to back out at the last minute due to health issues.

When I first started planning this little excursion I wasn’t sure I could get time off from my new job (only been there since February). But I asked and they were very kind to me and gave me the time off in a very nice way. I really love my job, in case you haven’t heard me talking about it recently.IMG_3662

One of the objectives of the trip was to attend my sponsors Home Away From Home Group meeting on Thursday nights so tickets were purchased to get us into Albuquerque in time to make his meeting with him. Had the flight not been delayed a little bit we would have even made it to dinner before the meeting – but that was not to be. Instead, the Sponz picked us up and had beef brisket, extra moist beef brisket and turkey, corn …. a bunch of food that we ate on the way to the meeting in Pecos about an hour away from the airport.. He thought for sure we’d be late, but we made it just at 7:00. Good little meeting – a newcomer, cheesecake bites, and the topic was ego… I enjoyed it and it just felt good to be in a meeting with the Sponz again. A fellow sponsee was there (wearing a Breaking Bad t-shirt) a local there, so nice to meet him. The meeting space is pretty unique and I hope you all see it someday in the Grapevine. Continue reading

Exercise – Is There a Cure?

I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise recently – no, no don’t worry, I’m not going to start or anything crazy like that…. I was thinking about the characteristics of it that remind me of alcoholism. No really…

Like the first time a person gets drunk, they think it’s a good idea – all their friends are doing it and so they give it a try;  before you know it they’re falling down, puking can’t walk. Going to the gym the first time can be just like that – they’re pressured into it by their friends and society, they start out on the treadmill when they get done their legs are jelly… if they run too much they’ll throw up and get dehydrated, get light-headed and dizzy…. The similarities, just start here – lets look at more examples.

They are entirely normal in every respect except in the effect exercise has upon them. They keep exercising, nothing changes for a while (just like when an alcoholic begins to drink, all seems normal for a time) then they start to lose weight, act differently, they may start to smell. Their friends are too ashamed to say anything at first, their family is concerned – they spend hours and hours away from home at the “gym” where other people understand them and can relate. If they continue on for long periods of time their body will hardly resemble the normal body at all – their exercise life seems the only normal one. Finally the exercise becomes paramount to all other things and the gym becomes like a second home.

Doing the same thing over and over – expecting different results…sounds familiar doesn’t it? Curl that weight once, no… maybe fifteen times until it hurts. The ones who may be too far gone are the ones who say they get a high off of it, that they feel good after exercising… for them there may be no hope at all, we may have to lock them in weight room with their energy bars and sports drinks and watch in horror as they slowly exercise themselves into nothingness.

Sometimes an injury will occur. First a sprain – so they slow down, they take it easy, they can manage this… this won’t stop them, and here’s how. Perhaps a torn rotator cuff would convince them that it’s dangerous and their families beg them to stop… but no, surgery and “physical therapy” so they can do it again – pain is a small price to pay, they have to exercise. We’ve seen it on the news – those athletes whose careers have come crashing down after an injury prevents them from exercising – they sink into that pit of a recliner life, doomed to watch others workout, living vicariously through their efforts…. they cannot at this point differentiate the true from the false.

It’s an addiction now – they can’t stop. Sometimes going two or three times a day to the gym, maybe a personal trainer (a.k.a. pusher) to encourage them to branch out and try new things.. the treadmill was a gateway drug, leading to more and more dangerous things that will slowly waste them away into nothingness.  They have to keep going to feel “normal” but it’s never enough – one weight, 5 laps, 20 presses… it’ll never be enough for them – they have an insatiable craving for sweat, pain, hard bodies… sick bastards.

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weights

Is there hope? A cure? I’m not sure if even a spiritual awakening would be enough to help them – most are to far gone after their second visit to the gym. I have to believe there is hope for them, I have to believe one day these folks will join us on the couch, chowing down on potato chips and ice-cream with not a care in the world… maybe someday they will be free, maybe someday they can live a normal life…