Swings and Belts

I took a rare day off from work to travel with my AA sponsor to Palm Springs – he had agreed to listen to a sales pitch for a timeshare in exchange for a nice weekend at a golf resort. I went to keep him company and had intended to sit by the pool reading books and spreadsheets related to a new treasurer gig I have.

We left Friday morning  – I spent most of the time in the car talking about different aspects of the treasurer gig (he held the position a few years prior) and I wanted to be sure I was on the right track in my questions and thinking. He steered me here and there and made some great suggestions.

We arrived in Palm Springs early afternoon and after a quick lunch checked into the hotel. The place was pretty nice – two bedroom suite with a kitchen, washer/dryer, pots and pans and everything. We looked for an evening meeting and drove around for forever looking for a place to eat (he gets a little irritated when he gets hungry). We hit a meeting and then headed back to the resort for an early bed time.

Saturday early we went for a walk around the golf course – until staff told us that was against the rules… so we headed off to get grips for his golf clubs and let him practice on the driving range. He opted to teach me about golfing and soon I was swinging at the ball on the tee – a few times I even managed to hit it towards what I was aiming at. He was very encouraging and helpful. After that we practiced chipping and something else I can’t remember the name of… kind of reminded me of miniature golf and I could do that a bit better. While I was hesitant at first and thought it’d be pretty boring I found I enjoyed myself. I expressed to my friend Jim that I wasn’t very good – he said “No one is, just go out there have fun and enjoy yourself” smart man that JIm. Saturday afternoon I rode on the cart with Flo as he golfed – it got dark quickly so he only played 14 holes – that was also educational and taught me some more about the rules of golf. Then we had dinner at a casino and gambled the free cash they gave us away.

Sunday morning we went for a walk and did some driving around – then picked up his “wife” for the sales pitch he had to listen to. Flo had neglected to pack his belt so I lent him mine – I didn’t want him to come across as a gangsta with his pants continuously falling down. They went to their little sales presentation at noon and I headed off to see my friend Jean-Pierre who lives in Palm Springs – we had a nice lunch and got to chat about all kinds of things. He looks really good and seemed happy. I headed back to the hotel to pick up the crew – we then went to the movies and had dinner before Flo and I headed back to Phoenix.

I drove half way back to Phoenix, we talked a bit and sang some old songs listening to the XM radio. I arrived home around midnight and tried to fall asleep.

It wasn’t until I was getting dressed on Monday I suddenly didn’t have my belt and remembered I had lent it away… I was being of service, really I was. And I have another.. but I’ve been giving him a hard time about it of course.

I’m glad I took a day off. The drive to Palm Springs wasn’t difficult or extremely long so I’ll likely head back often with or without other friends.

I’m appreciative that I got to spend that time with my sponsor too – keeps me on track. There was a point during the movie (Taken 3 – I don’t recommend it) where a character said “he’s not happy unless he does everything himself” and my sponsor sat up and looked directly at me… ugh, sponsors! :-)

2014 Better Than I Imagined

So much happened this year I’m having difficulty believing it all fit in 365 days.

AA:

I started work with a new sponsor, Flo. Did another 4th and 5th Step. Sought his advice and direction in many things I’ve never asked a sponsor before, and its really changed who I am. Tonight at my meeting it was on Step 12 (Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs) and just reflecting on the step work this year and my willingness I think I finally feel some of that “joy” we talk about – I still think it’s a bit overrated, but maybe I’ll get used to it.

I sponsored 4 guys this year – one of them moved back to WI (Matthew); one of them got drunk again (Zack) and then sobered up again; one of them has been sober longer than I (Mark); and one of them just kind of disappeared (Jordan).  Each of them helped me tremendously this year and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to share with them (even if sometimes they don’t listen). The very first sponsee I ever had (David) passed away and I was with my current sponsor when I received the news. Continue reading

The Root of the Problem

So back in November I had work done to prepare for two crowns – this was about 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. I was in pretty serious pain – like 2 Advil and Tylenol like every four to six hours and even waking up in the middle of the night in pain and having to take more and go to bed. I was getting grumpier and grumpier – it wasn’t my best experience at the dentist (is there such a thing?).

I called after four days of this and they assured me since the teeth were next to one another it would likely be more painful for longer than normal… so I kept on keeping on.  But the holiday was approaching and even more importantly, my birthday, so I wanted to be able to end this nastiness. I called and got snippy with the dentist when they said there was nothing they could do – then they called shortly after to let me know my crowns had arrived and it might alleviate the issues if they were placed.

The dentist called me into his office and I was ready, damn ready for the pain to stop. I was in the chair, the dentist came in. Didn’t even look at my mouth but said “oh yeah, you likely need a root canal”. I took off work for him to tell me that WTF! I was pretty upset, maybe I was upset about the root canal thing too and it was helping to feed the fire cause after he told me “root canal” I started to hyperventilate, sweat and considered suicide (I kid you not, that’s what happens in my fucked up little mind). With the help of his staff I secured an appointment the 2nd of Dec… so after Thanksgiving :-(. I did manage to eat at Thanksgiving and enjoy myself but had lots of ibuprofen with me to help get through.

That night at my meeting I talked to my sponsor, I was really fearful about the root canal and made that clear. I also shared that I was mad at the dentist – he asked “cause you don’t know if you can trust him now?” and honestly that didn’t occur to me until that moment – I was all mad cause he wasted my time. It never occurred to me that he might have gone too deep or something and caused the damage, not sure if that’s how it works or not…

Root canal day came and I had the day off – I was pretty nervous and not sure if I would have the root canal done that day or not… was it just a consult or the real deal… also was it two root canals or just one… I tried not to think about anything about it for fear of panic attacks again. It was also a new place, a different dentist and that’s not at all comforting.

The new place was just down the road a bit, nice enough with cramped waiting room and many people. Is that good or bad? I can’t decide. I waited quite a while before a handsome step or two above a dentist showed put to take a look. They took more X-rays and said “Yep, looks bad, but we want to run a test first” He took this little stick thing and touched it to each of my teeth and told me to raise my hand when I felt it – first tooth raised my hand after a second, second tooth almost immediately and the third tooth didn’t feel at all… “Yep, that ones dead” he said. He then said he was going on the assumption the second tooth was just inflamed due to the other and he was only going to do one root canal.

They then put me in a different room and gave me some drugs. Told me to raise my hand if I felt anything, then they had me hold something to the roof of my mouth and that’s all I remember… until suddenly pain and I remembered to raise my hand. I had a dull ache. That was it… I guess they knocked me out and I probably signed something telling them they could but I don’t recall that :-) I went home with some pain meds and was uncomfortable most of the day.

So that was December 2nd and I had a few days of pain that was medicated mostly with ibuprofen, but the pain that woke me up at night and made me more irritable was not there. I had sensitivity to cold and hot and when I’d brush my teeth, but hey that’s avoidable. My regular dentist was called to put on my permanent crowns and the earliest I could get in was today – December 30th.

They shot me full of Novocaine and did some removing of temporary fillings from the root canal… I was still pretty sensitive even with the shots. But soon it was over and now I have two teeth in my mouth that feel really weird and they likely will for a while more.

me at the dentist
me at the dentist

I’m glad this part is over and the new year is upon us…. but I know already from the X-rays I’ll need at least one more crown in the coming year and with that comes the fear… sigh… oh well, I’ll worry (or try not to worry) about that then.

Christmas 2014

I wasn’t sure how travel would be on Christmas day, many years ago I traveled on Christmas eve and the lines and crowds were overwhelming. But Christmas day was nice – no lines, no crowds and quick check in – I think even my flight had open seats available. I started a book a friend gave me Tattoos on the Heart  – kept me occupied the whole flight.

I rented a car and drove to Galesville from Minneapolis airport – the GPS suggested going a route differently than I normally would and that seemed to be pretty quick, before I knew it I was at my Ma’s. As I was driving down there was no snow on the ground, but the further south I got closer to my Ma’s the more snow piles that were still visible… was backwards.

Was great to see my Ma, Kenny (and Sheila), Rhonda (and Greg) and we had a good day, dinner and watched  12 Years a Slave – good movie. I did some computer stuff down there fixed the wifi password, found a crossword puzzle app Ma wanted.

The day after Christmas was when we celebrated – the nephews and grand nephews were there, was a really good time. Sheila cooked more than anyone could possibly eat. I got noisemaking toys for the boys (that’s what uncles do) and a good time was had by all. It snowed that night – a little over an inch so that pleased people (not me).

Saturday we had breakfast at Garden of Eatin and then I headed off to Black River Falls to spend time with Dawn, Ryan and Amy. Amy’s new place is very pretty and easy enough to find. Was great to see all three of them and spend time. Got to catch up and see what everyone is doing and had a nice meal prepared by Amy (Dawn made the dessert).

Then I drove off to the airport – was dark on my way up and many stupid people were on the road – people driving under 55 on the interstate – wtf people. I arrived at my hotel around 7:00 after dropping off the rental car – there are two places to drop off the rental car and I picked the wrong one and had to go to the second location.

Spent the night at a Fairfield Inn near the airport, was in bed by 9 and woke up at 4 to catch my flight. Travel on Sunday was similar to traveling on Christmas Eve – long lines, stupid people and screaming children.

Glad to be home, glad I got to see the family – now if only they’d all retire and move to warmer places.

The Gift of Bill

I attended my home group tonight – like most Wednesday nights. Tonight we were on Step 11 and had a great lead and some great follow-up call ups to make for a great meeting. I was fortunate enough to sit by my sponsor during the meeting – we had both attended a retreat committee meeting before the meeting and just kept those seats. During the meeting he reached into his pocket and handed me a wrapped gift and card (for a moment I felt special, then I realized he brought all his sponsees  gifts – then I realized I”m unique, like everyone else ) Continue reading

Ding! 44

I dinged Saturday, turned 44. Don’t feel any different, probably won’t for the rest of em either. I started receiving birthday wished a day early and a co-worker even saran wrapped my cubicle items… was a good day. Friday night took a nap after work – forgot to turn off my phone, so it was a short nap – friends calling to wish me a happy birthday (for my 40th birthday I was awakened by someone on the east coast around 3 a.m. when I was in Hawaii, you think I’d have learned to turn that thing off).

Saturday morning sleeping in – forgot to turn off my phone again… so there you go – self-imposed crisis I could neither postpone nor evade.

I did what I wanted to do for my birthday – not much of anything. Video games, comic books, spicy food… naps. yeah, I had a good day. next year though I think I’ll return to Fort Lauderdale, I miss being there for my birthday.

Anyway, here we go starting another year of my life. This past year was much better than the previous – has a lot to do with the new sponsor and a lot to do with the new job, both are things that have helped me immensely. Here’s to continuing on that path.

Change the World

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, by the Ferguson verdict. Why anyone is surprised that the white, rich, powerful continue to get away with murder is beyond me – this is what we’ve allowed to happen. This is the world we live in, this is the world we let happen – especially when we don’t vote.

You want to riot in the streets, that’s great! In ten years FoxNews, CNN and the Huffington Post will do specials “Looking back on the Ferguson Riots” and maybe you’ll make it on TV and have your 15 minutes. Want to loot and look like sports fans that start fires and turn over cars in the streets… yeah, that’s great TV stuff too feel free.

But do you want real change? Do you want to feel real justice in this great country of ours? Then VOTE, get your friends to VOTE, get your family to VOTE.

Vote out the rich old white dudes who’ve been elected 20 times and don’t change anything. Vote out the rich corporations that pay those old rich white dudes to cater to them. Vote out the lie spewing people at every level of government, make a difference, let your voice be heard.

White, rich, religious men and women have all the power in this country. If you want change it isn’t about rioting and talking to Anderson Cooper on TV, it’s about changing the world. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results – did the Rodney King riots change the status quo? Did the George Zimmerman verdict change the law?

Let this be the last time this happens in our country, let the people REALLY speak and change it. But that requires action on our part, that requires us to make this change happen…

But we’re Americans: lazy, uninspired, freedom lovers… so it won’t change at all.

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