Keeping the Spirit Quiet

“There is, however, a vast amount of fun about it all. I suppose some would be shocked at our seeming worldliness and levity. But just underneath there is deadly earnestness. Faith has to work twenty-four hours a day in and through us, or we perish.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill’s Story, Page 16

“So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we burst into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn’t we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others.” Alcoholics Anonymous, The Family Afterward, page 132

People in Alcoholics Anonymous and many of the other 12 step programs, millions if not billions of people, have escaped certain death. We reached a point in our lives the way we were living it where there was no hope – many lost friends, family, spouses and careers as a result of addiction.

There was a vision in my head of what an AA meeting must look like –

old men, white t-shirts and overalls on – the smell of cigarettes and bad coffee waft through the room and man after man shares about his tragedy and how horrible life is…

That was the vision, and in truth I’ve been to a few meetings like that, you can switch out old men for young men or black women or what have you – there are meetings that resemble my old vision all over the country if not the world. Fortunately for me, and people like you, there are many more meetings that aren’t like that at all.

I had been in the background at meetings my mother attended when i was a child – they seemed pretty somber to me and I didn’t see many people happy, smiling or laughing – maybe the rose-colored glasses were covered in dirt, which is likely. So I entered my first meetings as an alcoholic myself expecting much the same. Instead I found a Pacific Group.

The Eau Claire Pacific Group in Eau Claire WI was a different kind of meeting for me. There was applause, laughter, oohing and aahing. I saw genuine smiles and people who talked about getting better. That first night I decided to stick around, because obviously these people didn’t know what AA was all about (I was a little over 1 month sober and thought I had it all figured out already).

I don’t stick around at meetings that aren’t fun with people talking about the joy of living now that we’ve escaped certain doom. I “don’t want what they have” as we say… I want more, I expect more. The Big Book even promises more – there are promises all over the book that I seek during my journey. One of my favorites that has come true again and again in my life is:

“At once we begin to outgrow fear.” Alcoholics Anonymous, How It Works, page 68

and most other people like the promises after Step 9 (I think they are over read personally)

“…We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us…” Alcoholics Anonymous, Into Action, Pages 83 and 84

So we want to shout it from the rooftops, we have found a solution – we found a way to resurrect the dead… a speaker I like says it “I’m looking at a room full of dead people sitting upright” or something like that. We were the dregs of society that no one really wanted around anymore, but here we are – recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body… “miracles” they say.

We are loud though… I guess. My home group meets at a church and we are probably 50 strong each week. We have fellowship before and after the meeting and we catch up with friends we might not have seen for a week or more. We laugh, we hug and give one another a hard time. During the meeting when we celebrate birthdays (1 or more years of continuous sobriety) we sing loudly and horribly off-key – on purpose. This is a big deal – someone who at one point couldn’t go a single day without a drink of alcohol has found a solution (most people call that solution God) and is now a contributing member of society… that’s a BFD. We have a “Rule 62” which tells us not to take ourselves too seriously – so we try to enjoy life.

But the church says we’re being too loud during the music lessons. Now as a functioning, contributing member of society – whom, according to the big book, ceased fighting anything or anyone… I’m supposed to just leave this be. But it’s hard… I would think a church would be happy that a group of men have found the spirit, the joy of living that the church talks about (or at least I figure that’s what they talk about) and would be happy to hear us laugh love and live in their basement each Wednesday night… it should be the great news that is spoken of on Sundays  “Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday nights and Saturday mornings the hopeless have found hope – here in our house of worship” I’d sell the shit out of that and encourage members of my congregation to attend and find the power greater than themselves that will lead them back to the church…

But I’m not the guy in charge there or anywhere, no matter how many times I think I am – The Director job has been taken by someone else and my job is just to help others. I have to stop and think about what would happen to the alcoholics that needed a meeting if we were asked to leave? What if all the groups were asked to leave the church as a result of my meeting being loud (and happy, joyous and free).

Each AA group is autonomous except in matters affecting other groups of AA as a whole. (Tradition 4) So there you have it… I have to be responsible again and try to get my fellow members to be a little more quiet before and after the meeting. Because we have a home here and we still have many other alcoholics to show the way out – it’s the only thing we have to do to stay sober – help another alcoholic, and to do that we have to have a place to share our message. This will be hard, but we’ll find a way to make it work.

(I thought this was just going to be a rant about asking us to be quiet, but once I started writing I saw my own defects and those of my group and that we needed to change… it’s interesting to see different results come out then I expect)

Hope for Christmas

He’d been trying this “AA thing” for months now – years if you count that time the court made him go after the DUI, like a month of sharing his feelings was going to make a difference. He shared all the time with his friends at the bar and they really understood him.

“go through the book” they said. There is no way a book written that long ago could help him – he’d read on the internet all the cult like behaviors and the pushing of the book on people. He refused to be brainwashed that easily, he wasn’t stupid.

They also said get a sponsor but all the girls he asked said no, so when he found that guy with a Harley, now that was something he wanted, wanted real bad. But that guy just wanted to go through the book too, and all that talk about God – no more preaching, thank you. So the latest guy didn’t say much at all and just listened when he whined about how awful life had been treating him – that’s all he every wanted. But why go to meetings for that… One more drunk and he was back again, there has to be a trick to this thing. Sponsorship, meetings, sharing… ugh…

One night at the speaker and potluck meeting (he only went for the really great Swedish meatballs that pretty girl made) he heard a guy from share about being of service making all the difference. “Great,” he thought “now they want me as slave labor” But he volunteered that night for the Christmas Alcathon, just to see if this would make a difference.

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Thumping the Twelve Traditions

When I was fairly new in recovery I was very involved in two of the groups where I regularly attended meetings. One of those meetings was very Step and Tradition focused and the other was very… entertainment doesn’t seem like the right word.. but they were about the message and the fun in recovery – as it was a speaker meeting you never knew what kind of message you might hear coming from the individual, almost always good though. Both groups encouraged participation at all levels of the group – commitments (making coffee, setting up chairs, greeting), service positions (GSR, Secretary, Delegate, Treasurer), fellowship… well one group was only really into the fellowship when we met every week… lol. Both of those groups encouraged people to be involved in the meetings they went to – the idea is that if you participate you’ll have more vested into your own recovery. Participating means I might get to know other people in my group who are participating and make them a part of my life. It’s a nice little system, I’m sure other organizations do the same things.

They shared with me the idea and importance of the spirit of rotation, encouraged me to read up on the history to see how these things came into being and why they’re so important. They led the way into service – inviting me to see how it all works behind the scenes. I was exposed to the Traditions and Concepts very early on by people who utilized them in the service structure and in everyday life. I consider myself lucky – most people consider me a geek in these regards, that’s ok. They shared what was so freely shared with them, in love and for my own good.

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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

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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”

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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.


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…

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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 :-)