Now I’m 46

Another year has come and gone – this one seemed to go by very quickly for me. I had a lot going on, many changes began here and continued.

I left Alcoholics Anonymous

It was a while in the making. I finally saw the inner workings of the service side of AA, what I assumed would be the most spiritual was the most sick I guess. It seemed all anyone wanted was what they wanted, not what was best for AA as a whole. So to me I had lost a second part of the triangle, the one I believed in most – Service. Between that and the “fake it til you make it” dishonesty in an honesty program. I’m really an atheist and cannot swallow what others do in its entirety. Don’t miss it, gives me lots of free time and less to be resentful at. I did go to a meeting with Flo when I was in Albuquerque but that was for him, I was just along. No one from AA has really reached out to me asking me about it – some have said they want to leave too, so that’s interesting. Continue reading

Eric John

I haven’t gotten much sleep the last few nights, I’ve had this story brewing inside my head and more and more of it keeps coming out. I’d be just about ready to fall asleep and another part would creep into my thoughts and I’d have to see how it played out. So here we are the first part, I know the second part and third part already and there might be more but I’m not sure.

As I wrote this all out I keep thinking it’s incredibly corny and naive of a story to write but it’s there and if I didn’t put it down on paper it wouldn’t leave me alone. There are some terrible things coming things that just seemed to play out well in my head that I hope I’ll be able to write as well as I visualize them.

I used names of my best friends as I couldn’t think of other names to use – Eric is my best friend, May 21 is his birthday and Suzanne my other best friend, used to be a Wirsing… so there you have it.  Continue reading

Filling Up on Books for the Summer

I received an email today from Amazon about an Apple eBooks Antitrust settlement. Something about price fixing, yada yada yada… well anyway, as a result of the settlement I was given $184.67 in credit to spend on books… now that is a great day right there…

You might have such a credit or more – the email is legit, go check it out on Amazon’s site. Then get reading… Continue reading

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! 🙂

The Trap

I recently enjoyed a book by Lawrence Block called – A Drop of the Hard Stuff.

It’s a story about a former cop turned unofficial private eye who also happens to be in his first year in AA. It centers on one of his childhood friends whom took a different path than he did and ended up in a life of crime and even serving time for something. That friend is also in AA, with a little more time than our hero and he’s out there making amends for the wrongs he has done (Steps 8 and 9) when he’s killed – shot once in the head and after once in the mouth – a clear message, shut up. Matthew, our hero of the story, goes out at the request of the dead guys sponsor (a gay jewelry designer) to see if any of the names still on his eighth step list would be viable suspects for the murder – it’s actually quite interesting.

One of the suspects sets a trap for Matthew – when he returns to his room at the hotel he finds a glass of scotch sitting on the table staring at him – and a full opened bottle next to it. Not only that but the smell of that glass seems overwhelming. There are moments when we think this guy’s going to relapse right there the way the author is describing his mind. Seems the bad guy also dumped an entire bottle of the stuff on his bed too for the smell. That’s just not nice at all, but the killer knew if he could get Matthew drunk he’d win, knew the alcoholic obsession and a good bender would get him off the case.

The whole book was good, but I found that particular scene really good and frightening.

Reminded me of a comic book story that I read a while back – Flash Thompson is Spider-man’s biggest fan, but a bully to Peter Parker. He becomes friends with Spidey over the years and it becomes known. Flash is also a recovering alcoholic (so is Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man in case you didn’t know). Well bad guys decide to use Flash against Spidey and tie him up in a chair, force his mouth open and pout alcohol down his throat until he’s drunk enough to want to drink on his own again – I can’t recall how much time sober Flash had at the time, but it was a frightening scene for me when I read it. Damn that’s not a nice thing to do to an alcoholic.

I have a wicked mind I guess and often think of horrible things – I think that spiking a punch bowl or the like at an AA round-up would make a great story, lots of little stories would crop up as a result of that one event and many lives stand the chance of being ruined for good – but there is also the chance for change and growth for people that were spiked. I wouldn’t do that, today, but it would make an interesting story and maybe someday I’ll write that.

 

 

Careful Readings

I want to thank someone, problem is I can’t remember who to thank. At the beginning of the year someone suggested that I start reading As Bill See’s It cover to cover, in order… you know how you read most books. I had always just opened it up randomly or searched in the index in the back for a particular topic. I’ve added it to my morning readings and read two pages a day (at least, sometimes more) and it’s been really great to have those extra ideas and reflections. (you can add in here the joke you hear at conventions: Bill wrote “As Bill See’s It” but Lois wrote “Lois Remembers” which is kind of funny… the first time…)

As Bill See's It

As Bill See’s It

As Bill See’s It is an interesting book – it contains quotes from Bill’s letters, books, talks, most of them offer something to think about for the day. But there are things that really get on my nerves about it – they will cite the book Alcoholics Anonymous for certain passages but it wont match exactly… for example I’ve written about the Grouch and the Brainstorm a few times where in the book it says “brainstorm” but in ABS it says “the sudden rage”. There are actually several times where it does that and I think to myself “Aren’t there Cite Police” that monitor this kind of thing? I actually went so far as to contact A.A. World Services to ask them about it…  Continue reading

Start and Stop

“My mother was born in the psychiatric unit…”

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That’s how I always planned to start my book. It’s true… we think… and I like truth. Also it really kind of makes things seem like they happened for reasons. Some of the things that happened probably didn’t have to happen at all, but they happened nonetheless. But I wonder if I were a reader reading that first sentence would I then expect to find a book about my mother? Cause it wouldn’t be about her that much, it would be about my experiences. I find though that it helps to have backstory for your own experiences to strengthen the validity of the story.

I wrote a lot more of this and expanded a bit on mothers aunts and siblings… and then I kept running into things that I didn’t want to say here … partly because I didn’t want to suddenly argue with her born again christian brother and sister and partly because I wanted to be sure my stories were accurate. That means I have to collaborate with someone and that’ll be fun, but it also means that this story will have to be told somewhere else and I’m alright with that.

I’m in a writing mood I guess, I’ve got thoughts running rampant in my head and have written quite a lot in the last few days… a few posts I cannot post yet due to surprises that are in store for others that I can’t share now… don’t you just hate a tease? But after next Wednesday those will start to appear.

I’ll continue the story of my mother, myself and growing up… and maybe once in a while I’ll post a snippet of that here for your amusement or shock or what have you, depending on the situation. I never thought the story was all that but others have consistently told me it is so we’ll get it out there and deal with debate after the fact.

AA Tradition

I tend to get on my soapbox a lot about the 12 Traditions of A.A., I can’t help it, I was raised in early A.A. meetings where they were studied, practiced and debated amongst people with long term sobriety (that was 12 – 16 years of sobriety at the time that I was less than a year). I soaked up as much of that as I could, attended group conscious/business meetings, went to the DCM meeting, the Area Assembly, the Area Conference… I loved this stuff, it was one part of that triangle that makes up our program (Recovery, Unity, Service).

the AA circle and triangle

Every week at my first Home Group they read these paragraphs from page  561 in our basic text:

The AA Tradition

To those now in its fold, Alcoholics Anonymous has made the difference between misery and sobriety, and often the difference between life and death. A.A. can, of course, mean just as much to uncounted alcoholics not yet reached.

Therefore, no society of men and women ever had  a more urgent need for continuous effectiveness and permanent unity. We alcoholics see that we must work together and hang together, else most of us will finally die alone.

The “12 Traditions” of Alcoholics Anonymous are, we A.A.’s believe, the best answers that our experience has yet given to those ever-urgent questions, “How can A.A. best function?” and, “How can A.A. best stay whole and so survive?”

And then we’d read the Traditions, usually the short form, occasionally someone would read the long form but I can’t remember why. Contrary to what I’ve been told lately, it doesn’t really take that long to read the short form of the Traditions. 😉 We were, in my humble opinion, a better group for following the traditions and learning from our history.

In our book Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age – Bill creates a fictional character, Mr. Grassroots,  who talks about the Convention here’s one of the excerpts from that:

“On Sunday morning—the last day of the Convention—I found those Twelve Traditions still on my mind. Each of them I saw is an exercise in humility that can guard us in everyday A.A. affairs and protect us from ourselves. If A.A. were really guided by the Twelve Traditions, we could not possibly be split apart by politics, religion, money, or by any old-timers who might take a notion to be big shots. With none of us throwing our weight around in public, nobody could possible exploit A.A. for personal advantage, that is sure. For the first time I saw A.A.’s anonymity for what it really is. It isn’t just something to save us from alcoholic shame and stigma; its deeper purpose is actually to keep those fool egos of ours from running hog wild after money and public fame at A.A.’s expense. It really means personal and group sacrifice for the benefit of all A.A. Right then I resolved to learn our Twelve Traditions by heart, just as I had learned the Twelve Steps. If every A.A. did the same thing and really soak up these principles we drunks could hang together forever.” page 42

So I say if A.A. groups really followed the advice of the Traditions perhaps we’d have less meetings that are stagnant because of an old-timer or two that wont let go of the reins. Or maybe a Group here in DC wouldn’t have made the cover of Newsweek back in 2007. Maybe we’d have stronger meetings that focus more on the path to recovery as described in our Big Book and less that focus on how sad life can be.

I have a couple of friends who carry around a pocket-sized red covered book that has the contents of the Big Book inside it. This book is not our text-book and it is not “Conference Approved”. [Recently online I saw a discussion where someone said there was no such thing as “Conference Approved” they’re mistaken, http://aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-29_en.pdf <== that link should take you to information on Conference Approved literature.] There are also several “recovery” or “A.A.” apps available in the many App stores, but only one of those is Conference Approved, this one: http://aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=440 It’s clunky, but someone probably donated the time and energy to make the app. So if you can help them out, I’m certain our Central Office would appreciate it. [The Grapevine, has actually started to publish books in Kindle and Nook format, which is really much better and I hope A.A. follows suit as their current application seems to need the internet to access and if I’m 30,000 feet above the earth and want to read the book I’d be unable to.]

Why does it matter?

It matters for a few reasons, one if because of the Conference Approved literature bit… “This process assure that everything in such literature is in accord with A.A. principles. Conference-approved material always deals with the recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous or with information about the A.A. Fellowship.” [please note: the recovery program and the A.A. fellowship are two separate things] If you’re not buying it from A.A. then there is no guarantee that what you’re getting is what we’re selling… for lack of a better word. (I always think of Orwell’s Animal Farm when I see these red books… I know that’s not what happened in that book, but it’s what comes to mind.)

and from Bill himself:

A.A.’s far-flung Twelfth Step activities, carrying the message to the next sufferer, are the very lifeblood of our A.A. adventure. Without this vital activity, we would soon become anemic; we would literally wither and die.

Now where do A.A.’s services—worldwide, area, local—fit into our scheme of things? Why should we provide these functions with money? The answer is simple enough. Every single A.A. service is designed to make more and better Twelfth Step work possible, whether it be a group meeting place, a central or intergroup office to arrange hospitalization and sponsorship, or the world service Headquarters [now the General Service Office] to maintain unity and effectiveness all over the globe.

Though not costly, these service agencies are absolutely essential to our continued expansion—to our survival as a Fellowship. Their costs are a collective obligation that rests squarely upon all of us. Our support of services actually amounts to recognition on our part that A.A. must everywhere function in full strength—and that, under our Tradition of self-support, we are all going to foot the bill.” Bill W. October 1967 Grapevine

So if you were to buy these items from our GSO you’d be helping to ensure our continued message across the globe, keep our offices open and you know what, just do it! that’s what my sponsor would have said… 🙂 There is a small, pocket-size version of the Big Book available from GSO or your local intergroup office. There is an app put out by GSO.

I’ve also recently seen a post on Facebook about Tradition Three—The only requirement for A.A. membership is a desire to stop drinking. That doesn’t mean you should just come and occupy a chair in a meeting, that’s all you need to get in the door. If you want the solution that we have to offer then you have to take certain steps. And if you want those steps to be here for the next guy then you should study and practice the Traditions, they matter and our program is too important to let them slip by the road on our journey. You’re responsible…

I am Responsible.  When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there.  And for that:  I am responsible.

We can’t wait for the guy after us to pick up the torch and be a safeguard to our legacy, it has to be us and it has to be today. It’s a program of action and that program needs to be protected by the people that hope the program is still here for many years to come.

Ok, I’m done… I think… now tonight I’ll go to my meeting and cringe as we only read one Tradition.. but at least we’re reading one of them.

Great Reads

Recently I’ve read two older books that I wouldn’t normally have picked up to read: The Godfather by Mario Puzo and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

Below this line there may be significant spoilers, if you think you want to read these books and never have before just stop reading now.

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I read Fahrenheit 451 after a friend posted on Facebook that he’d never read it, having never read it myself and having Mr. Bradbury die recently I thought I’d better see what all the fuss was about.   I hadn’t read any synopsis of the story and only went into it with the knowledge of Ray Bradbury being a sci-fi guy so I had an open mind – I’d learned long ago that just because it’s science fiction doesn’t mean it’s good. What I found was a world where firemen don’t put out fires anymore, they start them. They burn houses that have books and if there are people inside those houses that wont move then the people burn too. It’s the story of one particular fireman who starts to think… that’s it, he meets this strange girl who proposes silly questions to him that start his mind working again. When he goes home that night his wife has taken a bottle of pills and the emergency crews come and resuscitate her and tell him they deal with a few of those each night, nothing to be worried about, sure enough the next day the wife has no idea what he’s talking about and just wants to watch her series in the “room”. There is a lot more to the story, but that’s where it starts.

The story is really quite good, very short and I recommend you pick it up if you’ve never read it. For me it was a reflection on modern times of all the brainless zombies watching TV and longing to be entertained but unwilling to think for themselves and those that do think for themselves are taken away and made to conform to the norm. It touches on all aspects of society today – young kids with no supervision, government officials and media squashing the truth, millions of brain addled glued to the TV. Go pick it up, you’ll thank me later and you know what? You might see something totally different from I did, and that’s perfectly OK. Authors love that, well I think they do anyway, I’d rather someone see what they want to see in one of my stories instead of seeing only what I want – your imagination could make mine look like a nanobyte.

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Also on Facebook I saw a link listing top movies of all time and realized I’ve never seen The Godfather so I posted that and asked if it was a necessity. Quite a few folks said I should see it, and my friend Chip said: “The movies.. especially the first are great.. The book.. is wonderful.. Read it.. you’ll thank me later..” So I purchased it on my Kindle app and entered a rich world of characters, stories, connections… it was beautiful the way it was laid out and each piece fit so well together. I went in expecting to be bored, I mean what do I care about mobsters? The storytelling was just phenomenal and I kept wondering what was going to happen to characters with each turn of the electronic page. I didn’t want to like any of the characters to start out with but I ended up really just being a part of the story. I started it on a Sunday and was finished on a Thursday – I was in the middle of a hundred different things and only had a chance to read most of it at night before drifting to sleep.

Now, having read it I thought that I’d probably better see the movie to see what all the fuss is about. I’ve made it through half of the movie so far and I really am not very happy watching. There are so many rich details from the book that didn’t come through the parts I’ve seen. So many scenes that defined a character or a reaction that weren’t there at all before a pivotal scene. I know what you’re thinking… The book is always better than the movie. But this was really lackluster in comparison to what I’ve seen done with movies – the Lord of the Rings Trilogy for example was a beautiful transition from page to screen and I felt I could state word for word the lines I expected to be coming. The Watchmen is another story that was done really well (yes, they screwed up some of the stories for odd reasons, but) it stuck remarkably well to the book. I guess that’s what I was really hoping to see. If you’re going to name a movie one of the top 10 of all time, I would expect more than what I’ve seen so far of it… Some have said “you have to watch the second one, that fills in a lot of what your talking about” Well, that’s not really what I had hoped to do… I think the first one made the list, not the second one.

Maybe someday I’ll try to watch the movie again when the book isn’t so fresh in my mind, but I think it’s a shame that this much goodness wasn’t better. Some might be offended, but hey it’s what I thought so bite me.

Wisconsin, Wedding, Withering Heat

I flew out to Wisconsin this time for the wedding of very dear friends, Eric and Rosy. Eric and Rosy dated back in high school and like most high school romances it came to an end and they went their separate ways. A few years back they rekindled the love they felt and I was fortunate enough to be the best man for the ceremony. They got hitched in Wisconsin Dells at a little hotel called the White Rose Inn. I had never been to Wisconsin Dells before and was amazed at the traffic, tourists and teething toddlers.

The Happy Couple

I stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge, Eric picked it I think, a family friendly resort with it’s own water park – let me say it was more expensive than a very nice hotel in DC would have been; Eric is no longer allowed to pick hotels. I was given an accessible room (there was a wheelchair symbol on the sign outside the door) that wasn’t fully compliant, I notice these things now that I’ve worked for Jim for six years – I’ve sent them an email about the issues I noticed. Eric and Rosy managed to pick one of the hottest days of the year to get married, and I’m amazed we all survived the sweltering heat. It was very sweet and I finally got to meet all of the kids and had a great time.

On Sunday morning I left the Dells for Galesville, I told my Ma I’d be there about noon so she wouldn’t skip church or her regular Sunday routine, I really don’t want her to go out of her way. Rhonda, Michael and Michelle were at the house when I arrived. Ma returned from lunch and Cory and Danielle came over with Charlie and Patrick and we had pizza. Mostly at Ma’s Ma and I read while Rhonda went to work and Michael worked on demos or what ever. At the suggestion of my best friend Suzanne’s dad, Chip, I started to read The Godfather and couldn’t put it down – after reading it I started to watch the movie but it really is watered down so I don’t know how much I’m going to enjoy it.

Tuesday night I had dinner with my sister Amy, her daughter Joplin and Amy’s long term boyfriend who’s name escapes me for whatever reason. Afterwards we played Cranium for a while which was fun.

Wednesday I headed up to the Chippewa Valley. Pat and I went off to see The Amazing Spider-Man which I really liked. Pat, Brenda and I went out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then headed back to my hotel where we all partook of the swimming pool. Did I mention this was the hottest week of the year? Thursday I had lunch with Nicholas at Taco John’s, swam for a while in the hotel pool, napped and finally headed out to the Eau Claire Pacific Group where I was the main speaker – I did ok, nothing to get excited about, just ok. After the meeting I joined the guys for food at Perkin’s before heading back home to bed. Friday I had breakfast with Pat and Brenda. Friday afternoon I met my brother Ryan for dinner at Texas Roadhouse and then we went to see the movie Savages, which was ok.

Saturday morning after dropping in to say goodbye to the Isenberger’s I drove down to Galesville and used my GPS, which was a huge mistake. The GPS on the way down to the Dells had me leave the interstate to go off on a county road for a few miles only to put me back on the interstate – it also had me drive through the Dells to my hotel which was two exits up and would have been easier to get to had I stayed there… had I remembered all that I might have not even thought of following the GPS. But I did and ended up on several back roads but finally did make it to my Ma’s. Ma and I went to Winona for dinner. Michael was brough back from canoeing and was passed out in his truck until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning Ma, Rhonda, Greg, Michael and I went out to breakfast and around noon I headed off to the LaCrosse airport.

I had a long lay over in Minneapolis, three hours, and then the head flight attendant was pretty grumpy on our plane. She had us turn off our electronic devices 5 – 10 minutes before the door was closed and came on the loudspeaker a few times to insist that we turn off our electronic devices so we could depart on time, meanwhile folks were still coming on board and we were subjected to listening to children crying an obnoxious laughter. Any time she made announcements you could here the frustration in her voice, obviously she’d had a long day and been subjected to annoying passengers, but at the end of the day you still have to treat your customers right. As we were landing there was some turbulence before the initial decent and she had us turn off our electronic devices much sooner than we normally would and then when the pilot announced we were beginning our initial decent she came on to say something about us not following crew member instructions – really if she had been even a bit nicer I’m sure it would have gone better for her.

Then I arrived home and the kitty was very happy to see me, and she’s interrupted my writing this several times for love… so I’d better go see to her.