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

Random Memories

I cried the first night at the foster home.

I had been picked up by the police the Friday before, spent the weekend in a group home and then the day with a social worker before arriving. No tears during all of that but that night in own room of the new foster home I cried. Maybe it had finally sunk in that everything I had done that led me to this place all caught up to me, there was no where else to go.

I hadn’t ever faced consequences of any kind prior to this – not skipping school, smoking or drinking, stealing and vandalism never brought me any time. Until this time… until the one time myself or a friend had the “clever” idea to take the hinges off the locked door. I still believe that had we only taken the time to put the door back on the hinges I would have never been caught. Interesting that that’s the thought that still comes even after 30 years. Continue reading

Rescued #fosterhome

It’s National Foster Care month and I’m an advocate of people becoming foster parents and even of kids joining the system when the situation warrants it. Not every parent, household or family is a safe place for a kid – but you could make a difference in a kid’s life just by offering stability, food, & shelter.

I write about this a lot – not just during this month but during the regular course of year when I reflect on being saved, rescued from a certain path. The only poem I’ve ever written that mattered to me is here:

foster home Continue reading

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…


I found out that my first sponsee, David R, passed away yesterday. David was a real alcoholic, he struggled to find the answer in AA and was the kind of drunk who’d been in treatment centers and involved with the courts countless times. He was, for all intents and purposes, hopeless – that’s the kind of drunk you don’t think is going to make it and then BOOM they get it and their whole life is changed… but that didn’t happen for him. He had brief moments of sobriety when I knew him, and then the crushing fall back into the disease – it was hard to watch for me, probably a lot harder to watch for his family. I feel guilt – maybe I didn’t read him the right part of the book, or show him how good it would be or … I don’t know, a million things, but it’s not about what I did or didn’t do, I tried – I reached out my hand and offered a way out, the same way that was shown to me, that’s all I was bound to do.

David is the guy I wrote about and got published in the A.A. Grapevine – ( Read story here ). I was working over nights at the Fahrman Center, a treatment center/halfway house, when David called and was suicidal. I talked to him for a good long time and eventually had the police get out there to get him – he was taken to the psychiatric unit at the local hospital, but not before he made me promise to come up and see him there and bring my fellow AA’s with me. That morning, likely before the sun came up I called all the guys on my list and a bunch of us went to see him. That phone call and follow up visits by AAs to him opened up an avenue for that hospital and the District to talk to one another, we started a pager program and started to carry the message to drunks up there – it changed things.

But David didn’t stay sober, I don’t remember when he got drunk after that – but I know he was sober for a while and he seemed happy. He kept focusing on getting his family back and how he could get sober if he had them, but I knew from the book that wasn’t the case…

“Let no alcoholic say he cannot recover unless he has his family back. This just isn’t so. In some cases the wife will never come back for one reason or another. Remind the prospect that his recovery is not dependent upon people. It is dependent upon his relationship with God. We have seen men get well whose families have not returned at all. We have seen others slip when the family came back too soon.” Alcoholics Anonymous, pp 99-100

He wouldn’t, or maybe couldn’t hear that and he got drunk.

The last time I saw David he had called me and was really drunk, he was staying at a little motel down the highway and I went to see him. He looked pretty bad, was still drunk as hell and was hard to understand. He started to talk about bad things that had happened to him as a child- but then he just passed out.

I’d get reports once in a while from friends who work in the Drug and Alcohol treatment field once in a while – and I always hoped he’d show up one day at a meeting I’d get to when I was visiting, but it didn’t happen.

I’ve cried a bunch of times today – a few times for happy reasons before I heard this news – but mostly for David. I so want to grab a slipping newcomer and just slap him silly

“Don’t you see, can’t you see this will happen to you to”

“just do what we’ve asked, and you’ll see, it’ll all get better”

but I know that won’t work… I used to hear in meetings “You can’t see until you can see and you can’t hear until you can hear” and it’s sadly so true. For some there’s nothing I can do to help them until they’re ready – and some sadly will never be ready.

I was at my current sponsor Flo’s house when I heard about David today, I was helping him prepare a memorial for his first sponsor who passed a few weeks ago. And it was just the right place to be at the right time – I find it hard to cry in front of people, even my sponsor, and he left the room. Here we were, preparing to honor the man who had reach him only to hear about the loss of a man I couldn’t reach. That’s AA for you, I was where I was supposed to be today.

The old-timers and the book say that even though David didn’t stay sober, I did and that’s a good thing – that doesn’t make me feel better at all. I want it all, I want David to be next to me at a meeting grinning at newcomers who can’t pronounce anonymity and shaking hands at the door. I want them all to get it and to have a better life and to see how a few simple rules can change the world.

I believe in Alcoholics Anonymous, because it worked for me when I worked for it – I didn’t get it when I just stayed on the outskirts and watched others participate. When David was participating and shaking hands he seemed happier than I’d seen him before – I saw change in him. But our book says others are likely to see the change in newcomers before they see it in themselves, that may have been the case with David, I’m not sure.

There is a solution, I’ve found it, it was shown to me by sponsors who had it shown to them by sponsors who had it shown to them by sponsors… it’s been working for over 75 years now. We have a lot of people to try to reach out to, I want to be the helping hand to show them the way out, I want to see them help others and watch a marvelous fellowship grow up about them. I wanted that for David, I want that for all my sponsees – the fellowship I have around me is so vast now, reach across continents, internets and handshakes – I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Rest in Peace David

It’s Just a Job

“…for veterans, it’s about relating to them without pretending to understand” Amy Appel (my sister) talking about serving veterans. For years she’s been giving veterans massages at the VA hospital in WI she wrote this guest blog on the AMTA WI Blog and I thought some of you might enjoy it also. Click on this link below and go see what she has to say.

oh, and you know… thank a veteran


I’ve never been a big fan of sports – I do though enjoy cheering against fanatics teams (Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins for example) just to annoy the fans. The olympics don’t really ignite any flames for me, I think about all the money spent, the hours kids/young adults spend getting ready for their one chance to win a gold – a silver, a bronze just won’t do, it has to be gold… and if they fail the first time out the chances of a second win 4 years later is harder… unless you’re a doping cyclist or on an NBA super team.

So how i ended up being the water boy for the girls high school basketball team in Whitehall eludes me.

Ms Matchey (I think was her name), was the assistant coach and asked me and for some reason I said yes… me, the loner stoner, hanger-headed outcast participating in sports (not actively mind you, just on the sidelines). I filled their water bottles, cheered their points, watched the games with mild curiosity and actually began to understand it. These girls were very good, they were fast, strong and could make a basket, nothing I could claim myself. I was there for practices, games, and in the locker room (though this did nothing for me some people were jealous) they were always clothed when I was there. I’d pick up the wet towels, I’d make sure there were new towels… basketball

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I see that people are trying to cut funding for Food Stamp programs… correct that, I hear there are already cuts to the Food Stamps (SNAP) program about to take place and they still want to cut more. That’s probably a lot better than raising taxes on the rich, right?

I grew up in a family that received food stamps, it isn’t something that a person should look forward to. And let me tell you, if you’re looking forward to the food stamps arriving (I understand there is a card now and not actual stamps) then you’re probably very hungry or have kids that are.

Back when we were kids Mom did everything she could to stretch those stamps and get us as much food as she could. We were growing kids, and kids tend to eat a lot when they’re growing and when you can’t eat as much as your body needs then sometimes you have other issues. If we were lucky we had some free “government” cheese – processed, very orange… and think about that “lucky” if you tasted that cheese you wouldn’t think you were lucky at all… but if that’s what you have that’s what you have.

Food Stamps are in a section of the US Budget that is only 12%  – here’s some of what’s in that 12% 

include:  the refundable portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist low- and moderate-income working families through the tax code; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income families and individuals, including SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care assistance, and assistance in meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused and neglected children.

Personally I don’t want to cut things that are helping our elderly, kids or poor stay fed, housed and warm. Last year Food Stamps (SNAP) gave $133.41 a month, per person. It’s not something you want to line up to receive. You can’t use it in casinos, you can’t use it to buy games for the Xbox, you can’t use it for cigarettes or liquor either – it’s food. just food.

Cory Booker did a “live on Food Stamps challenge” last year and it received lots of media attention . People think it’s easy to live like that but it’s not, he struggled for a week – imagine living like that every day for months and years.

Is it welfare? I don’t know… the definition I found  is:

statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need: the protection of rights to education, housing, and welfare.

and that seems right, but when I hear the word welfare I’m reminded of being teased by kids. I’m reminded of being looked down upon by cashiers, government workers, the middle class… I don’t see that definition in the books, but that’s the definition that sticks with me.

I’d prefer to say it’s the right thing. It’s the right thing to make sure children can eat. It’s the right thing to ensure struggling family, including those in the military, can have a regular meal. I think we should be doing the right thing here and that means NOT cutting the SNAP program.

First Trip Sober

I was with my sponsor and grand-sponsor the first time I flew on a plane as an adult. We flew from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, a Northwest flight and we were seated in the same row. It was May of 1996 and we were going for the one year AA birthday of my first sponsor, Terry.

Many years before the events of 9/11 it was easy, worry free and a pleasant experience. I was still a smoker at the time and my biggest concern was making it far without a smoke – I think the ban on smoking on flights had just started and I was none to pleased. They offered us pillows, blankets and showed a movie. I had the window seat and was much more interested in the sky outside than the entertainment inside. I may have slept for a bit I really don’t recall.

Mid-flight they came to offer us a meal, I think it was a sandwich of which I had no interest. I was, if you can believe it, even pickier about what I ate back then. My grand-sponsor glared at me and said next time I was to give him my lunch if I didn’t want it – he wentertainment inside. I may have slept for a bit I really don’t recall.

We landed without much ado, my ears didn’t have a hard time adjusting to the altitude change like they do now. I think we were going to be there for about a week so we all checked luggage. When I thought of LAX I’d imagine scenes from Airplane with the “the white zone is for loading and unloading only – shut up Jane” and such… and it wasn’t really that, but there were so many people and it was rather loud. Everyone seemed to know where they were going and were in a hurry to get there, my Grand-sponsor led the way to baggage, but I think he was a bit unsure of himself.

The traffic was insane, even once we departed the freeway I kept imagining we’d soon be crashing into other vehicles. The trip to Santa Monica was short enough and the weather was very nice, I recall us having the windows open and feeling the sun shine warm us.

The whole week we were there was mostly about going to meetings. Being the good AA’s that we were we showed up early to every meeting, helped set up (sometimes this can be an issue, people are very serious about their commitments) and then waited sometimes almost an hour for a meeting to start. At the Big Meeting we were chastised by the people in front of us for clapping and “woo woo” ing to loudly. I remember seeing a famous person and telling Terry “wow, look there’s so and so” and Terry said it was just a look-a-like… but I’m still not sure.

We met Terry’s roommate Oscar who showed us around one day, we were at Venice Beach, climbing some rocks, driving faster than folks should drive. He was a nice guy. I learned about couch commitments – where people let new folks sleep on their couch while they first get sober to get established, seemed crazy to me at the time but now I can see where it would be helpful to folks. I remember being in their apartment and hearing the news reports constantly talking about people getting shot, that was most of the news and it was a bit of a culture shock to go from “the weather and farm report are next” to “breaking news as shots fired in local mall”.

We visited the Midnight Mission and chatted with Clancy. It was way above my pay scale to meet all these old timers. I recall I had my hands in my pockets and one of the old-timers said: “Get your hands out of your pockets, He’ll (pointing to Clancy) provide the entertainment.” I was mortified (I was very sensitive back then).

We were soon off to lunch with Clancy, some little Mexican place and we were all seated promptly, Clancy ordered for everyone and before I knew it there was this strange meal and a diet coke in front of me that I wasn’t sure of… WTH is a Fajita and Diet Coke is nasty. I had to watch others and I tried to copy them making a fajita for the first time, I didn’t want to make a fuss – I was the new guy here with 2 years hardly worth noticing 😉 You know what? I loved Fajitas, you can add the ingredients you like, it was spicy, it was flavorful… if nothing else I gained that from the trip to LA.

Saturday we were to go to the yard, I put on a Country Jam tshirt that I packed and found my Grand-sponsor was wearing one also – he made me change shirts so we didn’t look too bumpkin I imagine. Then we went to the yard (Clancy’s house) and did all the fun things they do there. Softball across the road was next and I had no interest in playing softball, but before I knew it I was up to bat – I saw the ball coming I swung it and actually hit the ball – for a moment I was standing there shocked that I actually hit the ball with the bat… then I looked to see who was going to catch it… but I didn’t realize it had gone straight up and it promptly landed on my head (this explains a lot about the following years of my life)  and I was on the ground. I was ok, and thankfully they let me stop playing softball.

On our way to the airport to go home there was a news report of a plane crashing in Florida, I was really suddenly worried about the safety of the plane we were going to be on, but all the other LAX people were just rushing from here to there.

I came back motivated to do more in AA and to have bigger groups and more fun social activities with peers. I also vowed to go again, and I did the following year without my sponsor and grand-sponsor. This became a ritual for me, every year for my AA birthday I’d take a trip somewhere – I found out many years later that my best friend wished I’d take trips to spend it with her, so I’ve done that a few times as well.

Weird Funeral Experiences

I read a lot of different blogs and read random things that I find on the internet – WordPress helps by giving me suggestions for blogs that have similar themes ore that are comparable to ones I’ve favorited.

dead dead, mostly dead ...probably

dead dead, mostly dead …probably

I read this blog piece the other day and commented on it:

The Wednesday Question: What was the Weirdest Experience you  had at at Funeral

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