Lessons

There are some things I figured I wouldn’t have to teach people. Common sense things that you figure everyone would know. Or conscience things – you know so and so will pick up after themselves as they don’t want to be thought of badly.

This is apparently incorrect thinking.

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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

The Journey Out of AA – so far

It’s been a little over five months since I published my story “Walking Away from AA” where I talked about my decision to leave Alcoholics Anonymous after almost 22 years. I stated then that I didn’t have a desire to drink, but I had a desire to be more honest and truthful with all aspects of my life.

Being sober – living a life without drugs or alcohol – is for me. It’s a cheaper life, more enjoyable and less messy… things I need and want. Belief in a “higher power” or “faking it until I make it” aren’t for me, I can’t live that lie anymore. I gave it a fair shot – lying for AA, lol.

So what’s changed really?  Continue reading

To Get Off Or Not

I started taking an anti-depressant at the end of the year called Citalopram (Celexa). I wasn’t really sure it was a good idea but I was in a bad place and was looking for a way out. My regular doctor did an annual “how are you doing” survey on me last fall and suggested it… it wasn’t until the end of the year I took it, I was very reluctant.seemed. The reluctancy comes from a few places.

First my Mother was crazy… not diagnosed crazy, but a hypochondriac it … Actually seeing how things have played out with my siblings its possible she had real medical issues and mental issues and was never diagnosed or treated properly. But as a kid it appeared as if she were always taking another pill for another made up thing. She never got better, he had peaks and valleys but she’d end up right back where she had been before. This sounds worse than it was… she wasn’t a good mother as in her needs came first – whether it was men, chocolate, romance novels, men or men… we were often a hindrance to what she wanted to do. When we were all teens she sent us all off to live with various relatives she was done. People will say “she did the best she could” but I don’t really buy into that.  Continue reading

Unity.. no thanks, I have plans

I don’t like people. (I frequently say “hate” which might be a strong word)

I’ve said that a million times before and it’s still true. One of my bosses says that too – I tell him he doesn’t because he’s so nice to everyone, but he insists that he does. Probably why I like him so much. I guess you could say I’m something of an introvert – I would rather spend time alone than in a group setting. My “fun” time is at home with a good book, writing or watching some TV. I find it very difficult to have “fun” in a group of people… can’t do it.  Continue reading

To Change: A Rose By Any Other Name

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One of my supervisors (and friend) at the office wants me to stop using the word change when talking about modifying procedures. He’s well intentioned. People see the word and roll their eyes or sigh in frustration at the status quo being updated once again.

It’s not really a concern for me, I can use a thesaurus and find other useful creative words that mean the same thing as the dreaded word… but I don’t think it’ll make a difference. People are fearful of the concept of things being done different and of challenging themselves more than they are the use of a word in a communication.  Continue reading

Verifying the Differences

I’ve chatted a little bit about being on a medication recently for my depression. I’ve always had a depression of some sort, the intensity varied in waves that I was able to navigate through. Until this last fall when it was as if a tidal wave struck me down and the undercurrent was helping me to drown. (Read here: Lost) . This post may be NSFW.

At the direction of my primary doctor I started to take an anti-depressant in late December (he actually suggested I take it in October, I asked him for the script in early December and finally took one at the end of the year). This happened for a few reasons:

  • I assumed it would go away like all the times before
  • that sense of impending doom that nothing can make it better, a little pill can’t possibly help
  • fear that it would change me
  • fear that it wouldn’t change me
  • fear of ostracization from AA friends
  • and that sense of welcoming the dark feelings, reveling in the comfortable dark

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Can’t Teach An Old Dog…

During high school, well probably even as far back as elementary school – I had no desire to learn anything they wanted to teach me. It was boring. Time would have been better spent reading a comic book, watching tv or day dreaming about anything. I wasn’t engaged and didn’t see the purpose of learning. I loved reading stories though, loved my comics and the books I managed to get my hands on and thought deep down that someday I would be a writer.

When I graduated high school with the bare minimum requirements everyone said “You have to go to college”. As a poor foster child there were many grants and available loans for me to choose from. I managed to get into the local college and signed up for astronomy, philosophy and some kind of statistics class as I think it was a mandatory class and I wanted to get it out-of-the-way. I didn’t want to be there at all and barely went to class on sober days, rarely on days when booze was available. Needless to say, I didn’t do well in 1989 in college and soon I was academic probation – so I left, not worth my time.

Factory jobs for a few years and writing stories on an old Apple computer in my free time when I was stoned or drunk (made for some interesting plot holes). This was, I thought, what life was all about – a factory job, beer and not a care in the world. I was aiming pretty low at the time, but I would have been content at some level to just do that for the rest of my life – but alcoholism got in the way. Continue reading

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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