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

Something New

I can’t study. Or maybe I don’t know how? I’m uncertain. Maybe I forgot how.

I once studied to be a police officer – had to learn about laws, guns, and algebra. I studied and recopied everything they gave me to prepare. I memorized guns by their shape and abilities. Somehow I passed the written tests to become a police officer with 80% all around (even math)… then they asked me about LSD and I told them the truth – so they said I couldn’t be a police officer. Was kind of sad I suppose. (I think everyone should do LSD at least once, was my favorite drug and I’m fairly certain it’s not physically addicting) Continue reading

Flag Fury

It’s no more the rebel flag; than Columbine was about trench coats or rape is about clothes girls are wearing.

Its about living in a culture where its ok to hate others based on their religion, gender, sexual orientation, race disability or a million little things that people hate other people for. People hate entire other religions and races because they were taught to. People somehow learn in “religions of peace” that it’s ok to discriminate, they condemn other lives because they are different than theirs. Our entire culture creates schisms between things that are one way and things that are another way – it’s painful, it’s hurting us and we’re letting it.

“Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” Dennis Leary

A friend posted an article on Facebook the other day “15 Things Alcoholics Anonymous Can Teach the Church” and I liked it, but I’m rather anti-religion and pro-AA (even though some courts have ruled AA a religion and I can see that). Number 10 in that article is “Don’t shoot your wounded” and it says “Judgment or the perception of judgment is often felt in churches”.  That’s often what I think of when I think of churches – hate, fear, demonizing.

In some respects this can be considered a true statement. The KKK considers itself a “Christian” organization and they think they teach “Christian” principles. Al Queda, Isis, The Westboro Baptist Church all think they teach their idea of “God”‘s principles too.

We teach girls how to keep themselves from being raped when we should be teaching boys how to not be rapists. We have politicians that blame and entire religion for terrorists acts that happen domestically and abroad. We focus on the color and stars of a flag instead of the tragedy and how we can do a better job (NRA has great spin department I think).

I know many old people that hold prejudices that they’d held for decades. It was taught to them when they were so young and now it’s the only truth they can see. This worries me… but then I remember what I’ve seen in Alcoholics Anonymous – where we teach love – where human beings who once were the most desolate of society rose up and became contributing members of society and sought only to help another man.

Today we should mourn. We should reflect back on the lives lost and the good they had done. We should look to the future and see what we can build now, learning from this. We need to teach a message of tolerance, love, hope to the country.. the whole world.

Start with me. Start by being open minded to things different that I am. Start by reaching out and sharing my experiences with others, letting them know I’m not so different than they are and we have a common bond.  Start by being a better human being… start by loving, giving, helping.

But don’t focus on a flag – sure it’s in poor taste, but it didn’t pull a trigger, it didn’t share hate… it just is. It has power when you give it power…

New Years Resolutions – Quitting Smoking

It’s really kind of hard to believe, but I quit smoking almost 9 years ago (Jan 1, 2005). It was very cliche, I did it as a New Year’s Resolution…. and I had tried countless other times to quit and not one of them took.

I think at the time the main concern was how expensive they were getting – I think they were a little over $4 at the time and I kept thinking it was going to to up and up (and it sure has). I had decided enough was enough (but I always thought that before quitting) and I meant it (like always) so I went out and bought Nicorette gum, the lozenge, and the Patch, I even ask my doctor for a Wellbutrin prescription. An extra step I had taped all over my bedroom and bathroom “You Can Quit Smoking” so I’d see it constantly. I also purchased a hypnosis/positive thinking tape (yes, cassette tape) that I played each night before I went to bed.

As the New Year approached I kept doubting I could do it, I wondered why I even bothered. Hadn’t countless attempts before failed at getting me to quit? Yes, but I was determined this time (like always).

I didn’t use the gum that day, the lozenge or the patch… I just stopped and gritted my teeth through it. The first day seemed so hard, the habits of when I’d light up were there with me – when I’d step outside, after eating, after sex, during commercials… I was always smoking it seemed and the first day was so hard to get out of that expectation.

I was grumpy for probably a month, but I had a lot of support of friends and coworkers who kept on encouraging me… before I knew it I no longer had the cravings or the desire to have one at all.

There was an immediate downside – everything smelled – whether good or bad I could smell all kinds of things I hadn’t before – car exhaust, bad breath, good breath, perfumes… and most of all smokers! Ugh, why didn’t anyone tell me how awful I smelled and how my breath was rancid like that? Probably because I hung out with other smokers, it became evident to me why some guys wouldn’t date a smoker and now I won’t date one.

There are still days when I consider a cigarette – after a really good meal, on rainy fall days, during movies with lots of smoking.. but I resist and remember how expensive it is (holy crap how can you afford that?) and how bad people smell.

I tried to quit a million times, I didn’t think this time would work either – but it did. Don’t give up, keep trying if you’re trying and eventually you’ll make it. I think after the first few months you’ll be happier, I know I am.

10 Days of Whine

My 42nd year is coming to an end. In ten days it’s my birthday… I don’t really want to be anything except 42, I liked it. After all 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe and Everything…  I guess all things must change or die – hard choice that one. I think I’ll be 42.A for this birthday, I’ll ask my math friends (I have some, really I do) if there are clever mathematic equations that look cooler than 42.A.

Typically for my birthday I would head to a warm destination, sit by a pool and do nothing. Now I live in a warm destination (supposedly – it’s only 46 out this morning) and I don’t know anyone with a heated pool. I’m not flying anywhere, not likely having any fancy meals or doing anything.  In past years instead of gifts I’ve asked for people to donate to charity, sometimes I even picked the charity to give for my birthday. I had all I needed and there seemed little need for more things.

Now though, it’s been tough. I’m struggling financially, juggling things around and stressing out about it – I’m not supposed to do that anymore ( fear of economic insecurity will leave us ) and I know I can get rid of that fear, but it seems I keep asking and it’s still there. I’m taking action about the money thing – trying to find other income streams and cutting back on costs of a few things I can live without. I’m weighing all my options which is going to lead to more change before too long.

There was a leak in my patio door and rain seeped into my bedroom – half the carpet was wet when I awoke the next morning. Every article of clothing in the bedroom closet was wet. Several books I had out are warped from the moisture. For four days a blower was in my room drying things out. Yesterday they came and cleaned the carpets, now the carpet was wet the entire bedroom. I’ve had fans blowing in there all night and I slept on the couch for the fifth night. I’m going to have to rewash everything and take the dress clothes to the dry cleaner again.

I’m letting someone else’s fear and paranoia affect me and make me paranoid and distrustful and damn if that isn’t a horrible place to be. It’s contagious and I’m acting on those fears out of instinct. Fear is not a nice place to live and I don’t like having it around me. I think about when I was drinking and using, how I’d go to bed at night (or early morning) and just lie there thinking about all the horrible things that were coming to pass or that I had done and just lie there not sleeping . I don’t have that, the fear isn’t that bad I can still go to bed and in moments fall blissfully asleep, for which I’m thankful. But I find myself dwelling more than I should about the future, the present and people that I have no control over. 

The cost of the recent dental procedure wasn’t covered by my dental insurance at all, I wish Obamacare would have effected all insurances, so I had to do a dental credit plan with them. The recent surgery I’ve only gotten a bill for $20 so far, I hope that’s it but I bet that too will be bigger before to long.

I’m still new here, but at meetings several people in recent weeks have come up to me and talked to me like I’m a newcomer… I’m patient with them and listen intently to their suggestions about how to stay sober. A part of me wonders why they can’t tell that I’ve been around a long time – it’s the fear I think. It’s the worry that I show on my face, newcomers have fear all the time, but I’m not supposed to. There is a guy, Chris, that goes to meetings that I do and he brings his Big Book with him, (refreshing change) and he reads along when they read HIW or the Promises and he reads when people annoy him, lol, I need to bring my book but I fear I’d read it all  through the meeting. I’m still looking for a “Home Group”, I get close sometimes, but I haven’t found that meeting that I really want to be at yet.. I miss my DC home group and those folks quite a bit.

So it’s almost my birthday, please send money, job opportunities, or a rich handsome man my way (he could even have bad breath and chew his toenails).

Icky D’s

I went down to the Ahwatukee Foothills for a meeting tonight – I left early so I could get some food before the meeting. What I failed to recognize was there’s all kinds of stupid construction on McDowell and it went from 3 to 1 lane for no apparent reason (they do construction at night as it’s so hot during the day I think). Anyway, so that put me further behind than I anticipated and I was looking around for somewhere, something to eat and I did a dumb thing.

I went to McDonald’s

Now I’m not on any special diet or anything, but I’ve learned there are much better burgers almost anywhere else – Five Guys for example. But it was there and I was in a hurry so I stopped.

The line was short – just two people ahead of me (well 7 people – 4 adults and three kids oh… and an old guy – 8 people). Of course one of the adults is a woman, and that automatically means it’s going to take longer (see this post). So they order for them and the kids and it’s now been ten minutes. Continue reading

…the end’s well

The worst part of preparing for surgery is not being able to have coffee in the morning… really that was the absolute worst part of prep. This mornings coffee tastes so good, absence indeed made the heart grow fonder. MMMMMM

My friend Cliff picked me up yesterday morning and took me to the Hospital, I had offers from several people including work folk, but Cliff made the most sense. Cliff did come with a cup of coffee for himself, which made me crave it soooo badly. He came in with me and we made sure they had his number to call when I was finished. I handed him my wallet and keys and he was off. He could have come up with me to the pre-surgical place – but why would you do that to some one? (See my post on how I get when I visit folks in the hospital: Squeamish) Continue reading

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.

Are There Options?

When I started my first factory job I was 18, I didn’t do too well in school – drinking and drugging kept me out of class and unable to care – and factory jobs seemed the logical choice to feed my addictions. I was fired from a job where I worked at plastic molding injection machines I think because I was often late and fell asleep in the lunch room too long a few times. Another job I left for another job and that’s how that goes… when you’re young and stupid. Somehow or other I ended up in Winona MN at a silkscreen printing company, they printed on plastic bottles and I was a catcher – I would catch the bottles as they came off the conveyor belt, inspect them for ink in the wrong places (meaning there was a hole in one of the screens) and pack them nice and tight in boxes – a very easy job to do and the mechanics who set the screens were not too happy with my vision – I could see the tiniest of spots that didn’t belong – for a brief time back then I was wearing bifocals.

8066692-cog-wheels-work-pattern-seamless-by-vertical[I’m sitting here at the computer trying to figure out how I got to those jobs back in the late 80s… I didn’t have a car or a license and they weren’t right across the street – I actually can’t recall where Northern Engraving was but I remember where the other one was but can’t recall the name – the longer time goes the less I can retain I guess]

Those jobs paid well for the time and place and each job paid a little more than the other. When I had been there 3 months they’d offer me health care and i’d start to accumulate vacation and such… and I think I’d get a little raise to help offset the cost of those benefits. Now my memory isn’t what it used to be – see the little side note above, but I think that makes a hell of a lot of sense…. Hell it’s even more sense for a company to pay for health insurance for all their employees – keep them well and they’ll be able to work harder, longer, better… right? Continue reading

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

Continue reading