Miss You

I have learned that AA Meetings have a specific format.  At first I thought this was silly.  All these laminated papers passed around and read out loud.  After a few meetings, some days it is the only thing that is normal.

Constant Change

42 days ago, I stopped drinking. As every day, just like everyone else that is an alcoholic, I have this one to get through without drinking.  We can have hours, days, weeks, years, decades without booze but everyone of us has this day to get through.  Alcohol loves a victim.  Alcohol looks for the weak, sad, mad, challenged, pick your adjective Alcohol is on “the hunt” and it wants you or anyone else that it can put under it’s spell. We are powerless.

I looked around the room and notice that there is someone missing out of our normal group.  The next day, that same person is missing, the next day and now it has been more than a week since I have seen him.  I am sad.  Sad for him because he was trying so hard to not drink, he was sober 5 days longer than me.  He gave me inspiration that first day.  Many others in the room had years of sobriety and hell I was trying to get through the meeting without shaking myself to death.  There are others that are missing too but he is the one I am praying for the most, we got to be non-drinking buddies.  When it was raining, I would give him a ride.  He was a lot younger than me in years but much older than me in experience and troubles.  I felt like he was a little brother.  Maybe he will come back again?

Silly Traditions

I am amazed at Bill W. and Dr. Bob and the program they put out there for us.  While it is so simple in thought, who would have thought it so simple when your mind feels like such a bowl of overcooked spaghetti?  The readings are there for structure.  If we go across the country or across town as alcoholics, we need a meeting that has the same goal and no surprises.  The laminated pages seem silly when I first heard them but now when my life is whirling about me, those pages ground me in recovery.  That is what I am there for. Recovery. Not drinking.  Singleness of Purpose.  You get the idea.

Feeling Loss

It is interesting when people that have been “out doing research” (back drinking) know that they can come back to AA.  I think the most that we can grow as individuals is when we don’t criticize or judge people that bob in and out of the program, until they get it right.  We don’t take ownership of their choices, we don’t make their problems ours.  We can’t.  We have to reach out and hug them when they return and remember they are fighting the same battle we all are.  I know as I laid on the couch and shook the last day I drank, I pulverized myself emotionally, mentally as well as my body making me feel like there was an earthquake going on inside me.  Going into that room where I heard people tell their thoughts and stories that sparked inside me, I knew I was in the right place.

 

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Worst of All, I Lost Myself

AA Meetings are full of cliche’s, sayings, all kinds of anecdotes that probably the person that you heard it from didn’t invent themselves but since YOU heard it from them first, it becomes theirs you just need to be listening for it.

I Moved

About a year ago, I moved.  Just across the river and down the street, it was a move for the better for me, though it seemed to “do me in” stress wise. Along with whatever was going on in my life, work, sick parents, being point man for everything it seemed.  I buy a house and the first thing that happens is, I get a contractor that rips out my kitchen and disappears for 5 months-kitchen in an uproar. This is probably something some folks can just shrug off but I really think that this accelerated my trip deeper into alcoholism.  Don’t get me wrong I was well on my way before this but this made things more upside down and my drinking increased and the wheel went ’round and ’round.

First Weeks

When I first started AA, I found myself able to start thinking about sorting through things I was unable to get my head around before while I was drinking.  The bonus was, I started finding all kinds of things I had been looking for.  For example, I found the match to some of my favorite earrings.  And in conversation with some of my women alcoholic friends earrings seem to be something we lose a lot of!  I have filled boxes of papers that I should have thrown out and not moved and now I am throwing out these outdated things that I have not needed for a long while. ( I am still sorting but making some steady progress!)

At the Shelter

In a meeting last week at the shelter, this man  shares how many times he has been in and out of the program, how he gets frustrated with himself, he just has a hard time sticking with it even though he knows he must not drink if we wants to stay alive.  He goes down a list of losses because of his disease: Relationships, vehicles, drivers license, places to live.  He then ends his thought with, “All these ‘things’ that I have lost are just that – ‘THINGS.’  What I lost to alcoholism first was worst of all, I lost myself.”

LUMP

So simple but so honest.  In my throat instantly was a lump.  He hit the nail on the head.  I had lost myself.  When it became my turn I could barely speak.  When I lost myself or forget who I am and who I want to be, the rest of it piles up and gets packed into boxes most of them without labels because I just didn’t care anymore about much of anything.  Those boxes became symptomatic of what was to come for me.

Higher Power

Someone, somewhere was looking out for me.  I am not sure why and I am not going to wonder.  I am just happy that it happened and take it as a sign that I am not alone when I unpack these boxes, sort out my feelings, my life, one box at a time.

 

 

 

An Alcoholic Without Alcohol?

I have to once again fall on my sword and mention that I am a newcomer.  Today is my Day 40 and Day 40 for the first time.  I have listened to many folks come in and share their multiple returns to our program and I salute them.  I bring the newcomer and firstcomer point up as an explanation on why so many things are revelations to me. I have never heard it before or never heard it sober before.

Marines

We have vets in our meetings as I am sure many meetings have.  One of our members, (Marine 1) mentions on several occasions that it took several attempts to teach himself that he needed to adopt a sober lifestyle.  While another Marine (Marine 2) mentions about being a “Dry Drunk” and how it destroyed his last marriage. Today, we had a man join us and it was his first meeting. After hearing the “Dry Drunk” discussion from Marine #2, he realized that he was in the right place even though he hadn’t had a drink for several years.

“I am not sure if I should be here.”

Were the words out of this man’s mouth when it was time to introduce himself.  He mentioned that he wanted to sit in the back of the room and observe.  Several men had introduced themselves to him and in our small group we could all see he felt “at ease” with us but not “at ease” with himself.  We went about our meeting, had our reading from the Grapevine like we always do and did our “’round robin” sharing for those that wanted to share.  He passed.  Right after him was Marine #2 (who has been sober for 30 years) but as he put it (and so did the reading), got complacent, stopped going to meetings and from there lost his marriage, without drinking a drop.

Keeping Our Eye On the Ball

I am learning that I am a very complicated person.  I don’t say that as an ego thing, I say that because I think we all are and we all have our own way of getting through this life and for each of us that path is a unique one. One thing that was for sure, alcohol for all of us in that room today, at one time or another (or many times), made us forget our troubles and stresses.  It was a friend and comfort to us when we felt the most alone.  But one day, it decided to take us down a path we weren’t expecting.  It betrayed us.  So we work on conquering the urge to drink and we do it TOGETHER.

Then as Marine #2 mentioned, “I was still the same screwed up person that needed to work on myself even though I wasn’t drinking. I still needed to come to meetings, I still needed the fellowship.”

DAMN!  I thought, once I got this lust for liquor behind me I could get off this Ferris Wheel. Now this guy who has been sober for 30 years, tells me even though I am not drinking I am still an a$$hole?  I wondered if the newcomer was reading my mind because he raised his hand and shared a bit about his situation and we all listened.  He had not been drinking for years but something had happened over the weekend that made his doctor suggest that he go to an AA Meeting because he had some things to work on. So for some reason he was with us and he needed to speak when he spoke and needed to say what he said.

Booze Isn’t My Only Problem?

Of course I knew this but I didn’t really think of it before and sometimes you need a crusty old Marine to remind you and spark the heart of the newcomer who sits beside you. Ok, Higher Power…I am working on it and thank you…again.

 

 

 

Life Goes On

It wasn’t long ago, 39 days ago to be exact that this past week was LOADED with reasons (as well as excuses) to GET LOADED.

Family…CRAP!

Last week, I returned to work after a vacation and got thrown into lots of work as well as my brother and his family came to the family camp for a vacation. I wont be discussing my brother in this particular post but let’s just say…we have our issues.  We certainly have had our “knock down, drag outs”  over the years, mostly because we are completely different people that have completely different commentary about how we grew up and what that was like.  But as I said, that is another topic for another day.

Meetings

I was happy to go to my meeting on last Monday morning at the local shelter.  It was a feeling of a “safe” place for me.  A place where I could say the “Serenity Prayer” and feel the energy that I get from others there.  That meeting for me, before the start of my day, set me right for the whirlwind week I was about to have.  In fact, knowing that I had that meeting waiting for me on Monday, while I waited for my brother and his kids to show at the camp kept me safe from the bottle.  Typical of my brother, he was HOURS late which prevented me from having any real time with the niece and nephew I see about once a year.  This year, I saw them for an hour and a half.

The Big Book

Before I stopped drinking, I had started reading The Big Book at a pretty slow pace. I found it pretty silly and I was sure that it wasn’t for me.  Then after the first few meetings I thought the “evangelism” of people about the program, the constant talk at meetings about attending meetings was well…now that I think of it another excuse why the program wasn’t going to work for me.

I Didn’t Get It

When I first stopped drinking, I was consumed with it – NOT DRINKING.  Why I couldn’t drink.  Why not drinking meant- not drinking -not ONE DRINK.  I did believe that.  I had experimented with “controlled drinking.”  Controlled drinking for me, meant not drinking for a period of time (without going to AA) and then starting up “situationally drinking” – bad day, good day, death, stress, you get my drift – only to end up drinking everyday, all day.  Dreading every morning.  But being consumed with NOT drinking didn’t mean that life stopped.  Didn’t mean that I could escape from “As the World Turns” forever.  I muddled along sobering up for the first few weeks and sorted out what I could, found some energy, took some vacation and when I came back, there was…LIFE !

Seeing the Light

Well of course not completely, but sh*t I am working on it.  I am glad I listened that I needed to go to meetings.  I went every day to at least one and also one each day while I was on vacation where I had to search for them.  I also read the Big Book or some other AA literature when I begin to feel the stress of a situation.  (I got to read quite a lot while I waited for my bonehead brother.)  Instead of tipping a few back getting pissed off, I read, tried to take some breaths and thought about my Monday morning meeting and how I was excited to go.  And when the family arrived, I was able to enjoy the short time with my niece and nephew without the fog of the bottle. Or the guilt the next day.

It is “One Day At A Time” and I am beginning to learn that going to meetings and reading even on good days, is like money in the bank for the days when it is not so good.  I am pretty sure that there will be days when I am clenching my fist and praying to get past the next hour but not today.  But I am headed to a meeting!

 

 

Good Time Charlie

When I was drinking a lot and every day a lot- it was just a bunch of us in a group “drinking buddies,” making the rounds always having an excuse to meet for a drink some place, no matter the time of day or day of the week.  There was always a “reason.”

The Wheels Came Off

We all have friends or people that we know that are not great friends and many more of these people we know are just not good people to begin with. As I write about this, I am thinking of some non-alcoholic people in particular, that I know.  These folks find the “weakling,” pass judgment, make the situations public news, telling everyone what they saw or heard and drag that person’s life (certainly not their own!) through the mud and naturally, it would make the “reporter” feel better about themselves at the expense of someone else.  Oftentimes that “someone else” has no idea that this is happening, so the escapades go on and so do the stories.

This post is in no way saying that we (as the afflicted) are not to be responsible for our own actions.  But alcoholics are people too.  People in trouble. If they are still drinking, never to have found AA or have relapsed,  they need compassion, help and love even when it isn’t easy.  If outside folks are unable to provide any of the aforementioned, then move away from the person and don’t add fuel to the fire by trashing them all over town.  Life sucks enough all ready.

Blood In the Water

I live in a small city and am pretty well connected.  I know a lot of people.  This story is about a friend of mine that through no knowledge of her own was the last straw that got me to my first AA Meeting.  She is still drinking at the pace I was just 36 days ago.  Through many people talking about her, staging their own “amateur interventions” these people all have their own baggage and not all of them alcohol.  It gives them some “jollies” to bash her, when it is so obvious she is struggling.  We have another friend that is doing the same and he is such a sweet person and yet the bottle is doing him in also.  Yet people I know, the holier than thou types, drop in to see “Good Time Charlie” with a pizza, booze or beer for a visit and after a few hours in either or both places they have enough ammunition to satisfy their yearning to feed the “rumor mill.”  They know there is blood in the water which is why they stop in.  9 chances out of 10 someone will be dumping wine into a coffee cup as they enter through the door.

Fragile

I know I am so green at this it isn’t funny. I know I am one drink away from disaster. I am working through the Big Book and can see the compassion that folks in AA (before it was even called AA) showed to people in crisis.  And they retreated when the person just “wasn’t ready” to accept powerlessness over alcohol, most still in a hospital bed.

An Example

Like the two people (I had known in college and hadn’t seen since) that contacted me last summer and shared their alcohol issues and one was making amends (to something I had long forgotten), I watched them on Facebook while I was still living the “HIGH” life.  I knew they had something I wanted, only I wasn’t ready to go after it.  They continued on in their own recoveries (20+ years EACH) while I watched and read.  Then it happened.  My friend got a DWI, lost her license, name in the COURT NEWS section of the paper.  She was wild.  The rumors flew AGAIN.  A few months after that blew over she shows up at my house at a business group networking event and passes out.  She was well on her way before she had even arrived.

No Rest for the Wicked

I knew then I needed to do something, to not end up that way.  Not be front page news.  There is a short time when you go from “Life of the Party” to “Drunk” and I did not want to crash and burn in front of every one I knew or in front of enough people that knew me that they would tell everyone else.  I felt like my Higher Power was telling me, “What more do you need to see to realize what direction you are going in?”

One Day At A Time

Yes, it has only been a little over a month but people who haven’t seen much of me have noticed change.  Today, one woman  actually told me how healthy my hair looked! (These people know nothing of me going to AA.) So maybe in my own little way, I can be an example for those in the struggle that may want to know how they can get some of what I have?

What I DIDN’T Do on my Summer Vacation

One word.  D.R.I.N.K.!! I am still human and there were things (many things) I wanted to do but couldn’t for one reason or another.  But I didn’t drink and I made it to a meeting every day that I was gone.   I guess the rest of the things I had planned aren’t as important as those two so all in all it was a SUCCESS!

EXPECTATIONS

Are you anything like me?  Have a long list of things to do and even when you get most of this stuff done you still feel like you failed?  I think as I work through the steps I am going to find that there is something to this “let down” “I failed” feeling I get when this happens-which is almost every day it seems.  I need to manage and prioritize.  As I drove home, I got to thinking…really the most the VERY MOST important thing to me is NOT DRINKING.  It feels like going to meetings helps me do that.  The fact that I did both of these while on vacation is not just a “thing on the list” of “things to do.” I am learning that if I don’t do these the list doesn’t matter at all, I will drink and the list disappears from my brain until I see it the next morning.

Meditation

I took the mat, I took the book just like I mentioned in my last post before I left.  I did read some of the book but things got upside down. So I didn’t take time to focus on meditation. One of the ladies that joined us was having breathing problems (very humid weather last week and no A/C – it’s a CAMP we stayed at.)  And two other ladies had to leave early because later in the week the old dog they brought with them was having problems and had to be taken to the vet.

Back to Town

Rather than being alone and risking my vulnerable state of disappointment, I decided to come back to town.  Thursday night a new friend of mine celebrated 33 years of sobriety.  I hadn’t planned on going because I was to be out of town. Maybe this was a sign I thought? I went to her celebration.  It was great and I was happy to be there. Then Friday was my 30 day chip day.  I was able to collect my chip with my home group rather than to wait until today when I had originally thought I would return.

Everywhere, Everywhere

I learned on my vacation that there are meetings in so many places and even though they can be a little hard to find, once you do, there is a whole new batch of smiling faces happy to meet you and see you.

Back to the “Real World”

One Day At A Time.

Can Alcoholics Take a Vacation?

Little things had a tendency to overwhelm me, but today I actually smiled about them, found joy in accomplishing them and looked forward to tomorrow.

Vacation

I have mentioned all ready that I am heading out for vacation in a couple days.  Normally, this would completely send me off the deep end.  I would wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat and just drink heavier during the day because of all the things I felt I had to get done before I left.  This time, I still had a big list of things to do but as Friday afternoon wore on I was plowing through and getting things done.  Then after I talked to the 3 folks that were joining me at my house tomorrow, they told me they were hoping I didn’t mind if they showed up in the afternoon.  WOW!  That is an extra 6 hours in my back pocket that I didn’t plan on!  And with a clear head and no booze on my breath, I felt excited for the first time in a long time about getting out of town.

Planning Ahead 

Tomorrow morning I am going to my usual morning meeting.  Today, I touched base with a friend who’s number I have and explained that I was going on vacation and I might need a little boost during the week.  Well, she lit up like a roman candle, excited that I would ask her for support and she gave me a big hug. She said, “I may call and just to touch base so I can hear your voice!”   Here I was worried about asking her and she made me feel like I did her the favor!

I also got out my AA schedule for the area and found meetings to go to, so even though my friends that are going with me aren’t AA’s, you would barely call them drinkers.  One doesn’t drink at all and the others may have one glass of wine…maybe.  I also have my get-away car so there will be no worries trying to get to a meeting when I want to.  I am feeling pretty comfortable about the situation but trying to be prepared.

Unplugged

Where we are going, we will be lucky to find internet, so I may have some withdrawals without my broadband. Anyone that reads this blog you may miss me for a couple of days but please leave me a note and let me know how you are doing.  If I get a chance to write an entry or two, I will and I am bringing my notebook and will journal my thoughts.  Doing this blog helps me sort out things, hardly Pulitzer material it is just part of my recovery tools. Your comments and feedback is definitely helpful and appreciated.

Learning to Meditate

Since I will be at the shore (or where we are from we call it “the coast”),  my options and opportunities are different than from when I am home. I thought it may be a good idea to try and learn how to meditate.  I know many people that do meditate but I honestly can say I have no idea how to do it. I bought a couple books, read one and have another one in process.  I am bringing a mat and hope to find a good place on the ledges next to the ocean to give it a try.  Meditation sounds like a handy tool to help me with the anxieties without drugs or alcohol and God knows I need alternatives to alcohol.

Today was a good day.  No alcohol.  One more day to cross off.  Thank you all and thank you God.  Tomorrow is a new day and I am looking forward to it.