Sunday, November 30, 2008

So Full

Full Of fellowship.  Of food.  Of love for my friends.  Of meetings even.  Of life!  

It has been a wonderful weekend in Houston, Texas.  I love to listen to the way texans talk and I have gotten to hear it a lot.  I love the humid air here and I love the way it smells.  I love the softness of it.  I can't believe flowers growing right out of the ground in November - flowers and palm tress and Christmas trees, wreaths, lights, and music.

I love that I got to sit with Daave, Scott, and Pammie last night at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Someone asked us if we get a pretty good picture of personality from the blogs and we all said we definitely did.  It is so odd to "meet" people for only the second time, and yet I really feel I know them.  It is a wonderful thing.

This morning Scott W.'s sponsor is taking me to church.   Then Daave will drive me to the airport.  I will go back home to Colorado - which you all know I love.   But a little part of me will forever be in Texas.  

If you are not yet part of the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, you could have no concept of what you are missing - go out and meet your fellows!  

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Houston is Hot!

Who knew?  It is hot in Southern Texas!   When I left Denver yesterday, it was 26 degrees.  It was 80 something when I got to Houston.  This is a shock to a system!

As is all the wonderful fellowship here.  What a great thing to spend a day with Scott and Dave.  And to see other bloggers!   Like Boston!  and Ricky!!!  And to see Dave in a wonderful play!  

I am sure I will be writing about this trip for years to come, but for now, I need to get ready for a meeting.  

Let's stay sober today, OK?  I know a bunch of people in Houston, Texas will!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Off to Houston

I shall be seeing some of my favorite bloggers in a few hours.  

One of my quirks is getting anxious about traveling.  One of my daughters last night said "you sure travel a lot for someone who freaks out about it."  The other daughter said "you always enjoy yourself, so just go with it."  I told her that I always calm down as soon as my luggage is checked.  So, in a few hours, I will be at the airport, with my bag checked, and I will be able to eat a breakfast in my newfound calmness.

I cannot wait to see my friends in Houston.  

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

By the Grace of God and the Program of Alcoholics Anonymous, this is my twenty-fifth sober Thanksgiving.  Words could not begin to convey to you what this means to me.

I have had twenty-five Thanksgivings when the family could invite me without too much worry.  (although there was one period when I was likely to bring around "socially unacceptable" men with tattoos, etc.... oh, those were the days!) In these 25 holidays, there have been lean years, and prosperous years, happy years and sad years, but they have all been sober years.  

I used to laugh at people who said "my worst day sober is better than my best day drunk," but I think I could say that today.  I am just so grateful for this wonderful life of sobriety, with all its joys and pains.  And I am so grateful for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous where I have made life-long friends.  The quality of our friendships is unlike any other.  

I am glad that I learned to be happy with what I have instead of looking for the next big thing to make me happy.  I am glad I learned to focus on the people around my table instead of worrying about the pie's crust being a bit too brown, and noticing that there is a stain on one of the napkins.  

I am going to enjoy this day, and I thank God for it.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day Before Thanksgiving

I bought ribbon candy last night. And a big prime rib roast.  And pumpkin.  And asparagus.  And potatoes.  And cream cheese.  And crackers.  And nuts.  And lots of soda pop - both sugared and non-sugared.  Whipped cream.  2 pounds of butter.  Filled candy.  And lots of other stuff.  

I am so grateful that all three of my kids will be here tomorrow.  And grateful that we all decided to have beef instead of turkey.  I am grateful that I have a car to drive to the store.  And money with which to purchase groceries.  

I remember one special Thanksgiving when I was sober about 5 years.  I lived in a little apartment and didn't have a car.  My kids and I made up our shopping list for Thanksgiving dinner.  There were three columns.  One for the food item.  One for the estimated cost.  And one for the estimated weight.  The weight was as important as the cost, since we were carrying it all back home.  We decided on that Thanksgiving to have a roast beef instead of turkey due to weight.  It was a wonderful trip to the grocery store, and it was a wonderful Thanksgiving.

They all have their own charm.  But I am grateful that at this point in life it is not necessary for me to be overly concerned with weight or cost.  I am grateful that this year I am concerned with letting those I love know how very much I love them.  I am grateful that there are a million ways to show that instead of just talking about it.  

I am off to a 6:30 meeting - well, after I get bathed and dressed, that is.  Another day of work, and then I am off for 4 days.  Woo!  Hoo!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am going to stop writing about the death of my friend - after today.  OK?

I was feeling so bad about some of the conversations we had.  Wondering why I couldn't have been kinder.  Wondering why I am sometimes so very harsh.  Regretting.  

I finally got my land line phone disconnected.  Yesterday was the last day of that service.  So yesterday morning I decided to listen to my saved voice mails.  I have things saved for years, like my granddaughter's first day at pre-school.  And the younger one being coached to say "hi nana" by her mom, when she was just a baby.  I couldn't find a way to save them.  

But mixed in with these messages, totally forgotten by me, was a message from Russ that he left in May of this year.  Imagine my shock to hear his voice, which I always loved, saying, among other things, that I had been such a good friend to him, and he thanked me for my friendship.  He said he loved so many things about me, etc.  I felt yesterday, and I still do today, that he touched me yesterday and told me that it was OK.  

This morning I will go out and run.  Then I will get ready for work and go put in a good day's work for a good day's pay.  

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Morning

I only have to work three days this week!  Woo Hoo!  And I leave early tomorrow afternoon for a dental appointment (teeth cleaning), I leave early on Wednesday afternoon for a physical therapy appointment (please, let it work)!  

My children and I have decided to have roast beef and yorkshire pudding for Thanksgiving.  None of us really like turkey and they will be in Montana for Christmas, so no worries of being repetitive.  I won't have that awful turkey carcass to deal with, just yummy left over roast beef.  

On Friday I am going to see my favorite bloggers in Houston!  Yay!  

I have been shopping for this event, but just looked at the Houston weather.  I think I need to go do some more shopping.  It is hard to wrap your mind around hot weather on Thanksgiving weekend when you have always lived in places where it is likely to snow that weekend.  

I did run my 8 miles yesterday and thought I was going to die.  I am still hurting from that.  But as I was running, I was reflecting on the death of my friend.  My mind tends to gravitate to the morbid, so of course, I was doing that.  Regretting.  Regretting thinking he was so self-centered when he was getting ill, before I realized how sick he was.  Regretting not loving more unconditionally.  Regretting not calling him back straight away when he hung up on me the last time we spoke.  I thought we had time to talk after the election, but I know better.  I know from too many experiences that we never know which is our last conversation with a person.  I hope I can carry these lessons into my relationships with the living.  

We all get another chance today.  Let's take advantage of it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Morning

I am still feeling the shock of my friend's death.  It is always shocking when someone dies suddenly.  It kind of pulls the rug out from under me and I look again at my life... Yesterday was a day when I tried to live life to its fullest because I think that is the best response to death.  

My daughter and I got up early because she had to be at a church by 6:30 to take a bus ride they provided to a prison in southern Colorado.  The church was in a seedy area of town. The church's parking lot was in such bad repair that I deeply regretted driving into it and doubted that I could get out without tearing up my car, but I did get out without any damage. I asked my daughter if she was afraid that this bus was from a cult and they were going to take her to a "compound" somewhere.  She told me "no, they should be afraid of me."  Well, when I thought of that, I had to realize, as I usually do when I start worrying about her, that she is the most skilled survivalist I have ever known.  And she almost always lands on her feet.  With everyone around her working their hardest so that she will be OK.  Thank God I am so alcoholic myself that I never ever got sucked into her gravitational pull.  There is never a lack for people who are circling around her.  

We walked into a restaurant on Friday night.  She and I.  I love being with her.  She is one of my favorite people on earth.  The young waiter was practically drooling over her.  He suggested a beer, I suggested to him that he did not want to see her with one drop of alcohol in her.  He suggested that I should have a beer, my daughter told him that he did not want to see me with any alcohol in me... and then she told him that "we are from Drunkylvania."  I laughed, he laughed, other staff in the restaurant laughed.  And they never suggested again that we have a beer.  

Yesterday afternoon, my other daughter and I went shopping at all the tony shops in a mall.  Well, it may be one week before the Christmas rush begins, but I tell you, I am doing all the rest of my shopping online.  I hate malls.  I once went 5 years without stepping foot in one.  I think I shall at least endeavor to go until January without hitting one.  It was horrifying.  My daughter commented that the economy must not be THAT bad if all these people are out shopping.  We were both able to find a couple of things - at steep discounts - and that is always good.  She is always amazed that no matter where we go, we run into someone who knows me.  Sure enough, in one of the stores, a couple of AA'ers shouted out "There's Mary!" and I chatted with them.  I could not remember their names in time to introduce them to my daughter, but she didn't care.  She dislikes socializing as much as her twin sister enjoys it.  

I went to confession in the late afternoon.  I always like to start out a new liturgical year with a clean slate and hope not to foul it up too quickly.  If my daughter had been with me, she would have been amazed to see my friend Barb run up and hug me, she was standing talking with the priest.  I had to tear him away long enough for my pitiful confession... and then we all stood around and chatted.  

Later I went to Mass and cried when I added my friend Russ' name to the list of the dead I pray for at Mass every week.  So sad, but once again, I must turn my thoughts to living.  I saw my friend Jerry there at Mass, but he scooted out after communion so I didn't get to say hello.

And now, here I sit, on a Sunday morning.  I have an eight mile run scheduled.  I am procrastinating.  The longer I wait, the warmer it will be when I head out.  I have a challenging route chosen.  The first three miles are uphill, then undulating hills for two miles, and the last three are mostly downhill.  It is a glorious, sun-drenched Colorado morning.  It will be nice - once I get out there.  

My son is coming over later for Sunday lunch/dinner.  I call it dinner.  But it is at lunch time. I would never call lunch on Tuesday "dinner," but for some reason, the mid-day meal on Sunday to me is "dinner."  My granddaughters both scream "dinner????" when I say that on Sundays.  Well, they will get used to it someday.  I will probably be able to finish that sock today.  It is so cute that several people want it, including my favorite doctor at work - who is a heterosexual male.  Who knows?

Sorry to have written a book here.  It is a combination of just procrastinating while I drink my coffee, and just writing some life-affirming stuff.  I am grateful to be alive.  I am grateful to be sober. I am grateful to be a sober member of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I am grateful that I got to go to a meeting yesterday that was small enough that I talked honestly about this death and how it shook me up and made me profoundly sad.  And the others in the room respected that and didn't need to argue with me or spout any slogans at me.

And you beautiful bloggers, thank you.  You amaze me constantly.  Thank you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Another Alcoholic Legacy

I took this photo of today's sunrise as I ran, through the frosty plain... not knowing that a few miles away my friend was lying dead on his living room floor.

My daughter got a text message tonight as we were eating our ice cream cones, that "your mom's ex-boyfriend was found dead today."  What?  I went to the internet, my source of all things, good and bad, and found the news.  His kids hadn't heard from him for a few days so they called the Sheriff's Department (that he once headed) to do a welfare check.  They found him dead.  

I hadn't dated anyone for over two years, and he came along.  I was in my first year of blogging and had no idea how I could come to regret chronicling a romance for the world to read, I called him "Mr. Sweetie Man" here on the blog.  He looked to be "normal," but it didn't take long to realize that he had a hell of a drinking history.   And then in a little while more, I found out what all it had done to his life.  It had ruined a long and distinguished career.  There was a ton of stuff about his fall from grace to be found online.   But he always "manned up," he had honor.  He had integrity.  He was a good man who had a terrible problem with booze.  I do understand that.  I did respect him.

He was so charming and he swept me off my feet.  He was smitten with me too.  We had a great time for a little while.  And then he started acting weird.  And then I had to finally admit that he must be drinking.  He showed up here with booze on his breath, oh, how I wanted to be wrong about that gasoline odor, but I was not.  My heart was broken.  

We stayed in touch.  I really liked him.  He really liked me.  He really appreciated that I was "there for him" as he was going through a really tough time in the last year.  The last time I talked to him though, he hung up on me.  It was right before the election and he got mad because I did not agree with his politics.  I called a week after the election and left him a message... "I think we can talk again now that the election is over... "  But sadly, that conversation will never take place.  

I know he was sick.  And I know it is not up to me to determine the cause of death.  But in my heart, I know the cause of death.  No matter what the coroner determines, I know.  

I hate that he hated AA.  HATED it.  He hated the people.  He had spent a lifetime in law enforcement and for him to sit with a bunch of people he thought were criminals was just too much for him.  I would talk to him for hours about this.  Did he think I was a criminal?  NO!  He surely knew there were thousands of AA meetings without a single criminal in them.   His ego just found the convenient route to kill him.  Our egos are good at finding that route.  It doesn't matter if it is even close to the truth, it knows how to lie convincingly and it knows our soft spots.  

I am sitting in bed, wanting to go to sleep.  But I am shaking.  I am so sad for this man, that he had to die alone, and that he had to be found by his former employees.  I am so sad for his sons.  I am so sad that his story is not unusual. 

He was a good man.  Alcohol took everything away from him.  Everything.  

God Bless Him.  

Back to Frivolity!!!

These are the lights I put on the front porch the other night. They are so pretty!  It is kind of odd though that there are still green leaves on the bush behind them.  Normally at this time of year, those leaves are all gone.  

So, I have written about the 12 steps for 12 days.  In that time I have been attacked relentlessly, but it is easy enough to ignore small distractions like mosquitoes... if you want to.  In that time I have run some miles, cooked some cool stuff, baked one pie, gone to some great AA meetings, met with sponsees, had dinner with friends, had some amazing telephone conversations, planned a trip to Texas, gone to Biblical School, gone to church, had my grandkids for a weekend, had a birthday party for the little one's 5th birthday, and generally done a bunch of stuff I probably would have blogged about - if I hadn't been busy writing about my experience with the steps.  

Yesterday, for instance, I went to the 6:30 a.m. meeting and then did something I don't normally do.  I went out for breakfast with two of the members of that group.  It was just delightful.  I probably should have eaten something other than the waffle - but oh, it was so good!   

And now I am going to go out and run 3 miles.  I will come back and get ready for work.  I will gladly put in my eight hours today and then I have a whole 2 days off.   I am picking up my beloved problem child tonight, we are going to a meeting and then she is spending tonight here.  And tomorrow,  bright and early, she is getting on a bus that some church provides, and going hundreds of miles to visit her 'man' who is spending the next eight years in prison.  

OK, I better get to it.  Let's stay sober today, OK?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Step Twelve

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs."

Just writing that calls to mind all the sages over the years who have emphasized one word or another in this step.  Many of them.  Having HAD.  as THE result.  we TRIED.  carry this MESSAGE.  to ALCOHOLICS.  to PRACTICE.  in ALL our affairs.  And of course, there are those who have said that this steps says we should have AFFAIRS.  (ha ha. )

I'll take the step just as written, thank you very much.  

Yes, thank you very much Alcoholics Anonymous.  For the fellowship.  For the program.  For the spiritual awakening I had.  For the gifts of practicing this program.  For the life that I have been given.  For the ability to carry the message to the still suffering alcoholic.  For the ability to actually sponsor other women.  For the women who have been willing to sponsor me over the years.   

What's the best way to say "Thank you?"  To go forward and pass it on to others.  We don't spend a lot of time looking back, we look forward.  What a joy it is to be able to sit with another woman and crack open the big book and to watch the light come on in her eyes.  

I could tell you countless stories of the "old days" when we actually used to make 12th step calls.  We would pile into a car and drive across town because someone had called and asked for help.  Most of the time it was a wild goose chase, but we stayed sober and that is the true gauge of a successful 12th step call.  I haven't gone on a 12th step call for years.  Maybe the newer people are doing it, that is OK, they are the people who should be doing it.  

I could tell you about all the women I have sponsored over the years, but I think it sounds arrogant.  So I will skip it.  Let me pick one little odd story that really showed me something about being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and living large - and at large.

I was sober 12 or 13 years.  I was going to meetings regularly and feeling pretty settled in my sobriety.  On one Saturday afternoon, I went to the grocery store.  When I came out of the store, there was another car parked so close to mine that I could not get in my car.  I thought of climbing over the passenger seat and getting in that way, but then there still would be the problem of backing out without hitting the car about an inch from mine.  I was really angry.  I wanted to leave a really bad note on the car.  

Instead I wrote down the license number and walked back into the store.  I had the service desk page the person with the car.  I was standing, tapping my toes, arms crossed, waiting for the jackass who parked like that.  Well, along comes a handsome man about my age.  He says that is his car.  We walk out to the parking lot.  He is so apologetic when he sees how close he has parked to my car.  And then he says "You're a friend of Bill W., aren't you?"  I just felt deflated by that.  And then he continued... "You're name is Mary, isn't it? - and you knit in meetings... right?"  Yep.  He had me.  He probably heard me tell a room full of alcoholics what a spiritual giant I am... (actually I hope not) and he knew me.  I didn't know him - if you go to enough meetings for enough years, there will be people all over the place who have seen you at a meeting and if you are like me, you probably didn't notice them.  We had a lovely conversation, he moved his car and apologized profusely.  We hugged.  

And I left there thinking about the grace of God.  The grace of God kept me from scrawling a nasty note full of obscenities and leaving it on his car.  The grace of God kept me from swearing at him when I saw him at the store.  The grace of God kept me from being a total jackass - which is what I wanted to be.  

I thought about the fact that I never know when I am being an ambassador of AA.  I don't know who has seen me in a meeting over these 24 + years.  I have been in a lot of them.  I tend to be noticeable.  People tend to remember me.  I need to behave myself.  

I never know when I am a walking example of this program in action.  In the grocery store.  At the Post Office.  In the workplace.  In my neighborhood.  Everywhere I go.  I need to be an attraction, not a hideous warning.  

Thank you for reading this for the last 12 days.  I have not really enjoyed doing this.  I thought it would be a nice switch from writing about my daily life and my little quirky stuff.  I didn't realize how much I enjoy writing all that stuff, and how much I would miss it.  I will be back in all my glory tomorrow... to talk about my running, my knitting, oh! and the Christmas lights I put on my front porch last night.  My granddaughter's birthday.  Cooking stuff.  An approaching trip to some lovely town in Texas to see some lovely friends!!! Etc., Etc.... all as the result of these Twelve Steps.

Thank You God.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Step Eleven

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him,  praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out."  

There is such wonderful stuff written about this step on pages 86 and 87 of our big book, I could write it all here, but you could go look it up yourselves, right?  And most of you probably could recite it!

And as you know, I did not mean for these 12 days of writing about the steps to be instructions to anyone... I just wanted to share my own experiences.  

When I got sober, I hadn't lost my faith, but it just wasn't very practical faith and didn't get used very often.  When I was told as a newcomer to AA to pray daily, I started doing that.  I wrote my own third step prayer (yikes) and used that for years as my morning prayer.  Usually, I would remember to pray while driving down I-25 at 60 miles an hour, on my way to work.  Being the divorced mother of three small children, I wasn't good at making the time necessary for me to have real prayer and meditation.  

As the years have passed, this has changed.  For me, this has taken years to evolve.  I am not recommending that anyone else take years though.  

As I said, I started by saying a prayer I wrote myself while driving to work.  Then AA published a "Daily Reflections" book and I started reading that daily.  Then I went back to the "24 Hours a Day" book, which I had read sporadically in early sobriety.  Then I found the book that the 24 Hours book had been based on and started reading that daily.  Then my involvement in my church grew and I started reading the daily Bible passages each day.  All of this was and is helpful.  But the the most amazing thing has happened to me in the last month:  I finally started meditation, twice a day, each for twenty minutes.  It has been the most amazing thing.  I had to take a class to learn how to do this, and I am so glad I did.

This step is so easy because it does not demand anything but an effort.  You do not have to do any particular thing or believe any particular way.  You just have to try for a conscious contact with whatever your concept of God is.  I think God has met me more than half-way on this.  I believe He is happy to help us with our disbelief if we are willing.  

If you had told me 24 years ago what I would be doing today with prayer and meditation, I would have run the other way.  I certainly didn't want to spend hours every day praying!  I definitely did not want to read the Bible!  Let alone study it!  I didn't want to go to church!  I didn't want to do all the stuff those people wanted me to do!  But I am gladly doing all of this and more... and it started with a tiny little hand written prayer.  

Oops!  Time to go meditate before I run this morning!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Step Ten

"Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it."  

I love this step.  Really, really love it.  

Allow me to be didactic for a moment and just point out that this step says WHEN we were wrong, not IF we were wrong.  We are humans and we are going to be wrong.  We will likely get used to being wrong less often, but we are still going to be wrong.  But what we do about it makes all the difference.

I think the first trick for me is to realize that I am going off track before I am totally out in left field.  I usually get out there gradually, so it really pays to be doing a regular 10th step and then I am likely to see when I am just a bit off track before I am totally wacked.  

I have a pretty book that I keep by my bedside and use for my written 10th step.  I am not always 100% faithful to writing every night... but when I am, things are better.  I will catch things that I need to apologize for, or talk to someone about, or just change.  I will notice when I am starting to gossip which for me is a bad thing, it is not only harmful to others, but it makes me feel icky.  

I cannot behave the way others behave. I can't get away with it.  I cannot go around hurting others.  I cannot play the corporate game, I have to be honest.  I cannot blame others - even when they are wrong.  The price for behaving these ways may be my very life.  I have to keep it squeaky clean.  I have to take responsibility for my own actions.  I cannot spend time worrying about the "wrongs" that others have done me.  

It is a big challenge to live this way, but the rewards are more than worth the sacrifice and effort.  I feel like the Tenth Step keeps me on the right path.  The Sober Path.  Thank God.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Step Nine

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." 

Let me first say, the category of "others" that you may hurt with amends never includes yourself.  Let me also say, that in my experience, those who start their amends list with their own names (because, after all, they mainly hurt themselves with their drinking) seldom move beyond their first amend.  

The first time I did this step, I asked my sponsor where I should begin.  I had a lot of names.  And a lot of stuff.  She said to start with the hardest one.  So I did.  I called my sister-in-law, explained that I was an alcoholic practicing the steps of AA,  and told her that I was the one who knocked over her Christmas tree.  That I was the one who set her curtains on fire.  That I was the one who broke her son's rocking chair... etc., etc., etc.  All drunken stupidity.  She was not too keen on hearing from me (I can't imagine why!) and didn't really want to talk about it.  I asked her what I could do to make it right and she really just denied that I could have ever done these things.  But I had.  I was very confused about what to do about this.  My sponsor said that I am only in charge of my own side of the deal, that I cannot make the other person respond in any particular way.  My amend to that was just to never again show up at a family function drunk.  I would endeavor to be someone you could invite to Christmas dinner without worries.  I think I have been mostly able to do that over the years.  

There are so many amends stories over the years, I don't know where to begin.  I just know it is vital to sobriety that you get the amends made... and that you continue to make them.  We cannot live with guilt, shame, and fear.  Getting straight with the world gets rid of these things.  I know that when I was sober for a year or so, the thought of calling GMAC and talking to them about my alcoholism seemed like a stupid idea, but I did it. I was behind on my car payments.  I needed to make arrangements to get that cleared up.  I did pick up that phone and do that. I thought at the time that I was being ridiculous, but by the time I got off the phone, I knew it wasn't ridiculous at all.  I can't remember all the details, but I do know that I did get that straightened out and I know that I had cooperation from a huge company like GMAC, which totally surprised me.

It took a long time to get some other things cleared up.  When I was sober 14 years, I was buying my first house.  Suddenly it became necessary for me to clean up all the financial wreckage of my sobriety in order to qualify for a mortgage.  Thankfully I was able to do that.  

It took longer to pay off all of my child support, but that finally got paid too.  Can you see a trend here?  This takes a long time.  The main thing is that we be willing to do it, and then we will get the opportunities.  It just does not happen overnight.  

Let me tell a happy 9th step story.  One of the people on my list was a friend from high school.  I had no idea where he was.  One day I decided that I was going to find him, come hell or high water.  In those days there was no internet, so you just called area code+555-1212 for long distance information.  I tried all the major metropolitan areas of the US.  And then I started trying smaller places.  I finally found him in Madison, Wisconsin.  He was a professor at the University there.  I called him.  I sheepishly told him that I was an alcoholic - somehow I always expected that people would argue with me about that, but no one did - I told him I was sober in AA and, he said "Thank God."  I told him the other things I needed to tell him.  It was received the way you hope an amends will be received.  The happy part of that is that we have remained in touch since then.  He was in town 2 years ago, and we got to have a lovely dinner.  I am so grateful to be in touch with someone I have known for so long and who has known me.  It is a good thing and it would never have happened without me making that amends.

The Ninth Step is wonderful in that it gives us the ability to clean up the past.  We begin to walk with our heads up.  We are not afraid to look the world in the eye.  We begin to experience real freedom.  What we now lovingly call "the promises" are written about the 9th step.   

This is the cha-ching step.  This is really where we get the most bang for our buck.  It is amazing what happens as a result of this, but you will not know until you do it.  So, if you haven't already, please get to it!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Step Eight

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."  

This is another step where it seems there is not much to "do."  Make a list.  And the big book even says that we already made the list when we did our Fourth Step.  The 12 and 12 says that we have that list and then we go back and redouble our efforts to see how many people we have hurt and in what ways.  

Becoming willing to make amends to them all is probably the trickier part.  Imagine this!  You tell an alcoholic to make a list of the people he or she resents and later you tell them to go make amends to them!  What a tricky deal this is!

I will just say that making amends is a very delicate science.  I think it is the area where we need the most help from our sponsors.  I can convince myself that I owe an amends when really I am looking for an amends from the other person.  I can convince myself that telling another person how they have hurt me is somehow a 9th step amends.  I can also convince myself that I ought to unload on them all "the truth" when they don't need to know... I am only hurting them more in an effort to feel better.  

Let me tell you about one of my most misguided attempts at an amends.... misguided in this case meaning not guided at all.  I did not talk it over with a sponsor.  I did not pray about it.  I did not write inventory or 5th step it.  I just decided one day that I was hurt by my former best friend and decided to "make amends."  I was sober all of 5 years, so I thought I knew what I was doing.

I sat down on the beach on Long Island, New York, and spent a morning writing her a letter.  I told her how she had hurt me. I detailed it out for her so she would not have any doubt about how she had harmed me.  Then I took out my checkbook and wrote a check for $10.  I guess that was my way of making it an "amends."  She had been married to a multi-millionaire (before his fraud conviction) and had given me money when I was a struggling single mother.  I figured I owed her maybe a thousand dollars.  I told her I would send her $10. a month until it was paid off.  Now please be aware that she never loaned me money, she had given me money.  I was just angry and wanted to throw it back in her face.  

Well, months went by and I never heard back from her - what a surprise!  Maybe 6 months later, I got an overdraft notice from the bank.  It seems that I had let my checking account balance get down to nothing just before my monthly check hit the bank, and this was the exact moment when she decided to cash this $10. check.  The check bounced!  Nice amends, huh?  A nasty letter and a bad check.  And then I truly owed her an amends - a real amends.  

We did later get this all straightened out.  She did make amends to me for the things I was so angry about.  I did get to make amends for this stuff and plenty more stuff too.  

But I think this is a perfect illustration of why you don't just go off and make amends.  You have a list.  You consider it carefully, adding or subtracting, with the help of your sponsor and plenty of prayer.  And then you pray some more for the willingness to do the right thing and get straight with the world.

And what a wonderful thing that is....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Step Seven

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings."

It would seem crazy to write a bunch about humility, wouldn't it? When the meeting topic used to be "humility" I would tell everyone that I had a series of tapes on the subject which I would be glad to sell and sign for them... ha ha.

In our beautiful big book, one of the most beautiful prayers is the Seventh Step prayer:
"My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to You and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do your bidding. Amen." (p.76)
There can be no self-will in this step.  We are giving our entire selves to God and asking Him to sort out what is meant to be there and what isn't.  

I heard a man at a meeting use this analogy for the Seventh Step:
Someone asked Michelangelo how he sculpted the Pieta.  To this, Michelangelo responded that he chipped away everything that didn't look like the Pieta, and he was left with the Pieta.  The Pieta, one of the most beautiful works of art I have ever seen, was inside that rock all the time, it just needed Michelangelo to reveal it.  (I got to see it at the World's Fair in New York City in 1965.)

This is probably a terrible analogy to a sculptor, but to me, it makes sense.  I let God be my sculptor.  He is able to take the huge bulky rock that was me, and chip away at the ugliness until there is a beautiful person revealed.    

I cannot will it, but I can cooperate.  And then I can be so grateful that I am not who I used to be.  For this, I cannot take credit, but I can thank God.  And I can express my gratitude forward by helping others, but that is another step.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Step Six

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."

The Sixth Step is contained in one paragraph in the big book:
"...we then look at Step Six.  We have emphasized willingness as being indispensable.  Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?  Can He now take them all -- every one?  If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing."  (p. 76)
After I had shared my first Fifth Step, my sponsor told me to go home and do exactly what it said at the bottom of page 75, and that was to review the first five steps and see if I had skipped anything.  I asked myself if I had done these things to the best of my ability.  I then turned the page to Step Six.  

The Sixth Step doesn't seem like much.  There is no specific action involved.  But it is important enough for the Twelve and Twelve to say that this step separates the men from the boys.  (And being a grown-up, I know that also means that it separates the women from the girls.)  

I have fortunately not been one who willingly clung to a character defect.  That is not to say that I don't have plenty.  But I was willing for God to take them away.  It is amazing what happens when you just get willing and let God work.  I could not remove my character defects and I don't believe I can "work" on them.  But I can be ready and willing for what God is able to do.  I can also cooperate.  I can't just go around doing the same old stuff and expect God to take care of it. I do have to cooperate.

I can't say the Lord's Prayer and ask God to "lead me not into temptation" and then place myself into temptation.  I need to make the changes necessary to stop doing whatever it is that is harmful.  

The most concrete example I can think of is my cigarette smoking.  I was sober 7 years.  I smoked like a fiend and vaguely considered this a character defect.  I did want to quit smoking in an abstract way, I just didn't want to actually stop smoking.  I prayed.  I prayed.  And then I prayed some more.  I joined a group to stop smoking.  Thank God that back in those days, there were no medications to take.  It was just a few days of misery and then you were done!   But first, on our assigned quit day, I had to take my cigarettes, crumble them up and throw them in the trash. I had to stop sticking cigarettes in my mouth and lighting them up.  God took care of the rest.  It was a few days of not fun, and then now 18 years of being a non-smoker.  I do not believe I could have done that without the help of God.  But God couldn't have done it if I had continued to stick cigarettes in my mouth and light them up.  

I am now half-way done with this endeavor to write about my experience with the steps.  I have complained to some of you about how much I have not enjoyed this.  I would so much rather write more light-hearted things.  I have been attacked non-stop since I started this.  There are little puny people out there who are obsessed with satan (not God) and these steps are a terrible threat to a satan-driven life.  

Being a loving person, it hurts me terribly to see someone who is so sick.  But I have to realize that there is nothing I can do for them. I wish I could wrap my arms around them and comfort them, and get them to start believing in God instead of the devil, but I can't.  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Step Five

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."  

This is where the real freedom begins.  To sit down and tell another person the exact nature of our wrongs... not something we would normally want to do, but under the threat of alcoholic death, it seems a little bit more palatable.

When I wrote my first 4th Step inventory, I wanted it out of my house, so I took it to my sponsor to wait until we could do the 5th Step.  In the meantime, she left her husband (it seems he didn't want a woman with a handgun in her purse living in his home).  She called to tell me that she had left and it didn't take me long to wonder where my written 4th step was.  She told me in the most casual way that she gave it to Jerry.  Jerry!  I didn't even LIKE Jerry let alone want him to have my 4th step!  Well, I freaked out and asked her where Jerry was... she said he was down at the club.  I hopped into the car immediately and drove to the club.  Jerry was there at the counter.  I frantically approached him and asked him if he had something of mine.  He picked up the folded notebook paper that was my inventory, waved it in the air and said "you mean this?"  I told him I needed to get that back from him, that it contained lethal information... information that could destroy my life.

He waved it in the air and told me that by the time I got done with the rest of the steps there wouldn't be anything in that inventory that I wouldn't be willing to have on the front page of the Rocky Mountain News - if it would help someone else.  I told him that he certainly didn't understand and asked him to give me my paperwork.  He gave it to me with a smile.  I thought he was a jackass.  

But you know what?  He was absolutely right.  By the time I sat down with my sponsor (after she got rid of the handgun and moved back in with her husband) and told her my whole story... starting with the written inventory and going from there, I was free of the shame and guilt.  

I think that trying to describe this is probably like trying to tell someone what it is like to eat a piece of fruit if they never have.  There is no way to describe it.  Certainly no one but a weirdo would look forward to going to another person and telling them all the tangled tales of twisted relationships, the lies, the hurt we have caused, the horrible wreckage we have caused.  And if you have never done this, it would make no sense to you that telling someone all of this would cause something akin to elation.  

I began to realize that I was just a garden variety drunk.  That once the things that brought me the most shame and had been carefully kept secret for years were out in the open they lost their power.  

After several years of sobriety and practicing the steps, I was able to go back to the church of my youth.  I was able to step back into the confessional and go through that process, which brought incredible freedom - but that is another story.

I don't know what else there is to write about this.  

But I will go off on a side note.  If you have read these posts for the past 5 days, you may have noticed that the people I encountered in AA did not always act great and treat me fabulous when I got sober.  They were frequently unreliable and untrustworthy.  And thanks to that, I placed my reliance on God, not on other people.  With the help of God, I was able to keep trudging until I found a great sponsor and great friends in AA, but that did not happen overnight.    

I am so grateful for these characters who helped me to get sober.  That first sponsor?  She is now drinking.  The second sponsor?  She is now drinking.  Jerry?  He died sober about 5 years ago.  I don't know where the second sponsor's husband is, but he sure helped me.  They all did.  I am so grateful.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Step Four

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

This is the step where the rubber begins to hit the road. And this is the step where I start to part company with many other AA members.  

When I got to AA, I was desperate to quit drinking.  I was desperate for my life to get better.  I read the big book in the first 24 hours of sobriety and although I was greatly befuddled, one idea came through loud and clear... that if I worked those steps, I would lose my desire to drink.  I was on fire with sobriety right then, but knew I normally had a very short attention span.  I figured I had about 4 to 6 weeks of enthusiasm for this "new thing," and then I would likely be in trouble - that is, of course, unless these steps actually worked.  If the steps worked, I would find myself at the end of my attention span with an endless supply of enthusiasm for sobriety.  So, of course, I needed to get to work.

I had already taken the Third Step with my sponsor.  When I approached her about getting to work on a fourth step, she said that I didn't need to worry about that, that I could just wait a while.  I didn't agree.  There were other issues with this sponsor, so I set about finding a new sponsor who would help me to get those steps done as soon as possible.  I did find one.  She had a few "issues" of her own, but she was supportive of my getting down to business.  

After a few days, I realized that I was unable to get my sponsor's help with the Fourth Step, I talked with her husband and he told me to just get started.  I asked him how I was supposed to do this.  He told me to pick up the big book and just follow what it said there.  

I sat down one morning, sober less than 30 days, and started writing.  By the end of that day, I had my first Fourth Step inventory written.  Really.  It was the most incredible day.  I started out with the intention of writing down every crappy thing that ever happened to me.  I structured it like the big book said - with those three columns.  

I'm resentful at:                             The Cause                                     Affects my:

I wrote and wrote and wrote. And then, I turned the page.  Literally and figuratively.  
"Referring to our list again.  Putting out of our minds the wrongs others had done, we resolutely looked for our own mistakes.  Where had we been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened?  Though a situation had not been entirely our fault, we tried to disregard the other person involved entirely.  Where were we to blame?  The inventory was ours, not the other man's.  When we saw our faults we listed them.  We placed them before us in black and white. We admitted our wrongs honestly and were willing to set these matters straight."  (p.67)
Then for the first time in my life, I looked at my life from another perspective.  I saw that I had been a participant in all of the events of my life.  That I had a part in all of it, however small or large my role.  I then continued with my fear and sex inventories.   There are clear instructions in the big book, and I just followed the directions.

This brought an incredible freedom.  It was the first time in my life that I thought that my life could change.  It didn't have to be an endless procession of "bad luck" and "poor choices."  It could change.  And it did.  

I needed to do another Fourth Step before my first AA birthday, and I did one every year after that, until I was sober 10 years.  It took a long time for me to get through all the stuff that kept coming up.  I was grateful for the structure of the steps to help me to "process" this stuff.  

A couple of years ago I sponsored a woman.  She was about my age, in her 50's, she was newly sober for about the fortieth time.  She just couldn't seem to get sober.  She told me that she had a book and she wanted to use it for the steps, it was called "The kinder gentler 12 steps."  I almost vomited.  Her life is a nightmare of poverty, disability, and chronic alcoholism, but she didn't want the steps to be too hard.  Our relationship didn't last long.  

I thank God that no one got hold of me and tried to convince me that I ought to take it easy on myself.  Was the 4th Step hard?  I guess.  But not harder than living with resentment that eats you from the inside out.  I was hard on myself - and in return, I get to live in freedom.  What a deal.  

Let me just share some stuff that was commonly talked about at meetings back when I got sober.  This was the culture I got sober in... they talked about the necessity of doing all the steps.  The old guys talked about how the thing that will get you drunk could probably be written on a matchbook cover.  That a Fourth Step was not intended to be the Great American Novel.  If it was more than a few pages, it was probably an ego trip.  That is why I love the structure of the four columns.  There is not a lot of room for writing about how special I am, or how tragic.  It is simple and straight-forward.  And it saved my life.

And once you have all that written down?  Well, it is time to do Step Five...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Step Three

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."

Ah, Step Three.  How I love it.  We can review the first two steps on page 60:
"(a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
 (b) That probably no human power could have relived our alcoholism.
 (c) That God could and would if He were sought. 
Being convinced, we were at Step Three."

I am tempted to go into a long philosophical discussion of Step Three, but I really want to keep this about my own experience with the steps.  This is not intended to be an intellectual exercise, just one alcoholic sharing their own experience, strength, and hope about the steps with another alcoholic.  

My first experience with Step Three was on my second day of sobriety.  I had a little over 24 hours without a drink when I called the woman who 12 stepped me and took me to my first meeting.  At my first meeting the night before, I was given a big book and told to read it.  Well, I read it.  I got to the ninth step and decided there was no way I could do this.  I called B. to thank her for her time (seriously, I really appreciated her time and kindness to me) and to tell her that I could not do this and therefore she would not be hearing from me anymore.  She asked me to get on my knees and pray.

I was highly insulted by the suggestion that some alcoholic would tell ME to pray!  Really.  I had years and years of fine religious education and who was SHE, some drunken bum, to tell ME to pray!?  But for some reason, I got on my knees and prayed.  And having recently read the big book, I used the words "I turn my will and my life over to the care of You."  I really meant it.  I cannot describe the relief that I felt at that moment.  I consider this a spiritual experience.  I felt the relief of knowing I was not carrying the weight of the world.  I knew there was a God and He was going to help me.  I needed plenty of help and I felt certain that I would get it.  I think I was in AA with all my heart and soul from that moment forward.

Later my sponsor and I said the prayer together and I formally took the Third Step.
  • "God I offer myself to thee - to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, They Love, and Thy Way of Life, May I do Thy will always!" 
As with all the steps, my experience and my understanding have expanded and deepened over the years.  The ups and downs of life, the moments of crisis, the heartbreaks, and the joys have a tendency to allow us to grow - or not.  

Here is one of my favorite experiences with the Third Step:  I was sober fifteen months.  I had a job that I had come to absolutely hate.  The company was dissolving before the owner's eyes and he was extremely angry.  Not wanting to blame himself, he was quick to blame others.  I was his secretary.  He was angry with me a lot of the time.  It frightened me.  I had three small children I was supporting.  My ex-husband was not working.  I felt like the weight of the world was back on my shoulders.  

One night in despair after a particularly bad day at work, I picked up the phone to ask for help.  I called my sponsor, she was not at home.  I called my best friend in AA, she was not at home.  I called my boyfriend, he was too busy to talk to me (not nice!).  I finally called my ex-husband... he suggested I read the big book.  That really made me mad. I was in AA - he was not.  But I picked up the big book and just opened it.  Here is where it fell open:

"First of all, we had to quit playing God.  It didn't work.  Next, we decided that hereafter in this drama of life, God was going to be our Director.  He is the Principal; we are His agents.  He is the Father, and we are His children.  Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom.

When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed.  We had a new Employer.  Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. "

I decided that if I had new employer, I really didn't need the old one. I went into work the next day and tried to have a chat with my boss.  When he told me to "get the f*** out of here," I did.  I left the building and never came back.  

In retrospect, I think this sounds somewhat self-serving, but I quit that job, and I had trust in God, really for the first time in my life, that everything was going to be OK.  I didn't have any evidence that it was going to be OK, but I just trusted.  

I was out of work for 6 weeks.  I really needed 6 weeks off at that time.  I got an unexpected check from an insurance company for an old car accident - and that check was more than what I normally would have earned in 6 weeks.  It paid my rent and put food on the table.  I actively looked for work the entire time I was unemployed and ended up with a wonderful job that I loved and paid me more than I made at the other company.  

This experience opened my eyes to an entirely different level of trust.  I had gone around in my first year or so saying that "God will do for me what I can't do for myself, but he won't do for me what I can do for myself."  The problem with that was that I was in charge of deciding what things God could do and what things I could do.  Funny, I decided that most things were in the realm of what I could do for myself.  And what a mess I ended up with!  

When I just trust God, everything is just fine.  It may not look fine at that moment, but I invariably discover later just why things happen the way they do.  

I could write for 12 days about this step alone.  I have had so many wonderful experiences... but that would be too much.

And, since the Third Step is "making a decision," how does one take the action necessary to complete it?  By taking the Fourth Step....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Step Two

"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

The Second Step is the only one that is not clearly detailed in the big book. There is a whole chapter called "We Agnostics" which deals with coming to believe - unfortunately many people either don't read it or don't spend much time studying it because they are not agnostics. 

All of the other steps say something like "This is the first step in recovery." (p. 30), "Being convinced, we were at Step Three." (p. 60), "This brings us to the Fifth Step" (p. 72), "we then look at Step Six." (p. 76), "We have then completed Step Seven." (p.76), "Let's look at Steps Eight and Nine." (p. 76), "This thought brings us to Step Ten." (p. 84), "Step Eleven suggests prayer and meditation." (p. 85), and "The next chapter is entirely devoted to Step Twelve." (p.88).  

I have heard many people say that they had a hard time with the second step because they didn't believe they needed to be restored to sanity because that would suggest they were insane.  Others have had difficulty because they did not believe in God.  For me, the difficulty was in the word "restore."  I couldn't imagine how I could be restored to something I never felt I had.  

My first sponsor had me take three sheets of paper and write my concept of a higher power on each sheet.  The first sheet was for my childhood idea, which was the God in heaven with the long white beard, etc.   The second sheet was for my present concept of God, which was someone I was trying to hide from, I was afraid of God.  The third sheet was to write down my ideal of what my relationship with God should be, at that time it was a close relationship without fear or dread.  We got together and I read these to her.  She then told me to take the first two sheets of paper and tear them up.  She said that those were my old ideas, and now I could get rid of my old ideas and go forward with the new.  

This is not what I do with sponsees as we do the Second Step, but it was my first experience with the Second Step.  

Over the years, my faith and trust in God have grown as I saw the evidence of what happens when you turn it over to Him.  I could start with the belief that God could remove alcohol from my life.  This was huge.  And it happened.  The trust built from there.  

As I look back on almost a quarter century of sobriety and try to judge the sanity of those years, I can see that the first years were not very sane.  But I wasn't drinking and that is very very good.  As time passed, my life started looking sane and so did I.  After a while, I started being employable.  I started being reliable.  I started being trust-worthy.  People could know what to expect from me.  They could ask me to do things and feel sure that they would get done. I know that left to my own devices it would not be this way.  

Thank God I do not have to do this alone.  The fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous is a tremendous blessing, but the individual people of AA can let you down.  The fellowship as a whole will not, but those individual hurts are very deep.  God will NEVER let me down and I never have to stay sober alone because He is always with me.  

How do you show that you have taken Step Two?  By moving on to Step Three... 

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Step One

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about Step Nine.  People commented about that.  I thought about it some and thought I would like to write a bit about my experience with the steps.  You all have heard enough about my running, my shoes, my job, my cooking, and my knitting to keep you going for at least 12 days, so I thought I would write each day for 12 days about the steps.  It is important to note that I am not writing instructions or guidance on the steps... I am writing about my experience with them.  There are plenty of books with the ultimate interpretations of the steps, but in my opinion there were two books written with all I need to know about them...  the big book, and the 12 & 12.  This is just me writing about my experience, OK?

"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."

When I got to AA, I knew I drank WAY too much.  I knew I was sick of it.  I knew that there was something very very wrong with my life.  I knew I was suicidal most of the time.  I knew I was a lousy wife and mother.  A lousy housekeeper, a lousy bookkeeper, a lousy most everything.  When I got to AA, I was honestly thrilled to think that I might have *one* problem instead of the thousands I thought I had.  

I thought I might be a little bit of an alcoholic.  It only took a few weeks in AA to realize that I related to the drinking of almost everyone.  The housewife, the nun, the stock-broker, the doctor, the bank robber, the Larimer Street (it used to be skid row in Denver before it got gentrified) wino, and the person who was locked up in the nut house.  I sat around an AA club and swapped stories with bikers and truckers and bankers and lawyers.  It took only a short while to realize that not once had I ever said "holy cow, I never drank like you guys!"  Not once. 

I was thrilled to stop drinking.  It hurt like hell for the first weeks.  I was shaking.  I was sick.  I was waking up with night sweats.  I was sick as a dog.  But I was so relieved.  It was actually easier to be sick than to be doing what I had tried for years - controlled drinking.  I loved being sober. I loved throwing in the towel and saying I couldn't do it anymore.  It was a tremendous relief.

But after a few months of sobriety, I didn't get the idea of powerlessness.  I thought I was powerful enough to stop drinking.  I thought I was powerful enough to go out and get a job and leave my husband and get an apartment and pay my bills, etc.  It took me nearly five years to "get" the idea of powerlessness and unmanageability.  

When I woke up on the wrong side of the locked doors of a psychiatric ward at 4 1/2 years of sobriety, I suddenly knew what it meant for your life to be unmanageable.  I had managed my life well enough to drive myself into suicidal exhaustion.  I had always laughed at the folks in AA who had lost everything but then would say "but I didn't pick up a drink!"  As if that was a good thing!  Well, on that morning in January 1989, I realized that the fact that I hadn't taken a drink WAS a good thing indeed, in fact miraculous, and that it was good enough.  I knew I had lots of work ahead of me and I was willing to do it.

Somehow it is a lot easier to turn it all over to God when you are in such a jam.  And I did.  But this time I never took it back... but I am getting ahead to other steps.

For me, Step One is ever-evolving.  I have over the years come to know my powerlessness on a cellular level.  I am sure it will continue to evolve as long as I am open to learning and haven't decided that I know it all.  

One of my favorite Step One stories is this:  I was sober almost 6 years.  I was about to marry a man.  I was living as an illegal alien migrant farm worker in Canada (I thought that was a hilarious, but oh-so-accurate way to describe my status).  He was an Australian crop-duster.  I was working for him doing the books.  We were in a remote town in Alberta.  I could not find an AA meeting.  I think I went 6 weeks without a meeting - however long we were in that place.  One fine day, my soon-to-be-husband asked me to stand in the road and stop traffic so that he could use the highway as his runway.  

I started crying.  I started walking around in circles, pulling my hair.  I told him "I am from Chicago!  I can't do this!  I don't belong here!"  Suddenly it occurred to me that I was behaving like a wimp!  I knew I was not a wimp, so I asked myself what was wrong with me that I was acting like this.  The thought came to me like a thunderbolt - "You need a beer."  And then next thought was "WHAT?  I haven't had a drink for nearly 6 years!  How can I need a beer?"  

Then I realized that I either need to be actively involved in AA, or I truly do need a drink.  Left to my own devices, I am not capable of quitting drinking, or being a viable human being.  I need to acknowledge my powerless over alcohol and my inability to manage my own life.... and then things change.  And my life begins to look like something that is desirable.  It may look manageable because it does have a manager, but the manager is not me!

Step Two tomorrow...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

My ex-husband's birthday

My ex-husband is 59 years old today.  When I met him he was 24.  In my mind, he will always be the 24 year old football player I fell in love with.  I wish I could call him and wish him a happy birthday, but it would cause more problems for him, and therefore, I won't.  Sometimes when you have caused a lot of hurt, the best thing you can do is just leave it alone.  Please know that I have made my amends as best I could, but I caused that man a lot of pain and he doesn't really like to be reminded of it.  

Maybe if some of my old-school friends read that, they would say "How can you say that, don't you remember what he did to YOU?!"  Well, that is hardly the point.  The point is, in recovery we need to be responsible for ourselves.  We do not focus on the harm another may or may not have caused us, that only leads to pain and bitterness.  We focus on ourselves and what we can do to repair the harm we have caused, and then live in such a way to at least try not to cause more harm.  

I am grateful that I had a very productive week at work.  I have a weekend without very many plans.  I have a new green hoodie to wear this morning.  I have those socks to knit (see picture), and I am enjoying it immensely.  I am going to the 6:30 meeting and then to meet my sponsee at a local coffee establishment (not Starbuck's) to do some seventh step stuff.  I get to go to church tonight, and might get to confession this afternoon.  This is a step-back week in my training, so I won't have a l-o-n-g run tomorrow, just 4 miles.  

I love Saturday mornings.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Yesterday at the morning meeting, a young woman celebrated 1 year of sobriety.  I was so glad I was there.  She told a bit of her story, she had tears streaming down her face, I had tears brimming in my eyes, another woman had tears running, and the men were trying not to cry.  It was one of those wonderful AA stories.  Heartbreak and redemption.  Decimation and reconciliation.  A living death and then life.  And the gratitude that naturally flows from that.

On the way to the restaurant last night, I stopped at the yarn shop to get a new quick project to work on.  I have been knitting the same baby blanket since last March and I am SICK of it.  It is going to take at least another couple of months to finish.... on size 1 needles, and very intricate work.  I usually pick quick projects because the variety.  I LOVE to knit socks because they are quick, they make a great gift, and I love the tactile aspect of the bamboo needles, the wool yarn, and the way these interact.  

I walked into the yarn shop with 5 minutes scheduled to do this!  I told the owner of the shop that I NEEDED some socks to knit for therapy.  Unfortunately, I am afraid this is probably not a strange request for that store.  She knew exactly where to take me to get some beautiful marino wool yarn, and I always buy new needles even though I am sure I don't need them.  I have a portfolio of knitting books, and several books of sock recipes.... what fun to come home and pick a sock pattern and get started.  

I am really looking forward to today.  I have been working very hard to get several projects going.  They are now going... there is lots more work to do, but they have a good foundation now.  I feel like I can work at a less frenetic pace for a day or two... and that is good.

Have a wonderful Friday everyone.  

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thursday Morning

I remember when Thursday morning was so much fun because we had half-nAAked thursday.  But then it changed and then it was over.  I just spent 15 minutes looking for it and it isn't even there anymore.  It was fun while it lasted.

I am frantic busy again.  I am heading out of here for a 6:30 a.m. meeting to start the day, and then a full day of work.  After work, I am meeting 3 AA friends for dinner at a middle-eastern restaurant.  I shall enjoy that.  But right now, I just wish I could get back in bed and go back to sleep.  

But I won't.  One important thing I learned in my early years of sobriety is that you take the right action and the good feelings will follow.  If you wait till you feel like doing something, it may never happen.  There is a cute little saying to describe that, but I can't even think of it right now.  Oh, wait, I think it is:

You can't think your way into right living, but you can live your way into right thinking.

Is that it?

In other words, there is no chapter in our big book called "Into Thinking," but there is one called "Into Action."

Have an action-packed sober day, OK?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Who am I? What am I doing here?

I am at a loss this morning, so I will just go back to the start.  In the immortal words of Admiral William Stockdale, "Who am I? What am I doing here?"

I am a 56 year old woman.   I will be 57 in December.  I was born in Pittsburgh, PA.  I grew up in a small town in eastern Ohio, named Poland.  I moved from there when I was 14 to a suburb of Chicago.  When my parents told me we were moving, and that I would have to attend public schools for the first time in my life, I made a conscious decision to start drinking and doing whatever the heck else I felt like.  I made good on that decision.

I started drinking in July 1966.  I didn't stop until July 24, 1984.  In that time, I got married and had three children.  We moved from Chicago to New Mexico to the mountains of Colorado.  I did things that drunk people do.  I became increasingly depressed and desperate.  By 1984, with three small children and a husband who needed me, I drank daily, all day long and had for years, and all I wanted to do was die.  I had no friends.  Not one.  When I needed someone to talk to, I got on the phone with my therapist, and then got a bill for the time we spent on the phone.  

When my husband told me we were moving to Denver, it shook my world and I think I made the bookend decision to the one I made in 1966 - I wanted to get sober.  It took 3 weeks.  

I called AA on the morning of July 24, 1984 and I have not had a drink since.  I jumped into AA with everything I had.  They told me to go to 90 meetings in 90 days, and I went to 180.  They told me to get a sponsor, I got a sponsor.  They told me to work the steps, I worked the steps.  They told me to pray, and I prayed.  They told me to get active in service work, I did that.  In 1985 I celebrated one whole year without a drink.  In 1986, 2 years.  In 1987, three years.... and on and on.  In 2004, I got a coin  with "XX" on it.  Twenty years without a drink.  My last coin has "XXIV" on it.  XXIV.  

In the time I have been sober, I went back to school and got my bachelor's and master's degrees.  I got a job at 10 years of sobriety which I still have today.  My children have grown and now I have two grandchildren.  I bought my first house in 1998, and my second house in 2001, in which I still live.  

I have gone from being a 32 year old woman who wanted to die to being a 56 year old woman who is doing everything she can to stay alive for as long as I can.  I participated in my first triathlon in 2004, and have done five since.  I ran my first half-marathon in May 2007, and am now training for my fifth one which is in January.  I am so grateful that by the grace of God, I was able to quit smoking 17 years ago, and have not had one cigarette since.  

AA gently led me back to the church of my youth and I have found my home there.  I am currently in the middle of my second year of a four year program of Biblical School.  I love it.  

My life has changed dramatically.  It did not happen overnight.  It happened slowly.  I did not get sober and get perfect.  I messed up - a lot.  But I did not drink, and I kept doing what I was supposed to be doing.  

I was done drinking.  I had enough.  I was desperate.  I didn't have any great ideas left. I didn't have any friends left.  I believe it was the hand of God that got me to AA, and the grace of God that kept me sober.  I believe I had to follow the few directions given me to just cooperate with the freely given gift.  I don't believe I stayed sober by any great "work" on my behalf... just some cooperation.

I started this blog to converse with some other blogger, long gone, who was bugging me on my other blog.  I realized he was a recovering alcoholic and I wanted to talk about that, but my other blog was political in nature and used my full name and picture, so I would not violate traditions by talking about my membership in AA there.  So I started this blog. After a couple of months, a blogger, sadly now long gone from the blogging scene, came along and then told a  bunch of you about my blog and the rest is history.  I have loved the fellowship of the sober blogs.  It has been wonderful.  

And now I have to get dressed and face this day sober.  I will attempt to do it with quiet humor and grace.  I will definitely need God's help today, as I do every day.  

Let's go into this new world sober together, shall we?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Tenth Tradition

Today, of all days, I wish I could spill my guts here.  But I am bound by the 10th tradition to not do that.  It is election day, and I can say "go out and vote!"  I would like to go further and tell you who to vote for.  But I won't.

But I would like to say that as sober people, we have the responsibility to take our civic duty seriously.  So, I would like to say, counter to most folks, that if you don't know what you are doing, if you haven't paid attention to this election, and if you are voting for nebulous ideas that don't make a lot of sense after investigation - stay home.  Really.  Just stay home.

When the founding fathers (yes, they were fathers, not mothers) of the United States died to protect our freedom of speech and our right to a voice, they were not talking about uninformed people talking a bunch of nonsense.  They were talking about people who took responsibility for themselves and took the time to be informed and form an opinion based on facts.  People who took the time, and did the work, and whether you agreed with them or not, you had to respect their opinions and their right to voice them.  

We have a beautiful country.  My son, and hundreds of thousands like him, have fought for our freedoms in the middle east.  Our brothers, cousins, and friends fought in Vietnam.  Our fathers, uncles, and grandfathers shed their blood, sweat, and tears in Europe in the first and second world wars.  This is serious stuff.  It doesn't always feel good.  It isn't always pretty.  Many have died for this country and all it stands for.  

Please take the time for an informed decision about our future.  

And stay sober, OK?

Monday, November 03, 2008

1st Monday in November

(my leg, with an alaskan mosquito squished on it, while riding a bike, in Alaska)
One of my least favorite meetings at work is on the first Monday of every month.  What kind of sadistic person schedules a meeting for the first Monday?  I am still happy to be going to work. 

As I put on my shoes this morning, I thought about how grateful I am to have an opportunity to wear high heels on a daily basis.  There were years in my life when I had no excuse to wear heels, or even nice shoes.  In fact, there were years when I had only one pair of shoes at time, and I wore them until I wore them out and then it was time for a new pair.  Well, now I have quite the collection of shoes.  Running shoes, hiking boots, bumming around kind of tennies, water shoes, snow boots, high heel pumps, high heel boots, low heel dancing boots, clogs, crocs, sandals of all sorts, flats, kitten heels, etc.  I have brown shoes, black shoes, purple shoes, green shoes (more than one pair), blue shoes, silver shoes, and of course, red shoes.  

Why am I thinking about this, you may ask?  Because I am thinking about taking a trip to Rome in 2010.  And I am thinking about the money this will cost.  And I am thinking about how if I don't stop spending money I will never retire.  And it occurs to me that I don't really want to retire.  Why?  Because then I would have no good reason to wear high heels!

Welcome to my decision making process...
and let's stay sober today, OK?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All Souls Day

A day of commemoration of the faithful departed. 

The first day of standard time is one of my favorite days of the year.  I get an extra hour this weekend!  I love to wake up and have it be an hour earlier!  It is already mostly light outside and it is only 6 a.m.!  I am going to get out and run as soon as I finish this post and pray.  

I am so happy to be again training for a half marathon.  I love to have that focus and that reason to get out and run.  Running makes me a happier girl, but even though I know that, it is hard to get out and run if I don't have a goal in mind.  

I just don't have much to say today I guess.  While I was waiting for the water to boil for coffee this morning (I use a Melitta drip filter thing) I cleaned and polished the cabinets in my kitchen.  I guess that feeling of having an extra hour inspired me to do something I don't normally want to do.

Now I will get out and do something that I love!

Have a great sober Sunday everyone.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Home Group

This morning I went to my home group.  If you do not have a home group, you have no idea what you are depriving yourself of.  It is the most wonderful thing.  I seldom give advice, but here is some:  if you do not have a home group, get one - at once!

I have tried adopting other groups as my h.g., and I have felt at various times that I have had success at this.  But now that I have started to once again drive across town to the group and the people with whom I sobered up, I realize that it will always be my home, and there will never be another.  I know that some people move far away from where they sobered up and do not have the opportunity to go to their old h.g., but I do.  

So this morning I got to see Denny, who took me to my first meeting.  I got to see John.  About 12 years ago, that group moved and my friend Andy and I still went to the old meeting place (because it was still listed in the meeting book) and sat there in case anyone showed up.  We would get newcomers, coming to their first meeting.  John was one of those.  Andy and I both loved John and wanted so much for him to get sober.  He did get sober for a while, but then had a bad slip, lasting years and costing him everything he had.  

He has a year and a half of sobriety now.  He and his wife were able to regain custody of their kids within the last year.  He talked about trick or treating with his boys last night.  It was beautiful.  In the past, he would have sent his nanny out to do that "chore," and now that he is poverty-stricken, he is finding out what the true treasures in life really are.    He is also very wise and has impeccable taste, he told me that he couldn't believe I am almost 57 years old, and that I have a "timeless beauty!"  No wonder I love him!!!  

Life is peaceful and good today.  I am about to assemble a pot of homemade soup, and will let it simmer while I am out cleaning up the end of the fall leaves.  It just doesn't get much better than this.  

*in case anyone is wondering, I gave wellsphere permission to publish my blog on their health site ( I have very mixed emotions about this) and if I don't have a picture on my posts, they put one there... so I am putting a picture on almost every post now.  The pictures they place on my posts are really not to my liking at all... kind of new-agey, fakey spiritually, icky.