Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Broken Watch

I know some of this is redundant with what I have posted in the past, but I am submiting this post for possible publication with a recovery magazine, plus sending it to some people who don't read the blog but have been a part of my recovery.

On November 28th 2006 I drank my last drink of alcohol. The day was normal in all aspects with the exception that I was packing my stuff for a trip to a drug and alcohol treatment center the following day. I don’t know how much I drank probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-18 beers which was fairly normal. I went to treatment with no real plan of quitting, I was going because my drinking was out of control and I was having frequent run ins with the law, also my daughter was getting really worried about me and starting to hate the life we lived. Basically my back was up against the wall I needed to do something, but the something was to regain control over my beer consumption not quit, yep I was sick. I had found myself in similar situation in 1987, that time it was my mental state and fear of getting into trouble with the Air Force, doing something to solve that situation lead to 9 years of sobriety which overall were damn good. This time 10 years of constant drinking had lead me to heavy denial about how bad my drinking had become. I can go into the morning drinking, the drinking and driving, the drinking while working, the tardiness and all the rest but won’t. What I want to do is reflect back on what has happened and why the cravings left me a few days after entering treatment and have not returned something I don’t analyze much but since I have an AA anniversary coming up and will receive a chip on Wednesday night I have been thinking about lately.
Probably the first thing I can think of that happened was within a few days of treatment I reconnected with my Higher Power, which was minimized once I started drinking, fact of matter was I never wanted to stop drinking so the Higher Power wasn’t there to aid me, just something to keep me somewhat sane during times of despair. My Higher Power first showed up in the form of me being a part of a group of others who where having problems with alcohol and drugs, then in the face of someone I know from my past life as a sober member of AA, she showed me love and compassion rather than the scorn and shame I was afraid my former AA friends would show. During my years of drinking my old dislike for organized religion reared its ugly head and I even came to resent AA as an extended arm of organized religion. When I entered treatment I was given a copy of the book Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) I skim read “Bill’s Story”, devoured “There is a Solution” and “More About Alcoholism” when I started reading “We Agnostics” my mind was reopened to why I had such great respect for AA back in 1987 and one of the attractions that kept me coming back; that was the freedom of find and worshiping a God of our own understanding. My old prejudices and resentments started to fade fast after reading that chapter, I accepted that the God as we understand him message is sometimes diluted at meetings especially in rural areas where Christianity was strong and members tend to drift towards it and less towards open ended spiritualism. I walked out of treatment after only 2 weeks different, revitalized and compulsion free, my insurance wouldn’t pay for the whole 4 week stay.
From December to April I was without a driver’s license and a car, I lived 25 miles from work and AA meetings. I depended on a friend to get to work, I would stay with the only close friend left over from the drink days after work, neither her or her husband were heavy drinkers, I would hang out at there house until meeting time, then walk to the meeting and catch a ride home with my sponsor or my sister, or occasionally my friend would give me a ride home. The Higher Power blessed me with a sponsor who lived fairly close, who was going to college in an other town but drove through the town where meetings were held a few times a week, we would either meet at meetings or he would pick me up on his way home. This wasn’t an everyday thing, usually a 2-3 times a week, this way my daughter wasn’t home alone every night, but by now she had gotten used to running her own life, which would cause problems down the road. My sponsor would ask me to go with him if he was going to an AA event on the weekends but for the most part I spent the weekends at home alone, reading or watching movies with my dog for company, since there were no meetings in the town I lived in. I was an avid reader for a long time but during the last years of drinking alcohol robbed me of my ability to sit and read, I lost comprehension over what I read and patience for sitting and reading so it was a joy to sit and read again. Never once during those times of being alone without wheels did I crave a drink. Being without wheels served a few purposes it taught me how to be comfortable being alone, allowed me time to reflect and mediate, write. Another thing is that one of my old hobbies was to drive around the back roads with beer, now without wheels if I was having emotional turmoil in recovery I couldn’t just hop in a vehicle and cruise around which might have triggered picking up a 6 pack, I was forced to stay put and deal with what was going on or use the 2 ton phone.
The first year of sobriety was what it was, 1 year of living full of highs and lows. My daughter got into some trouble which eventually lead to her being place in a group home for girls. I got closer to my parents and in doing so realized that they needed to move closer to where my sister and I lived so we could help them out as their age and health was starting to cause difficulties. There was the sharing of myself with my sponsor, my fears, my regrets, my insights and such, working the 12 steps. There was the building of my spirituality, probably the strongest thing to come out of this was understanding perceptions and how I couldn’t base my understanding of a Higher Power on how I perceived others based theirs. Once I broke through this perception I was truly spiritually free.
So what has happened in the last year, my second year in recovery? I found a spiritual foundation for living via Buddhism. The irony of my finding out that Buddhism was a religion that I could learn to practice and dedicate myself to came via a prayer by a Catholic monk, St Francis. I read the prayer of St Francis in the book 12 Steps and 12 Traditions, I wrote the prayer out long hand, taped it next to my front door, and would read it every morning prior to leaving the house. From my prior dabbling in Taoism and brief readings of Buddhism I recognized the eastern religious undertones to the prayer, the complete abandonment of self, services of other, and by doing these things one would find contentment and freedom.
Another thing that happened was my watch broke and I decided not to get a new one. I had a bad habit of looking at my watch a lot, being over obsessed with what time it was or how long something was taking. I still am conscience of time, when to go to work, when my breaks are, when a meeting starts and the normal things but gradually I have eased up on the obsession of how much time is going by when something is happening, how long or short of time some thing is taking, I still have a long way to go but I am getting better.
So my whole second year of sobriety is a direct result of my adapting Buddhism into my life and not wearing a watch. I understand that suffering is inevitable, it happens whether we want it to or not, suffering is caused by desires/selfishness, by applying the Eightfold path in my life, I can control how the suffering effects me and my actions have a direct effect on those who come in contact with me, either positive or negative, with positive being the desired effect. Because I no longer wear a watch I am becoming more at ease with living in the moment, the right here and right now, I don’t fidget as much, don’t get worked up as much over how much time is left or how little of time is left, time is as it time and it is up to me to use it constructively. Here are a few situations that have happen to me in the last year. When it was decided that my daughter would be moved to a group home and be there for at least 8 months I moved to the town where I work at and attend most of my meetings which by the way is also the town where my parents live. The move created a conflict between my daughter and me, she wouldn’t accept the move because she had set her mind on graduating with the kids she had went to school with since 2nd grade, being a teenager she would not listen to my reasoning based on economics and the uncertainties of her situation, there was no certainty when she would be allow to move back home with me. I over came my stress of upsetting her by extending my support group, becoming a ware of my emotions via prayer, mediation and use of AA steps and suggestions. In the end she accepted the move though a bit begrudgingly in the beginning, lesson learn things work out if we give them time and stop adding fuel to fire (re-stirring dead embers). In December my daughter found out she was pregnant, I accepted this without getting overly upset, what was done was done, abortion and adoption where not options, not for religious reasons but out of personal reasons. The pregnancy proved to be a building block for a stronger relationship between my daughter and myself, she started taking her own fledgling sobriety more seriously, wanting to attend meetings with me instead of just “going along”. The damage of the past was repaired by our spending more quality time together and phone calls, she also noticed that some of the girls in the group home had no positive interaction with their parents and that her old man wasn’t that bad after all. Again it was through living in the now that I was able not to get overly emotional unstable during all this which also consisted of mixed feeling towards the father of the baby. My granddaughter was born on a beautiful July 4th morning, the city of Lincoln was quiet and peaceful, standing outside I was awed by the beauty of nature intensified by her birth. My daughter had to have a C section but all went well and my granddaughter’s father was there for her birth. I am forever grateful that I was sober that morning, and that I was able to be there for my daughter, that there were no resentments between us, I owe this to spirituality, fellowship and the 12 steps of recovery. I spent those days she was in the hospital in complete contentment not overly concerned with what time of day it was or trying to find something to do. My daughter and granddaughter moved back to the town I live in after their release from the hospital, she had successfully completed the requirements of the group home, she was then moved to an independent living program which she is still part of. I do my best to let her live her own life, giving suggestions without being a dictator, I baby sit when need be which isn’t constantly. My granddaughter is an intelligent and content baby, I believe this is due to the harmony in her life, the harmony of having a sober mother who tries to stay away from drama and the harmony of a grandpa who is peaceful and serene most of the time. The last major thing that has happened to me many would say would be the hardest to deal with and that was watching my dad’s health slowly get worse and then watching him die. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t sad and troubling at times but the sadness was never overwhelming. The way I got through this was by understanding my suffering and his and that we were both powerless over it, no matter how hard I wanted to make life easier for him it wasn’t in my power to do so. While I was watching him die I kept thinking to myself I wish this could be his last breath, to counter that I had to remind myself I wasn’t in control and was being selfish, I focused on the moment instead of getting into a bunch of useless projecting. As sad as his final last breath was, I knew he was at peace, no more pain, physical or mental. The other thing was we had made our personal peace with each other. Being sober I was there to help my dad when he couldn’t help himself or things were too much for my mom to handle. There are other things that have happened that some would find stressful but I have been able to handle with relative ease.
I don’t very excited about too much anymore, I have learned to handle stressful situations at work, to mentally fend off the negative energy created by my supervisor and some of my fellow workers, I don’t caught up in the game of blaming others or belittling others, even my financial situation which isn’t the best at times is manageable if I don’t give in to the stress of it and use awareness to figure out what I can and can’t do. I have learned with a little prayer, mediation and living in the moment that even when life gets tense and crazy that I can stay fairly serene and sane. My new journey has just begun but as long as I remember that it is practice and sometimes slow progress that my life will be filled with happiness and joy no matter what the situation is. The choice is mine today whether I dwell in the house of suffering watching my watch or whether I accept the suffering, move on and live in the moment at hand.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Thread is Tied Off

Wednesday night a friend of mine died from alcoholism, she was 47 years old. Cyd had reached the point of not caring anymore, she was tired of fight the disease, and in the end she took an overdose of Tylenol and washed down with vodka which caused her already damaged liver to shut down.
At one point in her life Cyd had 10 years of sobriety then she lost a child, started drinking again and was never able to stay sober for any length of time after that. The longest time she may have had in the last 10 years was a year; normally she would get 1 or 2 months. She never quit trying though, well not until the other day, she would go to meetings, get a sponsor work the steps and then for reasons unknown to every one would drink again, disappear for a few months and then show back up and start all over again. She had run her course of treatment facilities, mental health hospitals and even jails. Last night I lead the meeting at local mental health hospital, Cyd’s last trip up there was this summer, I generally don’t talk about suicide or depression when I go to meetings at the hospital but last night we all needed to think about the gravity of the disease. My ex-wife died from suicide, like Cyd she gave up fighting the disease, the struggle of day to day life was just too much to bare, tired of one more attempt and one more failure, in the end the thought of dying was more peaceful than the unknown of living. I don’t condone suicide but for some alcoholics and addicts it is the only way to achieve peace. I would guess that a large portion of alcoholics and addicts were suicidal to some degree when the disease was active, this would be true especially for older ones. I was 24 when I cut my wrist because I just didn’t care any more and thought the other side might be better, it was this event that lead me to recovery, during the relapses years I never thought too seriously about blowing my head off, OD’ing, gassing myself but I did get to the point that didn’t care if I woke up in the morning or not, or if I had a heart attack while driving which would cause an accident that took my life. Suicide is the ultimate selfish act but the life of active alcoholism and drug addiction is a life filled with total and complete selfishness 24/7.
Some words on Cyd; Cyd was the most intellectually intelligent person I knew in recovery!! Cyd could quote the Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous), the Bible word for word. She was the only person who know anything indepth about Eastern religions, she not only know about Thich Nhat Hanh, the Tao, Kornfield and others she had read them and would talk about what she had read. She would also talk about Kahil Gilbran, Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Steinbeck, John Irving and any number of authors that might catch her fancy. I envied Cyd’s ability to remember passages from books or song lyrics, my memory is shot and has been for years, not matter how many times I read or listen to something I can’t quote verbatim the words. Cyd and I also shared a love for music, I remember a few months back she had bought a copy of Joni Mitchell’s newest album, she was like a school girl in her excitement about how great the album was and the depth of the lyrics, I still haven’t heard the album but will go get a copy to honor my friend. We would talk about the great singer/songwriters both the well known and the less well known, she liked Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith and others who’s music isn’t played on commercial radio stations. A year ago last June I took Cyd to a state AA function and on the way home NPR was playing blues, her knowledge was amazing, she could recognize the different artist the radio was playing, once again not your normal popular artist. These are some of the things I know about Cyd in the short time she was my friend. We weren’t really tight but would stand outside a meeting a visit while smoking or once in awhile I would give her a lift home, but spend 15-25 minutes with Cyd was like spend a day with someone else.
One last thing; all the knowledge and intelligence in the world didn’t save her life in the end!! I have known people who are too intelligent and analytical to grasp recovery but I really don’t think that was Cyd problems. I am taking a wild ass guess here and saying that if anything she couldn’t let go of the suffering no matter how hard she tried, the suffering for the lost of a child, the suffering she inflicted on her other kids lives due to her drinking sprees, the suffering of loneliness but in honestly only she knew. Did she frustrate me with her relapses yes, did I stop caring no, and I am not alone. Tonight there is going to be a viewing and wake, the event will be filled with a bunch of recovering drunks and druggies paying respect for truly one of their own. She was a thread that wove it’s itself into our lives and we are richer for touching the thread, for seeing her star burning bright and even seeing it fade.
Love Ya Cyd, peace and harmony

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Watching the Wheels

It is getting closer to the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, December 8th 1980, I clearly remember the morning. I was a senior in high school, I got up like every morning came upstairs to eat breakfast prior to catching the bus when the news come on the radio that John had been assassinated, my world was totally knock off it’s axis. At 17 I didn’t understand as much as I would later in life how important John was but he was still a hero of mine because of the music and his personality. He had also just released Double Fantasy after a 5 year hiatus from recording. Every year since his death as December draws closer I think a lot about him, some people start thinking about Christmas in November but I start reflecting about John. John is really never too far away since I have a picture of him on the door to my coat closet. Today my mind has turned to John again, in part because I am a bit bored I suppose but also because of some of the readings and talks of late and maybe because I am coming up on a sobriety anniversary and I get reflect when it comes around, shit why try and figure out why it is happening, I am writing about it so let it be it in the moment.
I have to admit I am not a huge fan of John as a solo artist, I like him better than solo Paul, George or Ringo but he ranks in the teens when it comes to favorite artist. But I am a huge fan of the man himself blemishes and all. I love Dylan who in my opinion was the greatest poet of the 20th century and the most important figure in contemporary music but Dylan has always been elusive, hiding behind lyrics, intelligence and many crafted faces. Lennon was open, he literally stood naked in front of the world, we saw his anger, fears, compassion, eccentric thinking and his love. There is a great scene in the authorized documentary “Imagine” where a dirty stoned hippie kid shows up at John’s house in Tittenhurst, he starts tell John that he thinks some of John’s songs were written about him, like John had some psychic connection to him, John tells the kid his songs are about him (John) about his life, what is going on in his life, what he had to eat or if he took a healthy shit that day and the people involved in his life, John kindly argues with the kid and then ask the kid if he is hungry and has the kid come in and eat something, the film shows John and the young man eating together, now if that isn’t compassion from a man who at the time was one of the top celebrities in the world. I don’t know what is. There are plenty of other moments in John’s life were he was just as open and honest. Check out Imagine if you get the chance the whole movie plus bonus info is great!!
You can’t write about John without Yoko. One of the fascinating things about John his is love for Yoko and her love for him. Yeah in the beginning it was obsessively weird, Yoko in the studio while the Beatles were recording, the 2 constantly together, the recording of 2 Virgins and Unfinished Music Part 2 where John recorded the last heart beats of baby dying in Yoko’s womb maybe even baghism. Their love for each was extremely strong. You think of all celebrity males out there and how most of them like their “arm candy” old farts like Clapton, Jagger, Rod Stewart and even McCartney still trade in women once they start showing a bit of age for some young hottie. Part of the reason a lot of people disliked Yoko was because she wasn’t gorgeous and yet she got John Lennon. Theirs was a true love not based vanity but attraction that was more than skin deep. They went through their ups and downs like other couples, John’s lost weekend proved to be both a failure and a success. I think that by the time Sean was born John was just burned out from being a music figure head and the whole music/celebrity scene so staying home with Sean while Yoko took care of busy was a joy to John. John hadn’t had a normal life since he was in his early teens so he welcomed the chance to stay home and do what needed being done. The muse called back to him but by then he was refreshed and revitalized and Double Fantasy is proof of that.
Now a bit about some of his songs that have meaning to me. Two years ago on December 8th I was in treatment for alcoholism, like most mornings I was up an hour before the rest of the group, it gave me some quiet time, I started writing a poem about John and while writing “Help” came to mind, “when I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed any ones help in anyway, but now these days are gone, I not so self assured, now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors.” Yeah that is where I was at that moment finally willing to ask for, “help me if you can I’m feeling down, and I do appreciate you being around, help me get my feet back on the ground, won’t you please please help me”, thanks John for the tears back on that day I needed them. “Imagine” is the greatest of all Utopian songs but there is nothing wrong with being Dreamers and striving for a better world. When I think of beautiful ballads “In My Life”, “Norwegian Wood”, “Love” “Nowhere Man”, “A Day in the Life”, “Watching the Wheels” “Woman” “Mother” Beautiful Boy” come to mind. I love “Cold Turkey” for the rawness of the lyrics, I have watched someone go through cold turkey and John nailed his experience and everyone else’s down. “Woman is the Nigger of the World” is one of those songs that seems to get left out of great Lennon songs because John uses the word nigger, the song is a brutal essay on women being the slave of slaves, if you have never heard the song Goggle the lyrics and see what I mean. “Working Class Hero” is another song I love for his honest observation in lyrical form, yeah so what that he wrote it while living a good life, but spoke openly about the social ties that were holding working people down. As for the socially conscience songs, “Give Me Some Truth” tops my list, followed by “Revolution”, Merry Christmas (War is Over), “All You Need is Love”. Here a few more that I just like for no reason other than they are great songs, “I am the Walrus”, “Don’t Bring me Down”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Instant Karma”, “Isolation” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, “Come Together” “Oh My Love”, “Ticket to Ride” “Nobody Told Me”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Across the Universe”.
So here is a bit of a ranting ramble on John Lennon, written on a slow afternoon sitting at my desk. Like many other greats who have gone on before I am glad the world got to know his spirit, I am glad he touched mine in a positive way, the world and I are both better because of John.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Perspective on relapses and alcoholism

I rent a room out to guy who is recovering from alcoholism and addiction, he had 10 months clean and sober, lived in the half way house for those months, was doing really well there. He took his recovery seriously, attended different meetings regularly, did service work, helped the new guys at the house, was never overly cocky about his sobriety, he was one of those newcomers you would say was standing on solid ground. The reason I asked him if he wanted to rent out 2 small rooms in my house cheap was that he was doing so well and he is rather quiet and respectful, which suits my quiet life style. About the time Adam was starting his transition out of the half way house and into my house the half way house announced it was permanently closing it doors due to lack of funds and paid staff, which was a blow to the guys living there because of the support the house gave them. Adam moved in to my house and was doing really good for a few weeks, going to work daily, making appointments (UA’s), going to meetings and hanging out with the guys from the house and others in recovery. Just over 3 weeks ago things started going bad for him, his great grandmother died, his dad who is a practicing alcoholic and addict got the hell beat out of him at a dive bar which lead to him having a fairly major stroke, bit by bit Adam started sinking into depression. I availed myself to him the best that I could, being there for him to talk to but never pressing him to talk, my thinking was that I wanted the house to be a safe and comfortable place for him to live in and not have to worry about answering to me, plus most people won’t open up unless they are ready to. Finally he checked himself into the local mental health hospital, I wasn’t home at the time and later he told me he had drank a 6 pack and a bottle of cheap wine which added to the depression. He was released on the 7th and spent the weekend with his family, seeing his dad in the hospital. He came back to the house Monday the 10th and we talked a bit and he seem alright and know he needed to get a new or second sponsor plus get back into going to meetings. Tuesday night I went to a meeting and got home around 8:30 at about 8:45 a police officer showed up at my door looking for Adam, one of his friends had called the police department stating that Adam sounded depressed and they were afraid he was suicidal, I told the officer that as far as I knew he was at an NA meeting, I gave her the location of the meeting and also the name a guy who would be in attendances, I would later make amends for having a police officer show up at an NA meeting they tend to get a bit more weireded out about cops than alkies do. My friend from the meeting called back asking where Adam was because he wasn’t at the meeting, so I check his room and sure enough he was on his bed sound asleep, I told my friend to send the officer back over and I proceed to wake Adam up and told him the officer was on the way over. He was way out of it, sounded like he was dosed good on anti-depressants, the officer talked to Adam and after about 15 minutes waiting to see if his behavior improved with time the EMT’s were called to check him out in case of accidental overdose. When the EMT’s arrived and after talking to Adam a bit he admitted that he had mixed vodka with his med’s, ¾ of a 1.75 liter bottle. Adam was taken to the emergency room and later he voluntarily readmitted himself into the mental health hospital. When I talked to him last Thursday he admits that not going to meetings was a big part of the problem, he was overwhelmed, scared and felt he couldn’t honestly talk about his fears.
Since I started working on this post 2 other people I know rather well have relapsed. One is a woman who has been in and out of recovery for quite a number of years. She does well for awhile then for what ever reason she picks up again. She was in pretty bad shape this time, luck would have it she asked for help and is detoxing at her sponsors house. The other is a 17 year old kid; he drank Saturday night, got messed up, felt like shit and was at a meeting Sunday morning. He mentally felt bad you could tell in the way he talked. I think the sad part for him is realizing he can’t enjoy drinking anymore, as much as he wanted to have a good time like his friends he just felt low and knew he was losing control.
Alcoholism and drug addiction suck!!!! We as alcoholics just want to have a couple of beers, speaking for myself, just to relax, lighten the stress of the day a bit, and enjoy some social merriment with friends. We can’t do this ever again once we cross the line from casual drinker to alcoholic, if a person ever was a casual drinker, I never was. The heavy drinker may drink daily but if something bad happens they can quit drinking without any trouble. The alcoholic is caught up in an obsession with alcohol and has no or very limited control over how much they drink once they get started. I was of the limited control type, I would drink until midnight or 1:00am by which time I was sleepy enough to crash hard, very rarely did I pass out but then again I was a beer drinker. What I have in common with every alcoholic is that once I start drinking I crave more, it doesn’t matter how much money I have, I wrote bad checks and stole for more, it didn’t matter if I was in trouble with the law, no drivers license, no insurance, on probation, it didn’t matter that my daughter was living in a foster home, or was out running with much older kids drinking and driving, needed new clothes or something nice for school, it didn’t matter that my parents were worried sick about me, all that mattered was drinking. If I wasn’t working I was drinking and when I worked at a convenience store I would drink while I worked sometimes. If I did worry about all that was wrong with my life I would drink to forget, I would try and drink the shame away, the self hatred, and fear. Yeah fear probably the one thing that drives all alcoholics deeper into the disease and contributes to relapses like those of Adams and my female friend. Adam said he felt overwhelmed and my female friend she was having a tough time with feeling insecure, she just starts to feel good about herself on the verge of getting completely honest and then the insecurity sabotages her and she drinks again. A non-alcoholic when faced with financial problems will not spend money they don’t have on booze and smokes but not an alcoholic, the alcoholic will not only spend the money they will also spend more money on something for their companion or children to make up for the guilt they feel about spending the non-existent extra money on themselves. A non-alcoholic doesn’t watch a movie or TV show and recognize the brand of alcoholic the characters are drinking by the bottle shape or fuzzy label nor do they get thirsty watching someone drink an alcoholic beverage. I am not saying society needs to do anything about alcohol in public, alcoholism is my problem and I need to be comfortable around alcohol.
This beings me to what is an alcoholic to do and what could of the people above done to prevent their relapses. I have mentioned meetings in this post and previous post concerning recovery from alcoholism. The importance of meetings, is you are with other people who share a common problem and have a common solution, it gives you and opportunity to make new friends who don’t drink thus replacing the dangerous ones who do, it is a place to remember where our drinking took us, in most cases it is a place filled with hope when life seems hopeless. When I got away from meetings I forgot about the bad times and negative emotions that came from drinking, not that I dwell in the past I just need to be reminded of it, I need to see the newcomer still shaking and smelling from the effects of the night before, the mixture of fear, desperation and a slight bit of hope. I need the camaraderie of other fellow travelers. The 12 steps of recovery are also a must, they aren’t something to rush through nor are they something to procrastinate on, thus the reason for a good sponsor. A sponsor is a mentor, someone who has something you want, not a material things though having a nice fishing boat or sweet ride isn’t a good reason for picking a sponsor . My sponsor is a very pragmatic person, spiritual in nature, insightful. Mentors me by sharing his experience, strength and hope, he gives suggestions based on what he has learned. He isn’t a dictator or a god, just a human I trust and am willing to listen to. Wow that was an unintentional transition into thrust, honesty and willingness. First I have to be willing to do what is recommend of me to stay sober, to not give in to fear, anger and impatience. Too many new people in recovery get impatient, they want instant gratification, hell that’s what we got from booze, they want to feel good NOW, they want there problems to go away NOW, they want others around them to see how they have changed and they want those same people they have harmed to respect them NOW, sorry campers it doesn’t work that way most of the time. The same is true with spirituality it takes time, it is about progress not perfection, we sit in meetings and see others who are happy, peaceful and serene and forget that it has taken them time to get there. It is all about today, this moment right now, for today I won’t give in and buy that drink, for this moment I won’t drink, for this moment I will say a little prayer asking for help from whatever Higher Power I believe in. I have to honestly believe that I need help not only with my alcohol problem but with my own perceptions, character defects, with spirituality, I need help learning how to communicate with others, and I need help getting out of selfish thinking and fear. I have to be completely honest in that I am totally powerless over alcohol and that when I drink it causes mental, physical and sometimes legal troubles, that no good whatsoever comes from me picking up a drink, by doing this I can think the drink through. I no longer crave a drink but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about having a drink, I pass a store advertising 30packs on sale, note the price and what a good buy that is and remember the 30 pack would only last a couple of days for me then I would need another and another, plus the problems that good buy would create.
Spirituality is a must for most of us, not 100% though, I know of people who still maintain complete atheism in recovery but they are rare exception and not the norm. Via the 12 steps and 12 traditions we are free to believe in a God of our own understanding; it can be as simple or complex as we make it. Again the newcomer needs to be patient with this process, to may try too hard to believe in another’s concept of God and feel their concept inadequate which can lead to relapse or a bad case of the poor me’s. The use of prayer and mediation has a very quieting quality to it; the belief in a Higher Power makes us feel less alone and also that there is a purpose for our lives. It gives strength in living in the moment knowing that the future will be what the future is. I have to take action, do footwork, faith without works is dead. In being aware of my character defects I then have to work on them to the best of my ability, some days I am good at it and some days I am bad at it.
Service works is also beneficial in staying sober, whether it is making coffee, (the nectar of people in recovery), helping with setup/cleanup, chairing a meeting, reading when asked or working at the district, intergroup or area levels as a committee member or chair etc. I am a service work junkie, for me it is about giving something back to those who so freely gave to me and making sure AA survived, it is also my way of helping the newcomer. Reaching out to the new person whether they are a newcomer, visitor or new members who just move to the area is important to me. If people hadn’t reached out to me at that first meeting I may have never come back and on the flip side when I moved to a new town people didn’t shake my hand and I thought they were being unfriendly and stopped going to meetings which played a part in my drinking again, they are not at fault I choose to buy that 6 pack, no one ever poured a drink down my throat.
All that I have written comes from my perspective; it is my opinions and thoughts and has nothing to do with AA’s stand on the subject’s I have talked about. No one speaks for AA as a whole. If there are things that you disagree with please let me know or if something I have written is unclear please let me know and I will try and clarify my idea better.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

R.I.P Dad, Leslie O Wolf

My dad’s spirit transcended Saturday at 4:00p.m. my mom, both sisters and myself where with him when this life ended, he was 84 years in this world. He was put into a drug induced coma so in the last hours of life he felt no pain. My dad is free now, his suffering, physical and mental has ended. Those of you who have lost a parent or close loved one know the sorrow. I am grateful that I learned how to say hello to the sorrow and embrace it has really helped me out the last few days and will continue to help me out. My head is still a bit fuzzy, my concentration on the moment comes and goes as it should for now, I do the best I can to bring myself back to what is in front of me without fighting the feeling.
Dad was cremated and interned at the National cemetery in central Nebraska with full military honors. The funeral and the arrangements for the funeral went as well as could be expected when 5 individuals are in a room filled with sorrow, making plans for remembrance of a loved one. The original plan was not to have minister officiate but my sister remembered an old friend of my dad’s who was an ordained minister and my sister, the one who I have religious differences with, honored me by reassuring me that the minister was down to earth and not a thumper. My brother, sisters, mom and self agreed that the 4 kids would each give a personal reflection, eulogy, about my dad.
What I said in general was; while sitting by my dad watching him die I opened my phone and looked at pictures of my Angel and took comfort in her innocent smile and beauty, outside sitting on a bench I reflected about her life beginning and dad’s life ending. My reflect brought me to the idea of how dad taught and instilled ethics, morals, and how to behave in public where taught to me, in a messed up aggressive way but I still learned and am a better person because of that, and how I passed them on to my daughter who will in turn pass them on to Angel. I talked about how dad didn’t know any other way of expressing himself that is was characteristic of men of his generation and background and how years ago I had forgiven dad for the harsh way he treated us. I related the story dad had told me more than once about when he was in the army he learned manners and etiquette from the city boys, dad was a farm boy, and how important it was for his family to know how to behave in public. He showed that no matter what your up bring is you can rise above it if you choose. I also talked about how he had great mechanical aptitude and I only received a ¼ of it, also how when we where kids he couldn’t teach us what he knew but later in life he could, he mellowed with age in all aspects of his life.
I am ever so grateful for my friends both in and out of recovery, they provide an ear to listen, a heart to comfort and love. I am grateful for the teachings without which this would have a been a lot harder. As always I am grateful that I am alcohol and drug free today, and that my dad and I made peace with each other, I forgave him and he forgave me. I never told my dad I was wrong for my behavior while in the grips of alcoholism, he won’t have understood but I made my amends by doing everything I could for him the last years of his life. I managed to say an “I Love you” to my dad a few weeks back, funny I can say this to a lot of other people but with him it was hard, still think deep inside I had to be strong with him and showing of emotions was just something you didn’t do, fucked up I know but that is just how it is.
My dad was my dad, for good or bad, he helped me out and loved me his own way. We became friends which sadly wasn’t the case with my brother. My brother still harbors resentments towards my dad and he is 60 years old. I can’t help my brother unless he ask so for now all I can do is accept that is suffering is his to own.
My mom is doing fairly well and my sister and I will keep close contact with her for the next weeks or so, also my mom’s youngest sister has been very carrying and a great help.

Rest in peace dad, I love you still