Monday, February 28, 2011
I have power over alcohol.
Alcohol is not my problem today.
Why do I have power over alcohol? Because the steps I did in Alcoholics Anonymous gave me Power, as lack of Power was my dilemna. It ain't now.
I don't want to drink booze and that's that. I think God had something to do with it. I'm not likely to drink booze anytime soon or get struck drunk. I would have to unravel a bit before I would drink again. It could happen. I'm not worried about it and you can bet I'll be sober tomorrow.
Being that I'm going to be sober tomorrow, I can plan accordingly. I'm not going to get a D.U.I., nor am I going to blackout. I'm not likely to spray puke all over the place. I'm not gonna piss my pants, nor yours. I'm not gonna fuck your wife. I'm not going to steal shit. I am going to be to work on time. I will put in a good day/night of work when I get there. At the end of the month, I will get paid and I will pay my bills.
In the meantime, I am content and life is fun. I'm happy and well adjusted to my own content and want to seek God at a further level and I enjoy other people's company moreso than usual. I even have developed a healthy tolerance for other peoples' faults and can find the good in most. If you're a prick, I'm probably going to find some way to confront you and let you know I don't approve. If you continue to be a prick, I will avoid you and leave you alone as best I can. If you step on my toes, I'll piss in your wheaties. But no worries, you're probably not worth getting upset over. For the most part, I get along pretty good.
If the shit hits the fan and I get lost, I ask God for help and it seems to work.
So yes, I have Power over alcohol.
How about you?
Friday, February 25, 2011
Let's cut to the chase here. We know one when we see one.
D.A.M.M.! The irony. Her comment to the cops? She claimed she only had four beers. Perfect! She's a fucking liar too.
Drunks Against Mad Mothers! I bought my bro a shirt that said this.
Drunk Driving is fucking bad. Just don't do it. If you can't pull that off, check yourself into jail. If you have to, sell all your shit and get yourself a cheap apartment across the street from a liquor store.
(second portion posted by McGowdog)
The setup is usually the same; the poster describes their past with drugs... and then some sort of description of their drinking, which pretty much fits the descpription of some potential hard drinking.
Now here are the responses this will bring in your average recovery forum;
- Labels are nasty things and when I take all those out of the equation, I feel fine. Besides that, alcohol is poison and I choose not to take poison anymore. Be like me.
- Most of the folks who I know that abused drugs also abused alcohol. It's all the same thing. And the solution is the same so... order up a cup of Recovery Soup.
- What #2 said! Oh, I agree! Let's all get along and sing Kumbaya.
- Definately agree with #2. Hugs and kissy icons.
- Do what's good to yourself.
- Find your truth, but it's wrong for an addict to drink booze and an alcoholic to do drugs.
- Terminology is bad. If you think drinking is a problem... then it is and you should just quit.
- I'm self diagnosed with "Addictive Prone Personality". Get rid of the bad and keep the good. In other words, manage well.
- Semantics and labels suck. If you think you have a problem with booze, you must. Normal drinkers don't worry about their drinking. So by that logic, "real" alcoholics must.
- The word "real" alcoholic is mentioned on page 21 of the A.A. book and pages 20-24 describe the difference between the hard drinker and the "real" alcoholic. You ought to read that and find your truth in that. Can you control the amount you drink when you start and can you stay away from the first one when you really need/want to? If not, you might be a real alcoholic. If not, you might not be a real alcoholic... but still have a problem, but can quit by some other method than the spiritual solution.
- It's getting hot in here. Shouldn't this topic be in the 12 Step subforum anyway?
My take; find your own truth. Either you're real alky or you're not. Either you're a real drug addict, or you're not. You may be a combination of things... hard drinker but potential alcoholic... hard drug user or real addict. You could even be a real alcoholic and a real addict.
I hear that not all real alcoholics black out. IDK. I did black out, so I don't know what it's like to not black out. I suppose that if I didn't black out, I'd continue to drink and would be more of an around the clock maintenance drinker. But I didn't so I don't know.
I don't know what it's like to be a drug addict. I did enjoy my drugs though.
I like what Rob B says about "drug of choice". Cocaine was his drug of choice and alcohol was his drug of no choice. I had the same experience. Now... when I got all drugged up on cocaine, acid, shrooms, crank, etc., I got really trashed and had a hard time going home and sleeping it off... suffering the come-down and working it off. With booze, I'd binge and go until I got stopped.
So... find your own truth and go from there. Unless you're a real alcoholic, please do not go to A.A. You might find some other method to deal with your booze. It's hard enough finding "real" A.A. in an A.A. meeting anyway. Now... you may find that you're a real addict and God help you if you are... because you might even have a harder time finding drug recovery in the rooms of N.A.
The bottom line is, do you need a spiritual solution or not? If not, great. Do what you need to do to get clean and sober or clean and moderately drinking. At least booze is legal. Drugs are not in most places at this current time.
If you can quit or moderate on a non-spiritual basis, do it. If you need help with that and booze happens to be your problem, I suggest a closed A.A. meeting. But if they don't ask you to take the path of consideration, "Maybe your're an alcoholic and maybe you're not," run like hell.
What's black and blue and hates sex? The prostitute in Charles' trunk.
What do you get when you cross Charlie Sheen and a pig? Nothing. There's some things even Charlie won't fuck.
Jews don't recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
Protestants don't recognize the pope as emmissary of God.
The Sheens' don't recognize each other at the liquor store.
What's the difference between a poor golfer and a poor skydiver?
A poor golfer goes "Whack! Shit!"
Sorry, nothing to do with Charlie.
What's the difference between Charlie Sheen and a bucket of shit?
Tiger Woods, the Pope, Charlie Sheen and three women are on a plane.
The plane is crashing and there are only three parachutes.
The Pope says "Save The Women!"
Tiger Woods says "Fuck The Women!"
And Charlie Sheen goes "Is There Time?"
So the psychiatrist askes Charlie... "Do you talk to your wife when you're making love?"
Charlie; "Sure, if there's a phone handy."
Srsly though... Sheen is a great actor and I love his show.
Let's see what Chuck has been up to lately...
September 11 attacks
On March 20, 2006, Sheen stated that he questions the US government's account of the September 11 attacks. Sheen said during the interview that the collapse of the World Trade Center towers looked like a controlled demolition. He urged critics not to attack him personally, but to challenge him on the facts.
Sheen has since become a prominent advocate of the 9/11 Truth movement. On September 8, 2009, Sheen appealed to US President Barack Obama to set up a new investigation into the attacks. Presenting his views as a transcript of a fictional encounter with Obama, he was characterized by the press as believing the 9/11 commission was a whitewash and that the administration of former US President George W. Bush may have been responsible for the attacks.
Sheen and his then girlfriend, Paula Profit, had a daughter, Cassandra Jade Estevez (born December 12, 1984). In 1990, Sheen accidentally shot his then-fiancee, Kelly Preston, in the arm, after which she ended the relationship. Sheen dated former pornographic actress Ginger Lynn for two years starting in 1990. He was also involved for a time with former pornographic actress Heather Hunter. In 1995, Sheen married Donna Peele. He was named as one of many clients who visited brothels owned by Heidi Fleiss in her court case in 1995.
On May 20, 1998, Sheen tried injecting cocaine, accidentally giving himself an overdose. He was hospitalized, but discharged from the hospital soon afterward. His father Martin issued a public appeal for fans to pray for him and reported him for violating his parole. A warrant was issued for his arrest, and Sheen was sent to rehab.
On June 15, 2002, he married actress Denise Richards, two years after meeting her on the set of Good Advice. They have two daughters, Sam J. Sheen (born March 9, 2004) and Lola Rose Sheen (born June 1, 2005). In March 2005, while she was still pregnant with their daughter Lola, Richards filed for divorce from Sheen, accusing Sheen of abusing drugs and alcohol and threatening Richards with violence. Sheen and Richards' divorce was made official on November 30, 2006. Sheen and Richards were engaged in an acrimonious custody dispute over their two daughters, but have since made peace with each other, with Sheen stating in April 2009 that "we had to do what's best for the girls."
On May 30, 2008, Sheen married Brooke Mueller, a real estate investor. This was the third marriage for Sheen and the first for Mueller. The couple's twins, Bob and Max, were born on March 14, 2009.
Sheen was arrested on charges of domestic violence, including second-degree assault and menacing, against Mueller on December 25, 2009 and the couple has not been seen together in public since this altercation. He was released from jail after posting an $8,500 bond. In a court appearance on February 8, 2010, Sheen was formally charged with felony menacing, and third-degree assault and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors. On August 2, 2010, Charlie Sheen plead guilty to misdemeanor assault as part of a plea bargain where the other charges against him were dismissed, and according to a story written by Associated Press reporter Solomon Banda he was "sentenced to 30 days in a rehabilitation center, 30 days of probation, and 36 hours of anger management" and will be unable to legally possess a gun for the rest of his life.
In February 2010, Sheen announced that he would take a break from Two and a Half Men to voluntarily enter a rehab facility. In March, Sheen's press representatives announced that he was preparing to leave rehab and return to work on the popular sitcom. On May 18, 2010, Sheen signed an agreement to return to the sitcom for another two years for a reported $1.8 million per episode.
On October 26, 2010, the police removed Sheen from his suite at the Plaza Hotel after he had reportedly caused $7,000 in damage. According to the NYPD, Sheen admitted to having been drinking and taking cocaine. Sheen was taken to a hospital for observation and released.
On November 1, 2010, Sheen filed for divorce from his third wife, Brooke.
On January 27, 2011, Sheen was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center by paramedics. Sheen's representative said the actor was suffering from "severe abdominal pains". On January 28, Sheen began undergoing a substance rehabilitation program in his home and CBS announced that Two and a Half Men would go into hiatus.
Oh, all this... and he has an opinion about A.A.? Perfect!
Oh yeah! And the folks at Stinkin' Thinkin' are gacking all over themselves over this one! But they're brought back down to earth with this comment;
JD says Figured you’d take this as joyful news and that some serious hero worship would be going down here. I couldn’t pass up a quick comment or two.
Sheen may possibly be even more barking mad than Trimpey. Nah, toss up really.
And you’re tickled because he is astute enough to echo what is repeated endlessly here. That you have a new spokesman for your cause. That people will take him seriously and think AA is bad because Charlie said so, and Charlie is a squared away guy and knows these things.
Does it strike you funny that a guy in a total meltdown is saying the entire ST party line? I think that is by far the funniest thing I’ll see this entire week. This is the kind of shape a person has to be in to see your viewpoint as valid. It’s reasonable that when people reach the stage he’s in, near death and ‘bat shit crazy’ they are somewhat likely to agree with you. The turnover in your supporters will be fierce though.
By all means, claim him as the finest possible representative of ST ideas and ideals. He’s your kind of guy.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
yogurt75 from Middletown NY;
Having been thoroughly spanked by more than one moderator I have decided, after much thought, prayer and guidance to discontinue active participation in these forums.
The way of life I have chosen to live demands rigorous honesty. I believe that the use and abuse of substances is quite often inconsistent with the continuation of life. life shortening, destructive to emotional, spiritual and physical health and destroys families and those around us along with ourselves. I will not, just not to offend anyone or put a tiny band-aid on a gaping mortal wound. People's very lives are at stake and it would be totally dishonest to be dishonest and not true to myself.
Rather than be dishonest I would rather disengage from having my remarks censored or accused of being only interested in my self-importance. My primary purpose is to stay sober and to help others to achieve sobriety. I feel that helping others achieve sobriety does not include lying to them. To thine own self be true includes, at least for me, being rigorously honest with others. As it has been pointed out to me by moderators that these forums are for support and hope. Unfortunately, what is meant by support and hope are really euphemism's for lets not offend anyone or scare them away with the truth. I will not lie to myself or others in these forums or anywhere else.
Thank you all for some wonderful conversations and open dialogue. I will not abide by censorship. May God bless each and every one of you.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I'm going to do a big cut and paste here, but if you would just like to go to the article, it's here.
At St. Paul 'wet house,' liquor can be their life -- and death
The men at this St. Paul 'wet house' don't want your help, or your hope. And they won't get better. It's a place where the most hopeless of alcoholics can drink away their final days at less risk and cost to the public.
Marion Hagerman appreciates your concern.
But it's OK to give up on him, he says. Everyone else has — which might be the only sensible thing to do.
Hagerman has been drinking for 39 years. He drinks despite decades of lectures, prayers and punishment. He drinks despite two years of homelessness, six DWI convictions, six treatments for alcoholism and 13 months in jail.
What's ahead for Hagerman? The 54-year-old can see only one thing in his future — more drinking.
That's why he feels lucky to live in a hospice for alcoholics — St. Anthony Residence in St. Paul. There, 60 men can — and often do — drink until they die.
There are no counselors, no scolding, no 12-step programs, no group hugs. Just the love of Hagerman's life, waiting for him every day — alcohol.
On his weeklong binges, he chugs vodka, beer or mouthwash. They are interchangeable to him, he said, gazing around his 12-by-12-foot concrete apartment.
"I drink," he said quietly, "until I kill the damn day off."
For three years, St. Anthony has been operated by Ramsey County, St. Paul, the state of Minnesota and Catholic Charities, at a cost of $18,000 per person per year. It's one of four so-called "wet houses" in the state.
Like a growing number of wet houses across the country, it allows alcoholics to drink, even when it's killing them.
Some experts attack places like St. Anthony. "To me, a wet house is nothing more than a house of despair and death," said William C. Moyers, vice president of foundation relations for Hazelden treatment centers.
"It is never too late for someone to get help," Moyers said. "Just because there are people who have been through treatment before does not mean we can write them off."
But the men staying at St. Anthony say alcohol isn't just a habit — it is who they are. If any kind of treatment were required, they would return to a homeless life of fear, disease and tremendous public expense.
It's not uncommon for a homeless alcoholic to cost the public more than $1 million during decades of drinking — for multiple jail stays, emergency room visits, rounds of alcoholism treatment and other costs.
But the costs and the suffering are greatly reduced once they arrive at St. Anthony.
"This place is a godsend," said 61-year-old Ron, a 40-year alcoholic and former South Dakota farmer who didn't want his last name published.
He plans — as much as he plans anything — to drink until he dies at St. Anthony.
"I am happy here," he said.
'IT'S JUST SO HONEST HERE'
Social workers refer homeless alcoholics to St. Anthony.
That usually happens after a dreary cycle of drunken-driving arrests, hospital visits and trips to detox, the county-run centers for sobering up.
"A counselor might say: 'You've been through treatment six times. This doesn't seem to be working for you,' " said Bill Hockenberger, a former alcoholic who manages St. Anthony.
These are not soccer moms on chardonnay. Hockenberger's clients have no family connections, no jobs and no money. "These people have burned their bridges. They are done couch-surfing," he said. "They have peed on their last couch."
The alcoholics arrive at the 3-year-old building, which looks like a modern twin-tower hotel out of place in an industrial park. There's no sign outside.
Inside, each room is like a minimum-security jail cell, with one light on a wall, one window and concrete floors, walls and ceilings.
They arrive as refugees of countless anti-drinking treatments.
"Treatment is a bunch of B.S.," snapped Ricky Isaac, a three-year resident, as he drank a beer on the center's drinking patio.
"Those AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) people make me sick. I hate hearing about other people's problems. I have my own problems. If you want to quit, you quit on your own."
They rebel against the chirpy optimism of abstinence-based programs: Try harder. Pray. Ask for help. Don't give up. We feel your pain.
In contrast, St. Anthony feels like Death Row. The message is refreshingly grim: Everyone is going to keep drinking, it's probably going to kill them, and no one's going to talk them out of it.
"It's just so honest here," Hockenberger said. "I ask someone, 'Have you had a drink today?' and they say: 'Definitely! I wish I had some more!' "
Once inside, the men come and go as they please.
Mostly, they go to buy alcohol. They walk to nearby liquor stores. Or to drugstores, for mouthwash — which has up to 28 percent alcohol.
Hockenberger had to ask the nearby Holiday gas station to stop selling 99-cent bottles of rubbing alcohol — too tempting for his men, he said.
To get money, the alcoholics beg on the streets, collect cans for cash or work odd jobs.
When they bring the alcohol back, they check it in at the front desk. When they want to drink, they check it out and take it to the backyard patio.
There, they drink with others, shouting and waving bottles and telling stories. Or they sit alone, taking a sip every minute or so.
They stagger back to their bedrooms, sleep it off, wake up and do it again.
At St. Anthony the men know each other, but it's not like a college frat house. "It's a friendly environment, but they are not my friends," resident Hagerman said. "They are the people I drink with."
The isolation was notable on Thanksgiving Day. During a festive turkey dinner, alongside men they had lived with for years, many sat alone in the lunchroom, eating in silence.
That's because their primary relationship is not with other people, Hockenberger said, but with a bottle.
"I have seen men coming in and they chug down their vodka right there, just because they were afraid of losing it," Hockenberger said.
When that happens, he gently tells them: "It's OK. Check it in. It will be there for you in the morning."
Once alcoholics become residents, the police know their names. If one is found passed out in a park, the police simply return him to St. Anthony — no ambulances, hospitals or trips to detox.
If needed, residents get medical care from an in-house nurse. If they get sick, they go to a hospital.
And when they get extremely sick?
There's an in-house hospice service. Three to five residents die every year.
Resident Wayne Britton, 59, who has 12 DWI convictions, recalled the death of his best friend, Dave, from throat cancer in 2008. In his final days, Dave was given food and alcohol in his room.
"He would send for me and say, 'Come in and have a bump with me,' " said Britton, sadly shaking his head. They sipped vodka together, which Britton said the dying man found comforting.
The deaths don't get Hockenberger down — it's the evictions that bother him most.
He sometimes has to kick someone out for misbehavior. When that happens, Hockenberger knows the man is going back to a homeless life of depression, frostbite and loneliness.
"When I see a client walk out of here," Hockenberger said, "sometimes it's the end of the line for them."
PARALLELS WITH HOSPICE
The St. Anthony approach is anathema to treatment programs, which are based on abstinence as the path to recovery. They believe any alcoholic can stop, and should try to.
"AA does not give up on people," said Tom Noerper, director of the St. Paul Area Intergroup, which refers alcoholics to AA meetings through a hot line.
"We will talk to anyone who wants to talk to us. Even if they were dying, we would want to be with them, as long as they want to see us."
Hazelden's Moyers said that even if St. Anthony's men refuse treatment, housing them with public money is a tacit acceptance of their drinking.
"This is just a place to allow chronic alcoholics to keep drinking and steal from them any sense of hope or redemption," Moyers said.
Jan Hennings, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Hospital Association, questioned whether the wet-house model was humane. "I know some people would say we should keep trying — eight times or whatever — until we break through," she said.
But other experts say the bottomless optimism is naive.
The St. Anthony model accepts the obvious — that a certain number of alcoholics are indeed hopeless, said Katie Tuione, program manager at Dorothy Day Center in St. Paul, a homeless shelter.
"This is about meeting people where they are and loving them. It's not rocket science," she said. "They still grieve, love and hurt. They still need food and shelter. They are you and I."
Dr. Steven Miles, professor of medicine and bioethics at the University of Minnesota, agreed.
The reason to support St. Anthony is not the money saved but the kindness extended to the residents. "It is the humanity of it, just like humanity drives the hospice system," he said.
He said seeing people drink themselves to death is like watching chemotherapy patients gathering outside hospitals to smoke.
"Certainly no one encourages them to do this. But this is a society where people get to make their own choices, however bad they are," Miles said. St. Anthony's, he said, "is a rational response to meeting people's needs."
The approach, manager Hockenberger said, isn't treatment at all, but a "harm-reduction model."
'I KNOW I CAN ALWAYS FIND MY WAY HOME'
And the harm is indeed reduced. Housing the homeless slashes use of hospitals and emergency rooms by 50 percent to 75 percent, according to studies cited by Hearth Connection, a nonprofit group that fights homelessness in Minnesota.
Studies in Seattle, Denver and New York City have concluded that providing housing to homeless people with chronic health conditions — common among alcoholics — cuts time in jail and detox by up to 75 percent.
At St. Anthony, the men are healthier because of the on-staff nurse. She monitors their medications for such diseases as diabetes. Officials know the men and their conditions — so they don't have to rely on emergency rooms for routine care.
St. Anthony residents say the housing quells the anger that homeless people feel. When the men feel cared for — even loved — they aren't as likely to hurt others and themselves.
"This place is different. The staff is great. They are like brothers," said resident Isaac, a 30-year alcoholic who has served time for assault. "It's called respect."
The residents were aghast to hear anyone would question the wet-house approach.
"If not for this, I would be drinking in the street, in and out of detox," said Hagerman, a 39-year alcoholic.
St. Anthony has lifted him out of a life of homelessness. He remembers the panhandling, walking into detox to get some sleep, the petty crime to slake his thirst for mouthwash, which he calls "wash."
"I would buy a bottle of wash or take it away from someone else," Hagerman said.
He was told that some experts question spending tax money on hopeless causes. "F—- 'em," Hagerman said, waving at the four cinder-block walls in his tiny room. It's not much, he said, but it is safe.
"Here," he said, "I know I can always find my way home."
One sunny November afternoon, a drunk staggered up to the building's front door.
His clothes were a mess, his eyes were bloodshot, his words were slurred, and he smelled like a bathroom in a cheap bar. Most any treatment center in the state would have immediately kicked him out.
He ran into Hockenberger at the entrance. "Hey, Bill!" the man said, hoisting a 12-pack of beer. "I went shopping!"
"All right!" said Hockenberger, as he held the door open.
So... I think this is a good thing. I would recommend that these folks be given a way to be even more self sufficient and cost effective. Why can't they be given the materials to make their own hootch? I think it would be less expensive and less dangerous than letting them drink stuff like mouthwash. How about letting them make shine or something? Even homemade beer and wine. Hard alcohol can be made with apples, potatoes, etc.
Some of the comments over at SR are funny. The first sensible comment that I could find was made by kiki5711. It's not an all bad thing in deed.
Now Mark, I'm sorry buddy, but I have to disagree. This is NOT a good place to try and do 12th Step work. They already said they don't give a shit about your story. All they want is their booze. They've separated themselves from those of us who want to do something about their alcoholism. In other words, they've done half our fucking job for us! If they change their mind down the road after having some more booze, then it's on them. We don't save folks from booze. We're not God. Another subject for another day. Anybody who says that A.A. is about reform, temperance and the like is full of shit. This is just not true. If you're doing that, that's not fucking A.A.! That's treatment center bullshit at best.
I'm no 12 Step expert, but this is two things that are at the absolute top of the list in order for me to proceed with anyone;
- Are you alcoholic? If no, see ya have a good day.
- Do you want to do something about it? Do you want to quit for good and all right now? If no, see ya have a good day.
Friday, February 18, 2011
So, Part III. I was “empty of self” at this point, if that makes any sense. The “self” that ego I brought into the program had been dissected, much to my dismay. I was a shell. While taking the steps I began the process of introspection and all those parts of the “me” were forced into the open for a comprehensive, honest moral analysis. And in identifying my defects, I became aware certain “virtues” that could come to be if I dealt with my shortcomings. These were Spiritual assets, more parts of the whole, so to speak.
Dealing with my resentments, a main contender for the title in the heavyweight class, led me to understand the concept of forgiveness. I learned that I could forgive others for harms they caused. This doesn’t imply forgetfulness, though. I couldn’t forget pain or hurt as these are learning tools. The Promise of neither forgetting the past nor wishing to shut the door on it started to make sense.
Fear, the foundation of most defects, led me to a faith in God. As I began to accept God’s will in place of my will, there was little to fear anymore. This “let go and let God” stuff suddenly lifted a huge burden from my shoulders. These mundane AA phases actually make sense sometimes.
The realization of my part in events in my life led to the acceptance of personal responsibility. No more pity parties, no more blaming everyone else.
I came to recognize my defects included acts of omission as well as commission. What I failed to do was sometimes more serious that the things that I did. This was a real eye opener. I had always thought of faults as actions, not inactions.
The realization of my imperfections, my defects in their entirety, led me to comprehend what love was. I had known affection, but not love. I accepted the fact that I was an imperfect human being, and in doing so I learned to accept the imperfections of others. I first learned to love myself (a significant event, believe me) in spite of my imperfections. In doing so I learned for the first time how to love others, and to love them in spite of their imperfections.
With this knowledge of love came the ability to form meaningful relationships. And surprisingly, (to me, at least) I came to understand meaningful conflict resolution. No more running from a problem in a relationship. No more fear of rejection.
The list goes on, but you get the gist of what was happening here.
With these discoveries, this newfound realization of what good things could come into my life if I so chose, I came to understand happiness.
But I wasn’t done. After humbly (that damn word again!) asking God to remove all my shortcomings, I had to address the fact that I had harmed others. I couldn’t understand this virtue of forgiveness for others until I learned about forgiveness from others. So I dragged out that 4th step list and began another one, this time of people I had harmed. And lo! Along came willingness, a willingness to make amends to those on the list. Another piece of that elusive thing called spirituality.
This part of my spiritual journey came grudgingly. The list of people I had harmed was populated with a lot of “yeah buts”. I had to differentiate between harm caused to me and harm I caused others. The remnants of my pride started to surface. But I was forced to concentrate on “Keeping my side of the street clean.” (Heard that one before?) My sponsor, who I haven’t mentioned before, and who deserves all the credit for keeping me on the right path on this journey, kept pounding that little phrase into my skull.
Then came another post - doctoral degree in humility. I went to each person, if possible, to make amends, to ask for forgiveness. I was taught that I had to do this in a certain manner. I had to say “I apologize. It was my fault. I was wrong. What can I do to make it right?” I used those phrases in making all my amends, and I use them to this day. This 9th step is an ongoing process, however. Some amends I’ll never be able to make in person. In certain cases, such as my father, I read a letter over his grave. In others, I wrote a letter and then burned it. With some people it’s a matter of proper timing. The process continues.
Now it became a matter of walking the walk. I try and do a continuous moral inventory. When I’m wrong I promptly admit it. And I use the same format as I did in the 10th step when addressing each wrong. “I apologize, etc.” I’m not talking about losing an argument over the Yankee’s starting lineup in the 1959 season here. I’m talking about being wrong! And usually this type of wrong causes someone harm.
Somewhere along the way I had that “spiritual awakening” we talk about. My character, my personality changed. It’s funny that I didn’t notice it, either. Rather, it was brought to my attention. “You’ve changed. What’s going on?”
I’d like you to believe that this was an easy process, that I was one gung - ho son of a bitch doing the steps. But that’s bullshit. You can see the claw marks left in the concrete as my sponsor dragged me through them. And please don’t get the impression that I was a screaming success in doing any of this stuff. It’s progress, not perfection here. I’m an imperfect human. Remember?
And here comes the part that Patrick referred to - I have to milk this fucker for all it’s worth. Now that I had a spiritual awakening I have to perpetuate it, keep it alive, change the awakening into spirituality as a lifestyle.
I do that by staying in touch with God. I pray, but differently than before. Now, rather than pray for “stuff” or for good things to happen to me, I pray for guidance, understanding, acceptance, knowledge. Those things that will show me how I’m supposed to live my life.
And I listen to God. I meditate, receptive to His answers. Read Kushner’s book “Why Bad Things Happen to Good people” and you’ll meet my God. I think you’d like Him.
And now it’s practice, practice, practice. Those things I’ve learned along this journey? Now I try to practice them in my life. Not just my AA life, but my life life.
I try and carry the message. I speak before groups, I’m involved in a couple of home groups.
I work with other alcoholics, explaining how I did it, trying to guide them on the journey I took. And here I learned to accept disappointment, as few who walk in the doors are willing to thoroughly follow the path. It’s sad that so few end up getting it.
I work the steps regularly to keep myself honest.
There’s no diploma when you get to the 12th step because you never finish it. It doesn’t say we practice these principles in all our affairs for only 12 months. Spirituality is a way of life, not a term of office.
I live my life today as best I can; very imperfectly to be sure. But that’s ok. I think part of spirituality is the paradox that I can live a life of serenity and joy, all the while accepting my imperfections. As Kurtz said, I’m not ok and that all right.
Now let’s get back to the original question. What’s spirituality? I can’t explain it any more than I can explain what a rose smells like.
I like the Ignation concept of spirituality as a “way of proceeding”. That’s how I began to understand it as a journey. So I’m left with trying to explain my understanding of this elusive quality. I can do this best by recounting those things I came to understand during and as a result of this phenomenal journey. Think of this as an "As Joe sees it":
I learned to accept life for what it is, knowing that I can control only myself and not others.
The sun will still rise tomorrow whether I want it to or not. I keep this in mind in case I feel the urge to control things.
I don’t have to be right, nor do I have to attend every argument I’ve been invited to.
What you think of me doesn’t concern me. If what you thought of me was important, then I’d have to lead my life just to please you (and you and you and you).
I learned to forgive, but to not forget.
I learned to live in the present. I can’t change the past. If I try to forecast the future (project, I like to say) then my mind becomes a very dangerous neighborhood.
I learned to love. I learned to be loved.
I learned how to be gracious in accepting thanks or compliments from others. (Never could do that before.)
I learned happiness.
I have serenity and guard it jealously. You do not want to fuck with my serenity.
I say the Serenity Prayer a lot, seeking strength and wisdom. I need the strength to change in me what needs changing. That’s not always easy for me.
I need wisdom. I need to know what I can’t change, and to know what’s best left alone even if I could change it. Face it, there are things we can change other than ourselves, just not people. But to change just for the sake of being able to is never a good thing.
I’ve given up wanting “stuff’. I’m happy just having the things I need.
Sure, shit still happens. Life’s far from perfect. I still get angry. But I get over it rather than let it fester.
That committee in my head? They’re gone for the most part. Only one left is that little bit of ego I still hold on to. He’s pretty harmless these days unless I start getting that into that HALT bullshit.
I go through life doing the best I can. I’m human with all the warts and imperfections that come with being human.
I know this journey has no destination, no end. I’ll be on it as long as I live.
But best of all?
I’m content. Life is good.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I’ll skip the drunkalog here except to say that I was
a pretty desperate drunk
when I came into the rooms.
I needed help. I wanted to stop drinking. This thing called
Spirituality, however, was the farthest thing from my mind
I didn’t need Spirituality; I needed sobriety. At the time, I didn’t realize the correlation between the two.
Yet in completing the 12 steps I
had what we call that “spiritual
awakening”, that change in my
character that the program brings about. And with that change came the emotional and mental sobriety that the Big Book told me I’d receive if I thoroughly followed the
steps. I never had the “flash of light” experience, but rather the educational variety of spiritual awakening that William James refers to. It happened over time, and is happening to this day.
I’ve got a problem here though in that I can’t honestly define what spirituality is. I often hear in the rooms that it’s a
personal relationship with my higher power. I suppose that’s part of it. I think the essence of spirituality involves the concept of a higher power, but the
overall spiritual experience is more than just that. I had a hell of a personal relationship with God after a quart of vodka, or at least I thought so at the time.
Bill Wilson writes “Most of us
think this awareness of a Power
greater than ourselves is the essence of spiritual experience.” Indeed. But that doesn’t solve my problem. What is spirituality, or at least how do I explain my spirituality? I’ve thought long and hard about this over
the past few years and have
concluded that I can’t define it,
nor can I explain it. I tried to cheat and Googled the
definition of spirituality.
There are about 4,6000,000
hits – so take your pick. An explanation of spirituality? About the same. No help there.
So I guess it’s got to be a personal thing, best described as the destination reached through a journey through the 12 steps. For each of us it’s going to be different. I’ve been able to
reconstruct the process of my spiritual awakening to some degree. I can also explain the character changes that occurred. That’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to being able to explaining what my spirituality is all about.
As I said in Part I, my biggest issue was self. I was my problem. And I say that in retrospect as I certainly didn’t know it before I came to AA.
I think started my journey in the
first two steps. I admitted I was
powerless. A crack in the armor
had appeared. For once, I had a
problem that I couldn’t fix. I needed help. I believed that a power greater than me existed. Ah! I was starting to remember the stuff from all that religious education. And not only
did that power exist, but it was
capable of restoring me to sanity.
Damn! The chink in the armor
started to widen. The self began
to crumble. The journey had begun. And not only could this power do for me what I could not do for myself, it would!
All I had to do was ask.
My first lesson in humility. I was an imperfect human being after all.
Then I had to get up close and personal with my imperfections. I had to do a personal moral inventory. A fearless and thorough moral inventory. Facing that scared the shit out of me. For the first time in my life, I had to take an honest look at myself and I was afraid.
I did not want to face the character defects that defined me, for in doing so my self image, my great ego, would be shattered. But I knew that if I was ever going to get and keep
this sobriety I so badly wanted, this inventory was essential. I was my problem. I had to be fixed. And in working through this agonizing (at the time) process, my spiritual awakening continued. Baby steps sometimes, but always moving forward.
After I worked (and reworked and reworked) my way through this inventory, I finally had an honest picture of myself.And it weren’t pretty. My second lesson in humility was not a pleasant
one. Damn ugly, in fact. Bad enough I had to discover all these defects, wrongs, shortcomings,
whatever. I then had to
admit the damn things! To myself, no problem. And God already knew them, so again no problem. But another human being? My humility was getting a graduate degree.
As painful as this process
seemed (and at the time it was pretty damn painful), it had to be done. I couldn’t change my character and experience a spiritual awakening unless I knew what needed to be changed. And here again I’m faced with my powerlessness. I needed to turn to my higher power for some help.
I needed to rid myself of all my
character defects. I couldn’t even
hold on to a few that I sort of enjoyed.(character assassination comes to mind).
Not only did I have to ask Him again for help, but I had to humbly ask Him. My humility was doing post-doctoral work.
(Stick around. More will be revealed in Part III)
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
SPIRITUALITY PART I
AA is has always been defined as a spiritual program, but
unfortunately the term “spirituality” is often confused
with religion. I see this in reading criticisms of the
program by those who don’t understand AA, often
calling it a religion or cult. Various District Court
decisions have indeed ruled that mandatory attendance
at AA meetings for DUI offenders is a violation of t
he constitution, which prohibits the endorsement of any
religion. This in essence reflects an “official” view
that AA is a religion. But mandatory attendance at
meetings is a whole other issue that I won’t go into here.
I think the view of AA as a religious organization is
probably drawn from our constant reference to God.
We use the word God throughout the Big Book and
particularly in 12 Steps, the Traditions, and the
Promises. There are 3rd, 7th, and 11th step prayers
as well as the Serenity Prayer used to open most
meetings and the Lord’s Prayer to close them. But only
in the steps do we see the caveat “as we understand him”.
If one takes the time to read the Big Book carefully,
and becomes familiar with the history of AA, they’ll
see that AA very carefully steers away from any
connotation of being a religious organization.
Religion is thought to be too inclusive, too restrictive.
Indeed the very thought of religion strikes fear in
the hearts of many alcoholics. We thus emphasize
the concept of a “power greater than ourselves” to
carefully avoid any connotation of religion. But this
recognition of a higher power nonetheless plays an
essential role in the AA program.
But why do we say “God” all the time? It’s
probably because we’re a Judeo-Christian
culture and the term is familiar to all of use.
It’s also a lot easier to say “God” than “God
as I understand Him”, or “a power greater
than myself” in any discussion. And indeed,
many of us believe in God as our higher power,
so that’s just what we say.
This idea of needing a higher power is initially
seen in the first 3 steps. I’m powerless. I no
longer think I can do this alone, only something
more powerful than I can do it. And this
power will help me if I ask. The key to the whole
program is that I can’t do it alone. It’s the first
acknowledgement of the powerlessness of self.
My first glimpse of humility. I, as an individual,
am not all powerful, not God. That, for me at least,
was one hell of a big step (or fall). My ego began
to deflate. I, who had never asked for help in
my life, recognized my utter helplessness in dealing
with my alcoholism. As with most of us, it was in
a pit of utter despair that I finally came to terms
with this higher power thing.
And I think there’s a certain paradox here in that
I was raised a Catholic and had 12 years of
Catholic education. I learned about religion,
theology, dogma. Prayer was always said in
the approved, rote format recited at the appropriate
times during the appropriate ceremonies. I read
Aquinas and Augustine. I knew all about God. He
was all knowing, all-powerful, eternal. These
things I knew. But this knowledge lead to
self-righteousness, the self-righteousness to
self-centeredness, and an eventual focus in life
solely on self. God, indeed the whole concept of
higher power, began to fade to the distant past.
I fell away from the Church, from God. I caught
a spiritual disease, a “soul sickness” as Fr. Martin
liked to call it. Self and ego took over my life.
“I” and “me” were the operative terms of my existence.
(Stay tuned to Part II of the continuing saga. In the next
segment I’ll begin to deal with the concept of spirituality.)